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On “Bad Games”
They’re not all as “bad” as the internet thinks
A topic came up on my Twitter feed recently that caught my attention, talking about “bad games” and how it’s recommended that people play some of the worst games every once in a while to gain some proper perspective on what a “bad game” really is.
We know the usual suspects, right? E.T. Superman (64). Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.
All easy targets… or so it would seem.
I personally take umbrage with the constant charges by many people online that E.T. for the Atari 2600 is one of the worst games of all time. Why? It’s wrong, that’s why. Many who hold and share this opinion most likely weren’t alive yet when the game was being sold in stores and was relevant. They heard some YouTube personality say that the game was horrible, or blindly followed the lead of an internet influencer somewhere who said it… so it has to be true, right?
No. No, it’s not true… from a certain perspective.
I was 10 years old when the game came out. My maternal grandparents had an Atari 2600 and had bought the game. I played it. I read the instructions to understand what was going on, and what all of the random symbols meant. After some effort, I “beat” the game for the first time, and could do it regularly thereafter.
I still play it every so often, and muscle memory kicks in almost 40 years later. I don’t get E.T. home as consistently as I did back then, but I can still do it from time to time.
E.T. is just one example, though it’s also the best one to use because it’s so maligned among the collective of the internet. I can list other examples, like Irritating Stick and Razor Freestyle Scooter for the PlayStation and Jaws for the NES— three games that get their fair share of abuse on YouTube and social media, but all are games that I genuinely have fun playing.
I’m not going to proclaim that people can’t have negative opinions of games. Each player is going to have games they dislike… or even outright hate. What I would say is that, before passing such judgment, make sure it’s your own. Going off of what a popular YouTuber or Twitch personality says, or dropping a hot take for the clout on Twitter leaves out valuable perspective and experience that factor into having a fair opinion.
Consider rethinking that tweet about how Pokémon Diamond is the worst game ever made. You know that it isn’t. Maybe it’s the most disappointing game you’ve ever played, but that doesn’t make it “bad”— let alone the “worst game ever”.
Try to make an effort to back away from conflating “bad” and “disappointing”. They’re two different states, and recognizing the difference will be a boost to how we talk about video games online.