Movie/Gamer: Are Bad Movies Better Than Bad Video Games?

Movie/Gamer: Are Bad Movies Better Than Bad Video Games?

Jun 27, 2011

Duke Nukem ForeverNo matter how how irredeemably bad a movie is, it's possible to have fun watching it. Watch it with friends and quote it endlessly. ("I peed my pants!") Take a drink every time you see the boom mic. Go see it at midnight and throw spoons at the screen. Buy the janky movie figurine and give it to your friend for his or her birthday. See? It's fun for years to come!

When a video game is bad, though, it's usually a different kind of bad. Subject matter aside, when I think of a crappy game, it's an unplayable game. It's absolutely possible to revisit a beloved game from the past like Wolfenstein 3D and enjoy it; not only that, these days you can even play a port of it on your iPad. Sure, it might not look like it's up to snuff when you compare the graphics to something like Bioshock Infinite, but that's not why you're playing it. 1931's Dracula doesn't have the bells and whistles of today's vampire movies, but it's still an indisputable classic.

On the other hand, a game like Duke Nukem Forever is bad because of its gameplay mechanics. Dank woman-hating "jokes" only add to the insult of a crappy, unplayable game. And while we might enjoy the meatheadedness of a steroid-inflated action movie, being immersed in one that's slapped together and shoved out the door is another story entirely.

When a game is poorly designed or horribly glitchy, you're actually stuck in it. What's more frustrating than being trapped in the limbo between living and dying until you have to restart at some way-back-yonder save point and redo half a level? Or being at the mercy of some overworked game developer's terribly laid-out jumping puzzle? It's enough to make any gamer's palms sweaty, especially if we're reviewing it and are playing against the clock.

What bad games and bad movies do have in common is that the ones that are considered tasteless or offensive are generally the most poorly made. No major studio is going to pay for you to make your effed-up game about Columbine or angry postal workers, or your movie about bonking dead people or girls who barf for two hours. You're on your own, buddy.

The joy of technology is that you can still DIY and somehow reach your audience, although who that audience is is up for debate. At that point, however, I don't think audience is even a factor. It's what the creator wants to see or play, or perhaps try and make the most inflammatory game/movie possible. The success of the project is based on the developer or filmmaker's desire to make it and less about the consumer's enjoyment of it.

Therefore, your game will most likely be relegated to shareware or the bargain bin, at best, and your movie to obscure DVD stores or file-sharing. I mean, if you want to make a movie that's really all about puke, you should definitely go for it, but I'm not sure who will be up for repeat viewings. A Serbian Film seems to be a notable exception to this theory; all reports I've read indicate that it looks like it has relatively high production values, if you can bear to watch it. (I can't.)

While it's obvious that not all bad movies are enjoyable, some great movies are hard to sit through (hello, Salo), and some people don't enjoy bad movies at all, it seems more about personal taste than the quality of the movie per se. When it comes to video games, though, I think that it's easier to quantify what makes a crappy game. I might revel in the occasional viewing of Castle Freak, but I've never heard of anyone who looked back fondly on that horrible Atari version of E.T. where you get stuck in holes for hours.

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The Burning Question

Which one of these people is in the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier?

  • Amandla Stenberg
  • Robert Redford
  • Michael Hofland
  • Ike Barinholtz
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Robert Redford