Why Do We Love Bad Games?

By Ryan Winslett in Infinite Ammo
Friday, January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am
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If you haven't read my review of Amy just yet, allow me to summarize: It is a poorly constructed, buggy mess. Tasked with giving the game a fair and balanced assessment, I simply could not overlook the multitude of problems that arose both technically and from a design standpoint.

That being said, there is still a dark, masochistic corner of my heart where a morbid sort of affection burns dully for Amy. While I would never recommend someone fork over their hard-earned cash for the game in its current state, a part of me is willing to admit that I kind of liked various bits and pieces.

But some of the gaming community has taken that bizarre fondness a step further. A quick search of the Gamefaqs message boards yields dozens of posts wherein the authors profess their love for Amy and recommended their fellow survival horror fans ignore the reviews and go download it immediately.

Those people are daft.

Then again, maybe it's wrong of me to fault someone for loving terrible things. I'm guilty of this myself from time to time. (I quite liked the Bionic Commando reboot, for instance. Yeah, I said it.) This makes me wonder what, exactly, makes someone cling to such a monstrosity. No matter how bad a game is, there's always someone willing to stand up and defend it.

In this week's Infinite Ammo, I ponder some of the possible reasons for this contrarian behavior.


Everyone loves the underdog

Whether a game is being developed by a tiny studio or it's simply a less well known title releasing alongside several AAA blockbusters, there's something about a game having a perceived disadvantage that makes it even easier to overlook its faults.

"Who cares if the dialogue is terrible or the controls are a bit wonky? The game was made by three dudes in a basement, so cut it some slack. Would you rather be playing Modern Warfare like all of those other sheep?"

These grassroots games also frequently build a devoted fan base that has been following the title through development, commented frequently on the studio's Facebook page and spread the word on message boards. They become protective of the game they've watched grow from idea to completion and will likely love the finished product no matter what. I love that these folks exist. I'm just saying you might not want to take purchasing advice from them when the rest of the world is calling foul.

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Genre starvation

Given the number of comparisons to the Silent Hill franchise I've seen Amy fans making, I can only assume that this is the biggest factor allowing people to overlook its many faults. The Silent Hill games haven't been Silent Hill-y in a long time, Resident Evil is basically an action series these days, and newcomers like Alan Wake and Dead Space stray too far from the classic survival horror path to sufficiently scratch that itch.

I certainly had some nostalgic stirrings while playing Amy, so maybe its these similarities--grouped with a few more of the possibilities listed here--that have helped win over so many fans. If a bad game reminds you of a good game you really love, maybe you won't even notice all of the things it got so very, very wrong. Any port in a storm, amiright?

You get what you pay for

Of all the reasons I've seen for defending a bad game, the fact that it didn't cost very much is the one that baffles me the most. For some people, a bad game is excusable if the cost of admission is "fair."

"It was only 10 bucks and it distracted me for five hours, so the fact that it wasn't very good is no big deal."

If I paid someone $10 for a box containing a mystery toy, opened it, and discovered a mound of dog droppings, my response wouldn't be, "At least I didn't pay $60 for it." When I give you my money for a product, said product should adhere to some sort of quality standards. It doesn't matter how little I paid for it; If I wind up with a pile of shit on my hands, I'm going to be upset.

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The ugly duckling

Think Deadly Premonition for this one, one of the most polarizing games ever released. If you take a gander at the review scores, you'll find very few opinions wading through the middle of the pool. People either loved Deadly Premonition or they hated it, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it was a next gen game with old school trappings.

Deadly Premonition's graphics are anything but next gen, it uses some antiquated mechanics and strange design choices abound (Like long drive scenes and dying of hunger). Still, all of these little quirks add up for an off-the-wall experience that, taken as a whole, made Deadly Premonition into an absolute winner for some gamers. It isn't the prettiest game on the block (in more ways than one), but that hasn't stopped loads of people from falling head-over-heels in love with it.

I'm a rebel

Even the world of video games is home to its fair share of hipsters. Sometimes a game gets enough negative feedback that these folks just have to take up its banner and wave it around proudly. Maybe they went in with such low expectations that the game easily surpassed them. Or maybe they just like going against the stream. Either way, they don't care what those stupid reviewers have to say, they like the game. And what's more, anyone with half a brain will like the game, too. You just don't "get it," man.

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Misery loves company

The easiest way to make any bad game bearable is to throw in a co-op mode. Even the worst gaming experience on the planet can be transformed into an entertaining romp with a friend along for the ride. Well, maybe not Superman 64. There's no saving that one.

Haze was a disaster and I don't think anyone would argue that Army of Two was a "good" game. A few bugs, terrible stories and repetitive gameplay made both of those titles (especially Haze) sub-par affairs. I hate to think what my opinion of either game would have been had I decided to play them solo.

But thanks to my buddy, Jeff, I didn't have to go it alone. You see, both games were pretty solid in the controls/shooting department, which meant all of the negatives were easy to ignore while Jeff and I were pumping bullets into terrorists as a team. Or, even better, all of those bad qualities became an appreciated part of the experience thanks to the countless laughs they gave us.

I'm usually not a fan of tacking on co-op or multiplayer modes but, in the right setting, it can turn an absolute train wreck into a collection of fond memories. (Speaking of which: If anyone knows where Jeff and I can find super cheap copies of Conflict: Denied Ops, we'd be eternally grateful.)

Infinite Ammo is a weekly column by Ryan Winslett about video games, the industry that make them and the people who play them. He can be stalked via his blog at staticechoes.com and followed on Twitter @RyanWinslett.

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