What the $@#* Did I Just Play?

Have you ever played a game and just found yourself wondering why the game even exists in the first place?

The days in which the Super Nintendo reigned supreme were the first time I found myself asking that question. My earliest memory of this occurred when I picked up a game known as Eye of the Beholder (EoB); I was six.

Fresh off of my high born from experiencing A Link to the Past, my mother took me out to buy another game. After looking at the cover and reading the epic fable on the back of the box detailing the adventures that most assuredly awaited me (not noticing the absence of in-game pics), I informed my mother of my decision and I brought the game home.

Now I was never a child prone to tantrums or fits of misbehavior but after playing the game for about two minutes, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t about to fuck something up.

Expecting something along the lines of Castlevania or Zelda, I heard my tiny heart shatter upon realizing that the piece of shit currently settled in my Super Nintendo was a first-person, point-and-click role-playing game.

Imagine a six year old trying to play this…

My disappointment stemmed mainly from being deprived of a fulfilling top-down or side-scrolling hack-and-slash adventure. I was willing to partake in a first-person point-and-click adventure but having played Wolfenstein 3-D, I knew even then, after playing for no more than five minutes, that the technology behind EoB was not good enough to allow such a game to be enjoyable; I was six.

If I was able to see that the game was far too glitchy to make a suitable first-person point-and-click adventure, why couldn’t the developers?

Or did they not really care and just saw the creation of games as another nine to five?

My ability to recognize shit games has since evolved.

I now find myself avoiding titles with certainty before actually having played the game. I know there are those that would say such a habit is detrimental, but so far I have been spot on.

One example of this would be my prophetic first impression of the game Lollipop Chainsaw.

I first saw its trailer in a weird place; some place like before the Feature Presentation at a theater or on a really expensive TV spot like the Super Bowl or something like that. One of the things that shocked me was seeing a game that was without a doubt, at best lackluster, in an advertising spot that cost an exorbitant amount of money or favors to attain.

I got the premise pretty quickly after just seeing her moan and sigh in orgasmic fashion as she brandished her impossibly light chainsaw. Even though I didn’t see any gameplay footage or actually hear the plot of the story, I instinctively knew that the game would be shit.

I feel like nowadays I find myself coming to these conclusions more frequently; perhaps it’s because I am better prepared to spot oddities within entertainment or perhaps there are simply more oddities. Whatever the reason, I see them everywhere.

Taking Lollipop Chainsaw for example, I am forced to wonder which audience they were catering to when they first greenlit the title.

It can’t be the hack n’ slashers; all one needs to do is witness five minutes of gameplay to realize it is a mindless attack button slammer, there is no brain activity, creativity or skill needed to play the game. Hack n’ Slashers will avoid it like the plague.

It can’t be the weirdo basement dwellers that are into games like DOA: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Rumble Roses; the game doesn’t have the polish and textures necessary for those guys to be happy.

After hearing reactions to the game from fellow gamers, it became clear to me that the game had no focus, no intended demographic; it was made to be made (some of my friends and coworkers informed me that some reviewers claimed the game to be pretty decent but were later lambasted by their readers after, having played the game, discovering that the game was anything but).

Does anyone remember the game Quantum Theory?

Admittedly, I thought the game was going to be good when I saw the gameplay months before it was released. But my opinion of it began to shrink as it got closer and closer to its release. IGN also released a damning first impression article which solidified my decision to not purchase the game.

After playing the demo, I was shocked that the developer’s Quality Assurance staff allowed such a piece of shit to see the light of day.

Why did the game exist?

It couldn’t have been for the money because rumor of the game’s terrible quality spread like wildfire, stopping anyone who had any intention of purchasing it. This reaction in sales could have been predicted by anyone with a little common sense. Surely, something like this wasn’t unprecedented; it couldn’t have been the first game to be released with no expectations of success.

Enter Superman 64.

I could never fathom a person playing that game and leaving with the feeling that they had just experienced a winning game.

To me video games are art; because of this I don’t understand the idea behind creating something just to create it with no expectation or feeling of greatness within that art.

Why bother then?

A while ago there was a discussion in the comments section of Ed Smith’s article regarding how videogames, while indeed art, are cultural and not technological.

While this may be true to an extent, I feel that the artistic talent that is expressed through a game’s environment, story and colorful characters can only be fully experienced if they are intertwined with sound technical development.

A game like Quantum Theory was graphically decent. Its downfall stemmed from how your character interacted with the environment and characters. Movement was clunky and felt forced, gunplay and dialogue was a mess. The presence of an artistic talent could clearly be felt within the game but the game’s technical shortcomings ultimately snuffed it out.

Could this be the reason for the existence of such shit games? A development team that values the art inherent to what is seen and heard and not what is felt; a commitment to eye candy and a disregard to the technological aspects of gaming?

There was polarization merely within Ed’s column, why not within the world of developers?

How much would a game like Superman 64 change if the development team was made up of people who actually cared about how the game felt? I’m sorry but I just can’t believe that anyone involved with that game knew anything about gaming.

I know it seems presumptuous to sit here and say that shit games are merely the result of an inept and/or detached development team but think about it. Consider the worst game you have ever played. Hopefully some of you have experience with some of the games I mentioned. If you were a member of Quality Assurance, would you let the game be released?

It’s hard for me to imagine someone intentionally releasing a shit product and then attaching their name to it. So is it possible that some developers are so detached from what real consumers perceive as quality?