I recently played a game for the first time. I joined a match with some fellow TAYters. It was space marines vs dinosaurs, and I joined the dinosaur team hoping to satiate my primal need to destroy everything as a giant thunder lizard. Instead I spawned as a poodle-sized dinosaur with TNT strapped to it. I tried to move towards where a whopping T-Rex and Triceratops were wrecking a helpless marine only to find my tiny dinosaur ran with the grace and agility of a cruise ship with an open bar. I was wiped out before I could even get close to the marine. I instantly respawned and then self-distrusted seconds later for no clear reason. This was ORION: Dino Beatdown, and it is a beautiful beautiful mess of a game.
Not too long ago I revealed that I get some sick pleasure out of playing bad games. I can sit down and play Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard non-stop until completion, but it takes me nine months to gather the motivation to finish the critically acclaimed The Last of Us. What gives, brain? Why do you like these pieces of trash so much instead of the things I'm supposed to like? Also, stop making me talk to you like you're some other person.
I think there are multiple reasons why I just love bad games. For one thing, I don't really have any high expectations when diving into something bad. In fact, one of the fun things about playing a bad game is seeing if things are worse than you thought. If things are worse, then in a way it's gone above and beyond expectations. "Wow!" I think, "It's so much worse than I thought! What other secrets does this game hold?" If it isn't as bad as you thought, it's kind of a pleasant surprise. "Huh," I say, "You know, it really isn't that bad."
When I go into a game like The Last of Us, I have huge expectations. Everyone is raving about how great this game is and my brain goes into hype overdrive. I play the game expecting it to blow my mind at some point and...that point never really comes. Same for Grand Theft Auto V, Uncharted 3, and Half-Life 2. Don't get me wrong they're great games in their own way, some more than others, but something about them just leaves me unsatisfied.
I also like bad games because I don't feel any pressure when playing them. When I play something like Dark Souls or a competitive shooter like Team Fortress 2, if I'm doing badly at the game it's my fault. I'm the one to blame because I couldn't defend the point, kill that monster, or figure out that puzzle in a timely manner. With a bad game I got a scapegoat. The reason I died in Sonic Unleashed wasn't because I didn't know all the combos or because my reflexes weren't fast enough. It's because Sonic Team doesn't know how to make a freakn' Sonic game. Self-delusion? Yeah, probably. But at the end of a stressful day -and boy do I get a lot of those- it's a small comfort.
Bad games are also great socially. Get a group together to play Street Fighter and you'll have a good time. Or someone will get upset and storm out of the room yelling something about Akuma being cheap. It's about fifty-fifty. Get some guys together to play Shaq-Fu and there's bound to be laughs. Bad games with friends can be like watching bad movies with friends. It's like Mystery Science Theater; mutual hate and suffering can strengthen the bonds of friendship and produce heckling and inside jokes that can span a lifetime. At the very least you can have a good laugh and then go back to playing good games for the rest of your life. You pansy.
But most importantly (at least from an analytical standpoint) bad games give me a different view of games. If I play a bad game, I can identify why it is bad. I'm really good at it now. So when I see a good game doing something bad, I'm in a pretty good position to call it out and give examples of bad games that do the same thing. I'm also pretty good at identifying analyzing what makes a good or even great. I've played the worst of the worst and the best of the best. I've got a nice wide spectrum that gives me perspective when valuing a game as good or bad. Or average. Trust me when I say there's a whole lot of more average games out there than the average internet persona seems to acknowledge. I mean, it kind of makes sense in a bell-curve kind of way.
But it all comes down to this: I love bad games the same way some people love greasy food or Dark Souls. (Yes, that was a slightly slanted comment. I'll have to explain in another article sometime.) I know it's bad for me, but it just feels good. It's a deep dark masochistic vortex that just keeps sucking me back in. They have a hold on me that I just can't escape. I like bad games simply because they they are bad, and that's good for me.
Quick-Quack is a series of short articles by Zachary Long AKA InvadingDuck. If you want, you can tweet me some bad games to play @InvadingDuck. Seriously, I'd appreciate it. For now I'm going to keep playing Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Not because it's bad or anything, I just really want to replay it.