Bad Games Can Be Beautiful -
Change Your Perspective
Bad games are not always bad games.
This was the theme over at the Bad is Beautiful exhibition in the NYU Game Center last Friday, a celebration of games that somehow transcend their numerous flaws and become something great. That is to say, like Plan 9 from Outer Space; it's so bad, it's good.
There were eight games at the exhibit in total. Deadly Premonition and Goldeneye got the prime real estate, each with their own dedicated, giant HD TVs. Goldeneye in particular wasn't done any favors with the big screen treatment, where enemies more than about 10 feet away appeared as blurs. And man, that game does not hold up. If I gave that game to my little cousin, he'd probably kick me off a satellite antenna.
Still, the argument that Goldeneye is a bad game doesn't quite ring true. While it certainly does not hold up at all, neither does Nosferatu. Before Goldeneye, all shooters were basically Doom clones. But I digress.
Deadly Premonition actually looked better than I remember, but if you've played through that game, you'd know it was a modern classic even despite it's shoddy gameplay mechanics. Right, Zach?
Nearby, set up inside old arcade rigs and arranged into a sort of Triforce of Bad Games, was Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, Extreme Paintbrawl and, my personal favorite, Street Cleaner Simulator 2011.
If you don't already know about Big Rigs, it's pretty much all covered in this old Gamespot video review by Alex Navarro:
Extreme Paintbrawl seemed like it was from the Duke Nukem 3D era except with polygonal character models. Turns out, it was actually built on the Duke Nukem 3D engine in about two weeks. Paintbrawl came out in October of 1998, about a month before Half-Life was released. Yeesh.
It was bit like Rainbow Six, but you wield a wildly inaccurate paintball gun and fight in a badly rendered airport. Your goal is to beat about four bad paintballers, with the help of two AI companions who, in my game, did not move. Could you control them? I'll probably never know. The bad guys just had a random chance of hitting you, so maybe the game was just rolling the dice for the player's shots, too?
Or maybe Extreme Paintbrawl was meant as an examination of the random-seeming nature of reality. Sometimes, when the enemy team was running against a wall, they would just teleport somewhere all the way across the map. At least, I think they did. Who really knows anything? There is no spoon.
Finally, we come to Street Cleaner Simulator 2011. Really, it didn't play that badly, it's just a game about driving around a street cleaning truck. After driving the lumbering vehicle around for a few minutes, I decided to press random buttons on the keyboard. To my surprise, one made the driver of the street cleaner emerge from the machine.
It was at that point that I began aimlessly running around the city. I can clean these streets by myself, I thought. I don't need that stupid machine!
But there wasn't any crime to clean up, and besides, I didn't have a broom. Without the street cleaner, there really was no purpose to my life. There was no mini map, and so the street cleaning vehicle is still idling somewhere in that virtual city. Let me tell you, it got pretty real in Street Cleaner Simulator 2011. Pretty real.
Other than that, there was a Doom clone (I never got the name) that set itself up with a cutscene to be some kind commando game, but then drops you into this hellish environment where it seems like you're supposed to be shooting—office workers? They also could have been Nazis, but it really wasn't clear. Coins floated in the air overhead, but you can't collect them, oh no. You must destroy them.
Next to it was LSD, a bizarre, randomly-generated game based on Hiroko Nishikawa's dream journal from an entire decade. Unfortunately, the game crashed before I could play it, but here's a video that probably tells you everything you need to know about this oddity.
Lastly, there was Earth Defense Force 2017, which is basically what you remember it being. Whatever.
Overall, I think the exhibit proved its point rather well. Maybe next time I see that undoubtedly terrible game sitting on the shelf at OfficeMax, I'll pick it up. But probably not.
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