Game Philosophy: Bad Games



Today’s topic:
Bad Games

Do you plan to get in the game industry some day?
Thinking it would be the perfect job if you’re a gamer because you get to play games for a living?
Thinking that because you play lots of good games that you know what’s best for the gaming community?

Boy do I have some news for you.

Did you know that to MAKE games, you actually have to SACRIFICE the fun to be had in playing games?

Yeah, mindblowing isn’t it?
Okay maybe not THAT mindblowing, but this is a common misconception that I’ve noticed a lot in my student years of Game Design.

Many colleagues of mine thought that because they’re good gamers, they’re good game designers, and because of it they underestimate the sacrifices to be made to become a good game designer.
They come up with many ideas, but don’t think it through on how to achieve those ideas. They know how programming works but have no imagination. They can draw but don’t know how to make gameplay interesting because of it. And most of all, they don’t realize the importance of teamwork.

In case some of you don’t know, game design is all about teamwork. If you’re on your own and say “I’m going to make GTA5” most likely you’ll be stuck the first moment you have to open this magical thing called “Maya” or “3D Studio Max”.

But what do I mean with “you have to sacrifice fun to make games”?
Well don’t get me wrong, I still love playing games, but it’s for totally different reasons from when I was a kid.

Back then, I liked playing games because they were fun, competitive, dramatic, had fun gameplay and story.
Now, I like playing games because they’re a source of information.

And believe it or not, bad games are bigger sources of information than good games.

That’s right, to be a GOOD game designer, it’s sometimes best to play BAD games in a while.

When this game seems playable to you, THEN you have my permission to call yourself a true game designer!

Let me explain. In a good game everything has been put together with grace and rhythm that make the game work. The gameplay is good, barely any glitches, the story is great and the graphics look nice. Of course one of them could be sacrificed for the other, but that’s another story.
But what do you get from that? I mean sure you get to use that game as a reference for when you make your own game, but wouldn’t your game end up trying to live up to THAT game’s standards instead of it’s own?

Now what happens when you play a bad game? Here’s the tricky part, because you have to take the time to put away your frustrations and play the games through. Try to figure out WHY it’s bad.
And the WHY is very important. If you think a game is bad because of WHAT it is, you’re not thinking correctly.

ANYTHING can be a good concept, it’s just how you execute it that determines whether or not it was a good idea.

For example, let’s take my most hated Spider-man comic back and look at it objectively:

By the way, spoiler alert, but I don’t think you care about being spoiled on a bad comic as this…
Now, why do people think it’s bad?
Boy, let me make a list…

– Peter Parker making a deal with the Devil
– Spider-man being out of character
– Aunt May being at death’s door for the umteenth time
– Peter Parker and Mary Jane sacrificing their marriage for the life of Aunt May
– Joe Quesada, back then the Editor-in-Chief of Spider-man, wrote it specifically because he wanted Peter to be single again because he couldn’t stand Peter GROWING UP!
– The fact that nobody in the Marvel Universe for some reason can’t heal a friggin bulletwound
– How most of the storyline is a waste of time
– The inability of Marvel to explain how the magic works that somehow was able to alter the time line, etc etc
– The insulting remarks to game designers and comic writers

Okay, that’s enough for now. As you can see there are many different things that are wrong about the comic. But guess what, every one of them can be done RIGHT.
For the sake of length of this post though, I’ll just take the 3 biggest ones.

=Peter Parker making a deal with the Devil=
How about instead of DOING the deal, make the THREAT of the deal happen, but it’s stopped at the last second because Peter Parker remembered (either through Mary Jane or the spirit of Aunt May or whatever) that with great power there must also come great responsibility. It would turn the whole story about Peter Parker being a mama’s boy into a story about looking forward for the future, and choosing to accept Aunt May’s death and take responsibility.
Or if you WANT to go the route of “Peter Parker HAS to agree”, then make him negotiate. Change the deal so that Peter would be in a lot more torment for the sake of both the lives of Aunt May AND Mary Jane. Make it so he negotiates to Mephisto (said Devil) that Peter offers his soul to go to hell in trade for Aunt May’s life. Not only would that show great responsibility on Peter’s part, but you can set up an awesome sequel where Ghost Rider or Deadpool or heck, even Eddie Brock would find a way to bust into hell and save Peter, giving us a heartwarming scene where Marvel heroes always got eachother’s backs and having a whole message about “The world NEEDS Spiderman”.

=Spider-man being out-of-character=
Well okay, we usually can blame this on bad writing, but let’s try. How about implicate that he’s been influenced by Mephisto during the whole storyline. It gives Mephisto a much bigger looming evil aura around him, and it makes Peter’s defiance much more satisfying. Don’t blame everything just on grief about Aunt May’s death. It doesn’t excuse him from being stupid.
Hell there was a scene where he went to Tony Stark and had a whole dramatic fight with him and all that. Instead of the fight, Peter should’ve just offered himself to be arrested in trade for giving Aunt May treatment at the hospital (Aunt May got shot because Peter Parker is seen as a criminal during the time). Again, it would’ve showed taking responsibility for the whole thing, and maybe it would make Tony Stark reflect a bit more on the whole Civil War thing.
But let’s just say we HAVE to keep blaming this on grief. Then how about giving Peter a moment where he notices it. With great power there must also come great responsibility. He needs to take responsibility for his actions during grief. You could’ve easily turned this whole mess of a story line into an in-depth look into Peter’s psyche, and how Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom truly paid off.

=The insulting remarks to game designers and comic writers=
How about Peter actually giving counter-remarks to the whole thing?
The insulting remarks on comics and games was said by an alternate timeline Peter Parker where he grew up without the Spider-bite. It’s supposed to reflect on to the notion that you can’t be what you expected in the future, that you can’t always be a hero. But Peter’s never BEEN about being a hero. He’s about never leaving an innocent behind when he/she’s in danger, because that’s what caused Uncle Ben’s death. Peter could’ve had a great speech where not reaching your goal doesn’t mean you should stop going for it. There were many deaths that Peter couldn’t prevent (just count the many times he compared events with Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy’s death) but he never stopped trying. THAT is what made Peter Parker Spider-man. His determination to keep doing what he believes in. This doesn’t even change the storyline, just add this little scene in there and suddenly the insulting remarks will not be seen as correct, but as an argument that makes you think. You can still have Peter Parker doing the deal with the devil after this. This just shows that adding one little scene to a stupid scene can actually save it.

Wow, this blog would’ve been long had I done every single one of those points, but you see my point?

Playing bad games can be the same too.
In bad games the errors are everywhere, and you learn by thinking of ways to fix it. That way when you ever get in the same situation in YOUR game, you already know the answer.

If you ONLY take reference to the good games, chances are you’ll keep the bad stuff about the games too.
If you take reference to bad games too, then at least you can think about how to fix your game before it’s even out yet.

The world of game design is all about balance, and that means you need to balance your fun and observations of both good and bad games.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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