I’m pretty sure I already knew this some time ago, but I’ve come to the not-so-startling conclusion recently that I’m the one buying the crap games and listening to terrible music and enjoying awful films. It’s not a conscious decision to be contrary, but I do find myself more willing than some to give creative works that have been somewhat maligned the benefit of the doubt — and more often than not actually end up enjoying them.
The first time I recall this happening was one summer when I was home from university. I got very bored and decided that I was going to go to the cinema by myself, just pick a movie that happened to be on, sit down, watch it and attempt to enjoy it. It was partly borne from a desire to prove wrong the unwritten rule that going to the cinema by yourself is somehow shameful (if it is, why is watching a DVD by yourself OK?) and partly just out of a desire to get out of the house.
The movie I went to see? 2 Fast 2 Furious. It was terrible, of course, but I enjoyed it a great deal. And the reason for this was the fact that I didn’t feel “accountable” to anyone — there was no-one with me judging my tastes or making me believe that I should feel a certain way about this piece of entertainment that was bombarding me with nonsense. (“Wow, bro, it’s like a ho-asis in here!”) Judged entirely on its own merits and on whether or not it performed the function I wanted it to at that specific moment in time — to entertain me without making me have to think too much — it succeeded admirably.
More recently, I found similar joy in Duke Nukem Forever. The thing that annoyed me most about the vitriolic reviews scattered around the web was the fact that all the critics seemed to feel somehow “responsible” for their audience, like they had a moral obligation to dislike it because of its more questionable elements or its rough edges. I played it and enjoyed it — genuinely — and was surprised there weren’t a few more people willing to stand up and be counted, saying “look, yes, it is crass, it is rude, it is inappropriate, but for fuck’s sake lighten up.” But that’s by the by — if you found it objectionable, that’s your business, but it doesn’t make me wrong either.
Most recently, the recent Steam sale encouraged me to pick up Alpha Protocol, a game I’ve been curious about for some time. Roundly panned on its release for poor AI, questionable game mechanics and outdated graphics, most people seemed to think it was one to pass by. But for three quid I wasn’t about to let that happen. So far I’ve enjoyed it greatly. I don’t mind that the shooting and the AI isn’t great because I’m not very good at shooters or stealth games. What Alpha Protocol has provided for me so far is a 24-esque espionage plot with action sequences where I at least feel like I’m a badass spy, even if the execution means it’s quite difficult to mess things up, from what I can tell. The key thing about the game is its story, and for that, I’m willing to forgive its flaws — some may say too forgiving.
This is a pattern I’ve continued for as long as I remembered. Back when I bought CDs (oh so many years ago) I tended to purchase music on something of a whim rather than with the charts or peer reactions in mind. I bought things out of curiosity, because I liked the cover art, because I thought the singer was hot. And there’s very few of those decisions I regretted, because it gave me the opportunity to experience some things that many other people might never have been exposed to.
I’m cool with that. It gives me interesting things to talk about when people want to know about obscure games, cheesy music or crap films. Everyone knows Halo and Call of Duty are good. But how many people can vouch for the awesomeness of Doom: The Roguelike?