Hello. As my gaming time has dwindled, I find myself more and more playing only games that are critically acclaimed or from “safe” franchises. (Even if a Pokémon game is “bad” I know what I’m in for.) That’s not to say I don’t play smaller games or indie stuff- just that those that I do play usually were acclaimed before I touched them.
When I see a big game get middling reviews, I’m usually out. Stuff that immediately comes to mind includes Mass Effect Andromeda or Yooka-Laylee. So, for those that do take the jump on those games - do you think it’s worthwhile to do so? Are you getting something out of Yooka-Laylee that you can’t get playing Super Mario Odyssey?
(This thread inspired, btw, from discussion of Andromeda in the “What are you playing?” thread.)
I am a big fan of “7/10” games. For example I got Mechwarrior 5 at launch, it has its fair share of issues and dissapointments but mech games are few and far between so aside from replaying Mechwarrior 4 for the hundredth time idk where I would get that gameplay.
I often play mixed to bad reviewed stuff at lower price points. I had fun with Shadow of War which I think got for free via someone else’s Humble Bundle. I am currently waiting on the latest game in the X series to hit a lower sale price, I’m decently sure I will enjoy it but not sure enough to pay +$20. Thanks to the different Game Pass things that many companies are now doing its easier than ever to try big games that get poorly reviewed. I tried Andromeda via Origin’s subscription service and am glad I did as it saved me money not buying the full game :). I might try Far Cry New Dawn via Ubisoft’s similar service.
I’ve been going deep into old handheld backlogs, which is a new level of bad game.
For instance, the other day I played several rounds of Jeopardy and Battleship on the Sega Game Gear. They’re both terrible! But also charming! And amazing that that exist at all!
Like, for instance, Jeopardy on Game Gear actually has a screen that says “Final Jeapardy”, misspelling the title of the game show! Battleship is a mostly faithful adaptation except for having one of four special shot patterns that are tied to specific ships, so if you don’t use them before that ship sinks, you lose them! The AI is also ridiculously hard!
I don’t know if I can adequately explain WHY I enjoy these kinds of games, but if I ever manage to get external mic output to stream alongside my Raspberry Pi, I’d absolutely livestream and talk about these games.
What’s construed as bad and/or mediocre by critics and players rarely squares with how I feel while playing them. I generally don’t find the same things interesting about “good” games that other people do, so it stands to reason that the things that annoy some people: cluttered UI, odd control schemes, confusing level layouts; can be the things that stick with me the most about a game.
Recently I played through the Killzone games and vastly preferred the first two entries because it was hard to kill people. They made shooting people feel cumbersome and miserable, which really transformed those experiences for me. The later games have a much more conventionally responsive feel and as such they felt incredibly dull by comparison. Similarly, the shit I liked the most about TLoU2 was how distressingly violent it was. It was the only new thing the game had to show me. I think I had a much better time that most people with that game’s moment-to-moment because I called the game’s bluff and liberally employed the kinds of tactics that the game tries to make you feel bad for using.
Ultimately what’s considered good and or bad is more dictated by set of widely-held beliefs on how games should be, and anything that deviates from those rules has to justify those decisions in and of themselves, before the game can be evaluated and understood on its own terms. If you play enough “mediocre” games, your definition of mediocre will change considerably.
Let me tell ya, as someone who likes and has been considering replaying all of Mighty No. 9 as recently as this morning, I really appreciate this topic! It’s something I think about whenever people talk about how much Game X from Series A or Game Y sucks when they’re some of my favorite games.
I think the short answer for me is that I will always play games that I am interested regardless of how negatively they’re reviewed or how negatively they’re regarded by the consensus of game players and enthusiasts at large.
My reasoning for this is pretty simple but it’s something that has taken me a while to actually realize myself: I don’t play video games because they’re good. I play them because they’re interesting to me and because I like playing them.
For a long time in my teens and into early adulthood, I used to primarily buy games solely based on how good they supposedly were. These were also games I was interested in (because I am, generally, interested in most games) but these were also the best-sellers, the AAA darlings and the most ubiquitous of video games.
I’d play them and, for the most part, enjoy them to some degree but it wasn’t until I started branching out into obscurer games, games of smaller scale and notoriety and indie games outside of the mainstream that I realized how hollow and forgettable I found most “good” games to be. I would often find that these allegedly bad or lackluster games held more immediate appeal to me and my experiences with them were so much more passionate, enjoyable and memorable than many of the “good” I previously played were.
Since learning all this, I’ve held the belief that a game being “good” is not enough to make me consider playing something and conversely, a game being “bad” is not enough to deter me from a game that seems interesting. I’m more interested in the specifics of the supposed goodness or badness. I don’t care about broad declarations of quality because they are literally meaningless!
I simply play what I want and I like what I like now and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I think your point of playing games you’re actually interested is something that should have been obvious, but never was to me until you pointed it out. I’ve definitely acted on that before - there’s a reason I like semi-forgotten Nintendo one-offs, but I wasn’t consciously thinking about why I didn’t mind mediocre reviews for those games. It’s simple - as you said - they just seemed interesting.
I just got done playing Star Wars The Force Unleashed. I started playing it years ago and just dropped it. But now I have some free time, so hey why not. It’s thoroughly mediocre and frankly the cool force powers have been done in many other games before and after. The “euphoria” engine never amounts to anything meaningful at all, although it does lead to some hilarious moments. For example, a stormtrooper trying to quickly move to another spot, tripping over some change in elevation and completely face-planting all on their accord.
The fun bit about this is that I’m also halfway through Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order and decided I wanted to mix it up a bit with a different flavour of Star Wars.
Going to go with a flat “no” but also not sure if there is a real good answer to this question.
Like the two most recent games I’ve played are Alan Wake and Devil May Cry, two games that I think are very Cool in different ways but also don’t think either is Great. I sort of knew that would be the case going in. Would that be considered intentionally playing a “mediocre” game? I wouldn’t think so, who is to say though.
I think the question is also muddy for me because I pretty much only play games that have champions. I care less about the meta critic but more about whether there are people internet wide that support something. Would say the stupid mental process for me is “Does this look cool?” then “Did anyone else think this was cool?”
Video games are just too damn long. A mediocre or bad movie is usually only 90 minutes to two hours. I really don’t have like… weeks to pour into something I suspect won’t be very good. Charlie’s Angels (2019) was pretty blah with a few bright spots, but again, that’s only an evening I lost to that, not days.
Like my definition of “mediocre” is either Horizon: Zero Dawn just in terms of how little that game meant to me despite all its positives. And that’s like top-tier blockbuster pedigree.
Not sure about games maybe because of the time commitment but as @BlueHighwind said above a mediocre movie is usually around the 90-120 minute mark so I definitely intentionally seek out movies generally regarded as bad. I watched a few classics and some properly panned movies in lockdown and I definitely got a lot more enjoyment, ironic or otherwise, from Star Wars Episodes 1-3 and Suicide Squad than I did from Bladerunner, 2001 or Taxi Driver. Then again, the film I watched recently that I enjoyed the most was The First Purge which I unironically thought ruled but more because it was as subtle as a brick and wore it’s politics on it’s sleeve in the most bombastic manner.
I’ve spent a not insignificant amount of my free time over the last couple years making my own games. It’s mostly for my own satisfaction with the hope that maybe some day I can start selling them when they reach a level of quality I’m happy with.
The way this relates is that it’s useful as a designer to not only know how to do things well, but also how to NOT do things poorly.
So every once and a while I’ll pick up a game that is similar to the types of games I want to make even if they aren’t very well received. It’s important to recognize the signs of development going the wrong way early, and if you can see similarities with other games that didn’t fair so well, then that’s pretty useful.
I suppose on some level I could just read reviews, but there is a world of difference between interpreting someone else’s opinion on how a game feels and experiencing it yourself.
In the end I’ve probably gained as much knowledge on how to make a game fun from bad games as I have from the good ones.
I generally try a lot of games that get mediocre/bad ratings if they appear to have a good premise. Sometimes I like them in spite of themselves; sometimes there’s something in there that I like enough that the rest of the game’s badness/mediocrity is okay. Like ME Andromeda is a pretty mediocre, maybe even bad, game but I still probably got 50 hours or so of enjoyment out of it. I keep going back to Kingdoms of Amalur even though it’s mediocre in plenty of ways.
Then there are games that are so bad they’re good. Deadly Premonition is the go to example for me. It’s a bad game in so many ways, and I love it anyway. There was a Clock Tower game for the Playstation that was absolutely maddening, but nothing’s ever made me feel quite as oppressively locked in like it could. Tecmo’s Deception was probably not a good game, but I spent hours setting up traps and fascinated by its premise.
So yeah, I think there are plenty of mediocre/bad games worth my time, although I certainly don’t have as much time as I used to to seek them out.
always because 7/10 is the best review score out there. A game receiving a 9/10 or a 10/10 typically means that the game was expensive to make and can assert its own importance. Getting lower in the scale typically means you’re looking at something less expensive with rough spots. Only going for the best rated means you’ll be missing out on a lot of genuine inventiveness and many worthwhile creations that just can’t assert that they’re big and good and important the way Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA 5, tlou2, God of War, etc. can.
I’ll admit that I tend to avoid games that are widely viewed as bad/mediocre not because I don’t think I would still enjoy them, but like others have said games are a big time and money commitment that I sometimes can’t afford. I don’t usually have the patience to get through what makes many of these games bad like frustrating controls, repetitive gameplay, excessive padding, and game breaking bugs just to get to the parts that are good or “so bad it’s good”.
I have played games expecting them to be good only to quickly find out that they aren’t. Zero Time Dilemma comes to mind as a game that I bought because it was the conclusion to the Zero Escape series that I really enjoyed, but I realized early on that it was going to be a train wreck that it probably wasn’t going to recover from. So I decided to embrace the train wreck and ended up enjoying it.
But watching others play bad games on a live stream or let’s play video? Hell yeah.
I’m a big fan of watching Youtube LPs of bad/mediocre horror games where I can easily speed up or skip through the repetitive segments. There is something truly special about these janky horror games where ambitions far exceed that of the devs’ actual ability and budget, and I can’t help but smile at and appreciate their earnestness and tenacity in trying even when they fail miserably.
That’s a question I have to come at from a few different angles.
“So bad it’s good” is absolutely a thing in games, with just three extra steps to make it worthwhile: buy it cheap, play on easy (and cheat if necessary), and quit if you get bored. It’s not a time commitment if there’s no commitment. The charm can be like that of the best sort of bad movies, where a team’s ambition exceeded their resources. Games also have a unique phenomenon where the friction caused by bad design is appealing in itself to a player with the right mindset. This lies behind most kusoge appreciation and the bad game speedrun scene. Some games accidentally hit a magic point where working through their flaws is an interesting challenge in itself.
Other bad games might have merits that are worth dealing with the flaws. Anthem is a prominent recent example, where quite a few players enjoyed the moment-to-moment jetpack action enough that the structural issues and uninspired plot didn’t bother them too much. Games can be redeemed by an interesting mechanic, a charming character or unique setting, an eye-catching visual style, whatever as long as you love it more than you hate the bad parts.
Reviewers have a stock euphemism for mediocrity, “for fans of the genre.” Not to pick on BioWare, but Mass Effect Andromeda is a great example of that in addition to prompting this thread. People who love their formula of character-driven action-RPGs really love it, and even though AAA gaming has been moving towards that territory (thinking of recent Assassin’s Creed especially) there aren’t enough games in that specific niche for a fan to skip even a middling Mass Effect. For myself, any original twist on Sokoban-adjacent puzzles or a platformer with an interesting movement mechanic will at least catch my attention even if it’s rough.
And then sometimes I just… disagree that a game is bad at all! (Or that a widely-praised game is good.) I don’t want to get into the objective/subjective art discourse because that’s boring and tired, but both critics in aggregate and popular opinion tend to have taste and critical values that aren’t going to match up with any single individual’s experience. At some point you need to trust yourself that you know what you’ll be interested in.
When I was a teenager I had that phase where I thought I was a cinephile and decided to see everything in the IMDB Top 250. That exposed me to a lot of great movies, but it also broke me of both the idea that I should optimize for spending my time with the “best” entertainment and that I can trust common opinion of what the “best” entertainment even is. I don’t want to argue for low standards or that criticism is useless or anything like that (good criticism is most useful for giving you new ways to think about a work, or advocating for what the critic values). Just that going by instinct works pretty well overall.
I’ll third or whatever the opinion that a negatively reviewed game doesn’t inherently turn me off if I look at it and say I - personally - think I would enjoy it anyway. In the same way that a game getting a lot of 10/10s doesn’t really inspire me to buy it. While there are a lot of games critics I enjoy reading and respect the opinions of, overall I rarely actually agree with them about what games are good.
But generally speaking, just because I have many favourite games in the 70s or lower on Metacritic, I wouldn’t say I am intentionally playing bad/mediocre games so much as I disagree on what a bad/mediocre game is. To echo y’all, I rarely want to invest tens of hours of my week into something bad. I watched my spouse suffer trying to finish off The Witcher 3 (it took him 270 hours, and it was excruciating). But that game is considered one of the best of all time, so he persisted despite how little he enjoyed it. I just gave up after the Bloody Baron.
Now Fantasy Life - a game I remember reading a review from someone I liked (Griffin McElroy, I think?) that gave it a 5/10? One of my favourites of all time. I think I’ve played like 400 hours of it across two playthroughs, absolutely adored every second of it.
I think my willingness to put up with mediocrity really depends on the price point, length, and what exactly we’re talking about. If a game is charming as hell, short, but is kind of mediocre in the actual gameplay, it’s easy to see the first 2 overruling the 3rd. If a game is expensive, long, and the gameplay is dull or flat, then at some point I’m just gonna give up and write it off.
And then sometimes a game is so awful, it’s only worth watching a stream and laughing at it, which is free. (Looking at you, The Quiet Man.)