So I want to talk a little about why playing and critiquing bad games is so important. My goal is not to take the development teams to task; in my career as a game developer, I’ve worked on some pretty poor games myself, and I know first hand that bad games are almost always the result of factors outside of the development team’s immediate control rather than incompetence. So while I may bitch about how certain games are badly balanced, or too tricky for their own good, or fatally flawed, I am blasting the game experience, not the people who made it.
In fact, I think that my experience working on games that turned out to be less than stellar has a lot to do with my rationale for running this site. You can’t help but wonder what the hell happened when you play something like The Ring for the first time; everything is so amazingly broken that it’s almost hard to pin down which of the game’s failures is the most glaring. I think that one of the big reasons that bad games get made is that people experiment with ideas but do not have time to change or refine them if they don’t work out; the Ring might have sounded good on paper, but the development cycle was probably so short that even if the development team realized that they had just created the worst thing ever in the history of things, they probably didn’t have any time to go back and make fixes. I’ve been there, and it’s a sucky situation to be in.
So one of the reasons for me to run this site is to find out what ideas really don’t work so well so that maybe other developers can avoid them in the future. Given that game development time is limited and a lot of things have already been tried, I’d like to provide a resource for game designers (or anybody interested in design, even if they are not a professional) to examine what has been done in the past within the horror genre, and which of those ideas have failed.
To that end, playing bad games is much more enlightening than playing good games. So often a game works very well because many aspects of the game design work together to produce an excellent experience. It’s hard to tell, then, which of those aspects might work outside of its original context; it’s hard to divine which parts of a good game are intrinsically good, and which parts are good because they’ve been combined with other design ideas. But by playing bad games, you can quickly and easily get a feel for ideas that do not work. If these are ideas that have been successfully employed elsewhere, that tells you that the idea isn’t robust enough to stand up on its own, but it can work when combined with something else. Playing bad games also helps me appreciate the quality with which good games are developed; after playing Kuon, I have new respect for the highly superior (and somewhat thematically similar) Fatal Frame series.
So I love bad games. I started this site to learn about why good horror games are good, and that means I also need to understand why bad horror games are terrible. Even though it can be a chore to play them, and any enjoyment I get may be in spite of the game rather than because of it, bad games are an invaluable resource.