Unlike other forms of entertainment, video game fans seem almost unique in defending the indefensible. ‘So-Bad-It’s-Good’ is now practically a genre within the film and television industry, but while taste will always sway individuals to and fro, there is normally a simple consensus for what is objectively working and what is not. Films with vital scenes missing, audio cut out or simply released incomplete would not be praised under any circumstance. But no matter how bad or even nonfunctional a video game is, it will always have fans.
And these will not be quiet fans: they will support the game loudly, telling everyone willing to listen how incredible the game is, and how wrong the reviews, commentators and “haters” are. I should know—I used to be one of those gamers.
There are a lot of reasons why someone would continue to hoist the banner for a bad game. For one thing, most of us can’t afford to purchase every new release, meaning we are increasingly forced to become very selective as to what games we pick off the shelves. If one of these titles turns out to be a dud, it’s never simply a case of replacing it with something better. In my experience saying it’s enjoyable feels better than admitting it isn’t. Convincing ourselves that, if it gets fixed down the line, we can be one of the savvy early adopters that holds prestige above the common folk that arrived too late also helps.
Recently we’ve received controversially broken games from almost every corner of the industry, from the abysmal release of Battlefield 4 to the more recent Rainbow Six: Siege and Street Fighter V. Multiplayer games that come with server issues are becoming all too common, to the point that they are now cautiously, rather than excitedly, bought at launch, or avoided for the first week with the assumption that the online features won’t be fully functional.
Back before it was so common to worry about the condition of the servers before launch, there was a new game that promised to revolutionise the shooter genre. With a multiplayer story mode, an exciting blend of shooting and free running and fully customisable characters, Brink debuted in 2011 with average reviews and terrible connection problems. The online multiplayer replaced actual players with pathetically simple bots if another human couldn’t be found, and with cascading server failures you’d be playing for 45 minutes or more before you bumped into another wayward soul.
But despite this, and despite the hours I spent playing the same handful of levels, I refused to admit defeat. A game is something you have to gamble both your finances and your free time on, and it has to be worth the payoff. Every minute I spent on Brink was another minute I would have to validate later, and if that wager falls through, it is easier to pretend it didn’t than to admit how much time you’ve wasted.
Before Brink was released I was swept up in the marketing campaign of it all. I had been completely caught up in the hype, with the cinematic trailers, posters on every bus and phone box, and all the attention it was receiving pre-launch. I was determined to enjoy it, even if it was a chore.
When you choose to purchase a game there is a sense of pride involved. The marketing campaign for every big release has been snowballing each and every cycle. It’s impossible to get away from games with ads, sponsored social media plugs, previews, gameplay footage and testimonials that swell in the weeks before launch. While everyone wants to believe they can’t be so easily manipulated, the sheer overflow of information can be hard to ignore.
Once you’ve been pulled into the hype, it becomes impossible to resist. With good games this isn’t necessarily a problem, but with broken games it can be a tragedy. Admitting you were conned can be extremely difficult. We’re all smart enough to see when this has happened, but letting it show isn’t so much about intelligence as ego.
Ego is what makes people pretend. You pretend it didn’t hurt when your friend made that joke about you, or that the food isn’t too spicy. You pretend to have read that book everyone is talking about, or have opinions about things you don’t understand to look smart. It’s the force that drove me to pretend Brink was a good game, and it drives others today to defend their terrible, broken games of choice.
No one wants to feel tricked into buying something that wastes both time and money and its that shame that leads you to hide it. All you have to do is pretend the game is as fun as you wish it was, and maybe at some point you’ll start believing it too. No one else can insult the game, because no one is allowed to know how bad it is. Gamers will always defend broken, terrible games because buying a video game is an investment of more time and money than any other form of entertainment. Here’s hoping next time you’re not the one duped.
Rosh Kelly is a Freelance Writer who likes to sneak gaming references into serious conversations. Follow him on Twitter @RoshKelly1
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