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So Bad It's Brilliant

John Robertson | 16 Aug 2013 14:06
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We love bad films. We love them because they're bad. The likes of American Pie, Planet Terror, Flash Gordon, Showgirls, The Expendables, and too many films from the 80s to mention are celebrated for qualities that would usually cause us to turn our noses up and look the other way. All of these feature some or all of the following: bad acting, bad writing, bad direction, predictable plots, and Sylvester Stallone. They're so bloated with clich├ęs they make using a Macbook Pro in Starbucks look original. Those traditionally bad elements are what make them so great.

The abundance of predictability and the lack of an intellectual script/plot makes them easy to consume and prevents us from having to think too hard. This makes them a safe prospect for those evenings and afternoons when we're in the mood for stimulation on a level equal to discussing foreign policy with Channing Tatum. Furthermore, such films are self-referential and often highly satirical, using the bad acting/scripting etc to highlight and mock norms and ideas prevalent throughout the rest of the industry. This, in turn, not only allows us to enjoy such experiences guilt free, telling ourselves we're actually watching something smart, but actually serves to reinforce what a typical good movie is.

Why, then, does the phenomenon of 'so bad it's good' not carry over to the realm of videogames?

Starship Troopers is a brilliant example of this, Paul Verhoeven using the good looks and bland acting talent of Denise Richards and Casper Van Dien to poke fun at Hollywood casting practices. The entire movie is a parody, albeit one that is generally misunderstood and, as such, grossly underappreciated. Starship Troopers knowingly blends together so many perceived inadequate elements that it actually becomes a masterpiece. It achieves exactly what it set out to do.

Why, then, does the phenomenon of 'so bad it's good' not carry over to the realm of videogames? Popular opinion on the matter is that the interactive nature of a videogame means less-than-stellar elements are more difficult to overlook. Movies are, for most of us, a passive medium. Watching a bad film can be done with the same level of concentration as watching a good one. Videogames are different. An active medium to begin with, bad gameplay forces us to concentrate even harder to try and overcome the failings. That extra concentration predominantly highlights any more shortcomings.

Popular opinion is wrong. There is such a thing as a 'so bad it's good' videogame and, like with movies, there are games that set out to be exactly that. Perhaps the master of this area is Goichi Suda, better known as Suda51, CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture and mastermind behind the likes of Shadows of the Damned, No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw.

The bulk of Suda51's work is defined by shameless over-the-top scenarios, gameplay and characterisation. And an unwillingness to be influenced by popular trends or accepted norms. Pull up a list of review scores for any of Suda51's games and you'll be hard pushed to find a general consensus. Similar way to Starship Troopers and The Expendables, you either love them because you understand that the 'bad' parts are not really bad at all, or you hate them because of how crude and childish they seem.

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