That Game is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

Recently, my Twitter and Facebook have been full of people posting their scores for Flappy Bird, which has been strongly touted on the Internet as the Devil’s Spawn of (Casual) Games when it hasn’t been touted as something that’s actually quite brilliant. Its popularity is self-propagating – nothing makes someone more curious and able to step onto that slippery slope of playing a terrible game than it being plastered all over social media and the Internet in general. Oh, it can’t be as bad as they’re saying turns into a download, which turns into a play, which turns into another score posted and another article where someone tuts about the decline of human society. Although Flappy Bird has been removed from app stores, we now seem to have a whole other problem on our hands.


There are other, more clever, more dedicated people than I who have dissected exactly why Flappy Bird is a ‘terrible game’ who have even made suggestions for other, ‘better’ things you could and should be playing. It’s not the first of its kind though – anyone who is on social media and hasn’t yet worked out how to hide those damn notifications and invites will know of Cow Clicker, Farmville, et al. Oh, and of course, that game that everyone complains about but continues to play, the one where the company’s legal department appears to be hyped up on sugar.


These free-to-play, ‘casual’ time-sink games seem to have something in common with the rampant self-hatred that they seem to inspire even in the people who enjoy playing them. If you’re addicted to a ‘bad game’, are you at least partially redeemed by your awareness of that fact? For the brief amount of time that I played Candy Crush Saga (started thanks to a tedious wait for a doctor’s appointment) my matching of coloured shapes and pandering to that creepy voice of ‘encouragement’ was wrapped up in an intense sense of shame and disgust. “Why am I playing this? It’s not even good, it’s not even making me happy.” The only solution was to disconnect from it completely. Yet, I sank some time into Angry Birds and Bad Piggies and didn’t feel so gut-wrenchingly awful about it, at least until those birds started appearing on every marketable piece of merchandise ever.


So is it a question of quality? Is a question of seeing through something that has been created for the sheer desire of making money or stealing your soul, or trying to make you fly into an unutterable rage for the hollow, dead experience that it is? Super Hexagon is a game that has inspired the invention of several creative curse words and may be just as frustrating as Flappy Bird, but it doesn’t feel malicious because it’s beautifully created. It doesn’t attract the same levels of bile and vomitus. I personally have taken to playing Clumsy Ninja, another one of those evil free-to-play games and yet I don’t mind it because it feels more lovingly crafted and more truly casual – play for five minutes and put it down with no hassle.


The questions of quality, ‘real’ games and the motives behind creating and playing games are always ones that are going to crop up in our community. If you identify a game as ‘bad’ as one that makes you unhappy then you should probably step away from it. This is something that can only come from you, though. If, however, someone tells you that the game you’re enjoying is terrible, badly designed, a cash cow and the like but you still enjoy it, then recognise what it is, but by all means continue. At their core, games are supposed to be entertaining and fun. If a game is making you hate yourself when you play it, or making you feel like you’ve wasted your time then perhaps something has gone wrong along the way.




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