RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Feb 1st 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (Crabmaster2000)
Posted under Bad Games

As I often do I was playing my NES a few days ago. The game of the day was The Legend of Kage. If you're not familiar, it's an arcade port in which you control a ninja running through some scrolling stages battling other ninjas and wizards to save a princess. All of that sounds great, but in reality it's a pretty bad game. The controls are not up to the standards of the time, it looks pretty generic, the sound is awful, enemy spawns are seemingly random, lots of cheap deaths, and there is no real depth to the game beyond the typical arcade fair of "play until you die". My wife watched for a few minutes and saw me reset the first level a dozen times as I just tried to learn how the game operated and made a comment that went something this "I'm frustrated just watching you play. I don't understand how you can find enjoyment in this." I've often thought there is some value in a person getting outside their comfort zone even in their hobbies, so I'm going to try and finally put that into words here.

First, I want to state: do what makes you happy. Play only your favorite genres and franchises, use cheat devices/codes when offline, use easy modes, use third party accessories. Have fun playing games the way you like to. I don't judge any of this kind of stuff. If you've got limited time or resources do what you've gotta do to bring some joy into your life. What I want to do is try to make the case to purposefully play things you don't think you'll enjoy either because it's outside of your comfort zone or because you think it may be downright bad.

Why you should play bad/games!

Reason #1: A Twisted Sense of Accomplishment & Growth

Some games are well known for being bad. They can be poorly crafted, games prior to our current update era can have unfixable bugs scattered throughout, or sometimes they can be experimenting with ideas instead of conforming to standards, or in the case of older games before genre standards were even established. These types of games can be a real struggle to play through no fault of your own, and they can be far more frustrating to play than they were ever intended to be.

I consider myself an extremely patient person yet some of the games that fall into this category have tested my limits on multiple occasions. Whether it's stubbornness or perseverance I've felt compelled to push past those limits. In something resembling Stockholm Syndrome once I'm able to break through those gameplay or personal barriers I look back on my time with these games incredibly fondly. How many people can say they legitimately conquered the horrifying maze level in Athena on the NES? My guess is far less than have beaten it's 1987 contemporary The Legend of Zelda in it's entirety and there is something special about being in that elite group that nobody rightfully cares about.

Reason #2: Personal Growth

More importantly than some moral victory or obscure bragging rights I feel like those moments of frustration pushed me as a person. Because of those experiences I feel like I made myself a more patient person, a person who is willing to try new ideas and have them fail, a person who is willing to practice a skill repeatedly until I master it to the desired degree to progress, a person who is willing to look to others for help when I need it, a person who is eager to reflect on each failure. These kinds of skill and personal growth extend beyond the gaming realm into my personal life and make me a better father, husband, caregiver, business person, friend and just human being in general.

These kinds of skills are often paired with adversity in sports, schooling, and interpersonal relationships. Why not practice them, learn them and develop them in the safe spaces that are video games?

Reason #3:Can Deepen The Fulfillment In Things You Already Know And Enjoy

When you really love something it can be quite rewarding to dig into the history of that thing to strengthen your understanding. If you find an author you enjoy I don't think it's too uncommon to go back through their catalog searching for previous books to read. They may not have fully developed the style you just enjoyed in their latest and greatest, it may even be a pretty rough or dry read, but there are moments you can see those threads starting to form that can be a real treat to uncover for yourself. And with the knowledge you get from reading the authors work over several books you start to build concepts in your mind about the author, how they write, things to expect, things not to expect, and you build a mental library of common tropes associated with their genre or style.

Now to relate that to games let's use RPGs as an example. Do I think playing Wizardry and Ultima are going to enhance your enjoyment of The Witcher 3? Heck yeah I do!! Now I'm not implying that Wizardry or Ultima were bad games in their time, in fact both were pretty amazing series when they were the latest and greatest. They are HARD to go back to now though with what we are used to in modern RPGs. So for the sake of this article they do fall into that category for me. When playing something like Wizardry I really appreciate simple things in newer RPGs like having a map, or not rerolling characters dozens of times until I'm happy with my luck based stats. Open world games are all the rage these days, but that is not a new concept. Some of the earliest Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Ultima RPGs were blowing people's minds with the freedom of exploration they offered decades ago. When seeing how something like Ultima IV used a clunky Moongate system to travel across the vast maps I can appreciate that horse or airship, just a little bit more.

It also opens up the opportunity to enjoy games in your favorite genre that you may not otherwise have enjoyed. The Etrian Odyssey series is a love letter to games like Wizardry. I think people just thrown into a game like that would find it far too challenging, far too cryptic and far too ancient to enjoy regardless of how much they enjoyed Skyrim or Mass Effect that same year. But as a player familiar with Wizardry games you might see how the simple function of having a second screen to map your progress was a pure delight compared to games that preceded it and greatly improved the experience while still keeping the feel of what made those original games so special.

Reason #4: Discovering New Things

How do you know if something is actually going to be bad unless you try it for yourself? More often than not you'll likely be correct that the thing you think is going to be bad is in fact actually bad. But those few times you're wrong are so worth all of the times you were right. During early internet culture a lot of video games earned reputations that have stuck with them and they can't seem to shake. The Angry Video Game Nerd for example is probably directly responsible for how most gamers view the quality or difficulty of a lot of NES games such as: Battletoads, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Silver Surfer, Dragon's Lair, Back to the Future, or Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. How many of those have you tried yourself and come to a conclusion on? I found that I rather liked Dragon's Lair. If you play it like a platformer, which it technically is, you'll probably also find it very frustrating like the AVGN did. If you approach it like a Dragon's Lair game though which is played incredibly different you might just see it in a new light.

Are the Turbo Tunnels in Battletoads or the Dam level in TMNT actually impossible to beat or do they just need some patience and understanding to become very achievable? Is Silver Surfer in the top 10 of hardest NES games as many would suggest? It's not evenin  the top 10 hardest shmups on the NES. Okay, maybe Back to the Future and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are about as bad as he claims though. My point is: lean into the games that have bad reputations rather than avoid them and you might even be surprised that you like what many think you should revile.

As of this article, I've beaten 532 NES games. Loads of them would be considered bad games, perhaps even most. I don't regret a single one of them though. I feel like each one has brought me greater understanding of the hobby I love so much, helped me grow as a person, and occasionally delighted me. Please play a bad game at some point in 2020 with the intention of beating it and let me know how you felt about it afterwards. And shout out your favorite bad games in the comments, there are so many great bad games out there.

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Great article.  The Dam level in TMNT is not as bad as many say it.  You just need to learn the level.
@shaggy: I don't even think you need to learn it very well. Just swap your dang turtles when you need to, you've got 4 of them!
This is pretty much exactly what I've said about the NES library to literally anyone who'll listen - there really aren't that many BAD games on it.  There are frustratingly difficult games, there are poorly designed ones, but there are few outright turds. Even some of my most disliked games can't be called "bad," as they have their charms and fans out there.  Sometimes it just takes a bit of time for a game to warm up, and if you just go for instant gratification you'll miss out on them. 

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