It’s a universally accepted truth that even the worst game will garner a huge audience. It’s a seemingly inexplicable phenomenon. People know a game is bad, terrible even, be it due to poor design choices, localization issues, or even an intentional desire to screw with the player. Yet, we play these bad games. We savor them, even. Some people, like myself, even hunt them down.
The current bad game of choice is Flappy Bird , an iOS, Android, and soon Windows Phone game where players try to help a bird fly through pipes. The hit boxes are off and the controls wretched, so even if you look like you’re doing okay, your score will probably never enter the double digits. People know that Flappy Bird is bad, yet everyone keeps flocking (pun intended) to play it. Why? Well, fortunately, I’m a bad game expert and I can tell you why people keep coming back to Flappy Bird, Bad Rats: The Rats’ Revenge, Desert Bus, and others of their ilk. I’ll explain why people gravitate towards horrible games, using Flappy Bird as an example.
The initial players probably picked up Flappy Bird because it’s rather innocuous. It’s a free game with no in-app purchases, and happens to be deceptively cute. After a few minutes of play, they realize their mistake. They’ll see how annoying Flappy Bird is, get increasingly frustrated with the Cheating McCheaterson game, and go off to vent.
The venting part is very important, because this is how the next generation of Flappy Bird , and other horrible games, players get lured in. The initial test group goes to Twitter, Facebook, or whatever the cool kids are using nowadays and rant about how Flappy Bird beat them. They swear, they curse and vow vengeance on whoever made this abomination. People read it and think, “I have to get me some of that!” Maybe that original player is just particularly inept. You’re a gaming god. Surely you could master Flappy Bird . Or maybe you have to see if it’s really as bad as the first players say. It can’t be that bad.
So more people get pulled into the vicious cycle of bad gaming. They too, begin to share their experiences, spreading the gospel of the current best bad game. It’s at this point some people start joining in the fun because they want to be part of something so horrible and get some kind of joy out of it.
See, bad games can often be quite cathartic. You know it’s going to be horrible, you just don’t know how bad. Flappy Bird is especially egregious, as it features a combination of bad design and controls, so even when you look like you’re winning, you’re losing. For many, this is part of the fun. You know you’re going to fail, you just don’t know how it will happen, and part of your enjoyment will stem from seeing how you’ll go down. These people will make a game out of playing horrible games, and share their misfortune with each title for the amusement of others. It’s the same reason we see Let’s Plays of games like Bad Rats: The Rats’ Revenge and Desert Bus .
Of course, there’s a deeper reason people subject themselves to horrible games like Flappy Bird . Think of it as a technological pursuit of enlightenment. Putting ourselves through such misery just might make us better people. We become more patient and tolerant, as we keep from throwing controllers or phones in frustration. We accept that sometimes, we’ll falter through no fault of our own. We can do everything right, but still have it all go wrong. It’s a metaphor for life, really, and by graciously accepting defeat each time Flappy Bird falls on his head and dies, we better ourselves.
Or maybe, just maybe, we get ourselves into these terrible games because we all have a little too much spare time on our hands. Yeah, that sounds about right.
Whatever it is that pulls people towards terrible games, rest assured that they aren’t going anywhere. Terrible games will continue to be made both intentionally and accidentally, and there are always going to be people who rush to play them for all of the reasons above, and probably more. Accept it and embrace your own masochistic tendencies.