Editor-in-chief’s note: I was annoyed when I heard that ‘an exhibition exploring fascinatingly bad games‘ being held at New York University on Friday would include GoldenEye a Nintendo 64 game I loved when I was in college. Earth Defense Force and Big Rigs I could understand. They’re so bad, they’re good. But GoldenEye? WTF?
I sent the curators a terse email: “What do you know that I don’t know about GoldenEye being a bad game? If you’d care to make an argument, I’d be happy to run it on the site. “
Curator Owen McLean replied:
GoldenEye sucks. It’s, frankly, kind of a mess of a game. If this were a traditional review I would point out the following problems: the visuals are often muddy and hard to discern, even for its time (clipping issues are also everywhere). Movements are sluggish and unresponsive, and the N64 controller is an odd fit for FPS controls. The single player campaign feels monotonous and perfunctory, with tired objective-based missions (the player has to save Natalya four separate times) and waves of unintelligent enemies . The weapon selection is unbalanced and extremely limited. The level design, especially for multiplayer, often feels cobbled-together and inelegant.
If I just described any other game, nobody would bat an eye. But I described GoldenEye, a hallowed, sacred, downright ineffable landmark of gaming to many who remember losing countless hours to its multiplayer modes with their friends back in its heyday, relishing in the beauty of accessible, split-screen, console FPS action. I was one of them, and I absolutely loved GoldenEye. I still absolutely love GoldenEye. And even though nostalgia is an extremely persuasive emotion, I would be lying through my teeth if I said it was still “good”.
But here’s the thing: it’s OK that GoldenEye sucks because it doesn’t matter if it was ever “good” or not. Does applying a set of conventional standards to a game make all of the fond memories we’ve had with it any less valid, less real? Absolutely not. Video games on their own may be objects with set values, just numbers and algorithms, but they don’t function completely until people play them, and people have unique and different points of view — it’s what makes us people, and it’s also what makes playing video games so damn interesting and fun. Games are ultimately subjective experiences, meaning that at some point objective analysis falls apart. To me, GoldenEye is an incredibly fun game that I still love to play, and for me, that is plentiful.
There’s a saying that floats around circles of film geeks: “Films should not be measured by success or critical acclaim, but simply by our affection for them.” It’s time to start looking at games this way too, or else we will find ourselves in a future gaming community inhabited by Metacritic-trawling, review score-obsessed clones, robotic consumers who no longer think for themselves and spout the same regurgitated opinions about the same small lot of games. And I think that’s something we can all agree definitely sucks.
And if anyone disagrees, they should come to our event at NYY and do a little exploring and discussing, and maybe they’ll start to think about games differently. That can never be a “bad” thing.
Bad Is Beautiful: An Exhibition Exploring Fascinatingly Bad Games at the NYU Game Center
Friday, April 13
721 Broadway, 9th Floor Lobby
5pm – 8pm
The idea of “B movies” — movies that are so conventionally bad on technical and artistic levels that they surpass “unenjoyable” and somehow end up back at “entertaining” — has existed for almost half a century. Some viewers embrace these movies because they allow them to rebel against movie snobs, and some simply find something beautiful and unique buried within the trainwreck. A pertinent quote floats around certain film circles that goes something like this: “Films should not be measured by success or critical acclaim, but simply by our affection for them.”
Bad is Beautiful looks at games in this way. It explores the idea of forgetting whether a game is “good” or “bad”, and instead encourages thinking of it as “interesting” or “not interesting”. It relishes the surreal moments that “flawed” games unintentionally create. It brings games that challenge conventional ideas of “good” out of the bargain bin and into the spotlight. It casts a sceptical eye on the Metacritic-trawling gamers of the world who stay in their safe, comfortable world of 8s, 9s and 10s and encourages them to take a risk, to explore the seedy underbelly of this art form they love so much, to diversify. It embraces the campy, the shattered, the rejected, the freakish, the dated, and the flat-out disastrous.
This is the crap avant-garde, and it’s beautiful.
Games open for play include: Deadly Premonition, Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, Extreme Paintbrawl, GoldenEye 007, Earth defence Force 2017 and more.
Curation by Owen McLean, Game Center Open Librarian
Please RSVP here