My friends often wonder why I play shitty games like Knights Contract. When discussing what we’ve played over the weekend, if I mention what I’m really playing, I often receive the strangest of looks. Sometimes... utter bewilderment. It isn’t always the easiest thing to explain and not typically a successful one. Nevertheless, there are reasons why I play (and often enjoy) the shittiest of games. Now you’re stuck reading them.
As I mentioned in last Friday’s No Rest for the Nerdy, I popped by Erik Norris’ house and borrowed his review copy of Knights Contract. In a pile of AAA titles meant for review, Knights Contract sat there like a rusty penny in a pile of quarters. This was a game that neither of us had ever heard of and would likely never have played. Except that the PR people at Namco Bandai were nice enough to send us over an unsolicited copy and we felt guilt-ridden to give it a shot. So, I put leveling in Borderlands aside, abandoned a brand new copy of Bulletstorm, and started hacking away at Knights Contract.
By no means is Knights Contract a good game. It’s derivative, problematic, and sometimes frustrating. It is the perfect example of a game that has no real purpose for existing. To date it appears to have sold under 100,000 copies in the US and an unknown amount in Japan. More than likely you’ve never heard of this game and you’ll probably never play it. Nevertheless, I felt drawn to play it just for that reason.
One of the core reasons why I give shitty games a try is because I want to ensure that what I am missing really is that bad. Why in the world would this game be released (or even made) if it’s really this bad? With so many games that have been developed and then abandoned, why does something like Knights Contract get released? Perhaps there is something beneath the surface that justifies it’s existence. While I haven’t had much luck finding great games in the dregs of console releases, there have been enough to keep digging (for example, The Watchmen games weren’t half bad).
Another reason I enjoy shitty games like Knights Contract is because the stories are so laughable I can just zone out and roll my eyes. A perfect example of enjoyable eye-rolling is in the game Bullet Witch. This game’s story is the lowest of the low. And yet, it has one of the most bizarre stories I have ever seen. At one point I was fighting a 300-eyed monster from the wing of a jumbo jet. First, who the hell thinks up this enemy and second, why do I have to fight it on the wing of a plane? I enjoy the guilty pleasure of playing a really terrible story every once in a while because I don’t need to take everything so seriously.
Speaking of storytelling, a third reason I enjoy shitty games is because they also prove that good games don’t have great stories either. Sometimes these shitty stories are just as bad as those in big title games (looking at you Gears of War 2 and Halo 3). Sure, these AAA titles are taking their stories seriously; nevertheless, they are still just as bad as games like Knights Contract, just with a better voice cast and a bigger budget.
Finally, the last reason I enjoy playing shitty games is because I don’t feel guilty not completing them. There are so many games released on consoles these days that there is no way that a normal human being can keep up with them all. If you’re like me, you have a stack of great games still waiting to be completed (Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mass Effect 2, Borderlands, etc.). Starting a game like Knights Contract allows me the joy of exploring a new world and none of the guilt when I abandon it. Who cares if I quit when I get to a real trouble spot? It’s not as if I’ll be playing the sequel. Shitty games allow me the pleasure of trying something out without any of the strings attached from buying a $60 big name game. Typically, I will pick these games up used so my wallet doesn’t get too slammed in the process.
Playing shitty games is a similar experience to watching a straight-to-DVD movie or a TV movie on SyFy. The intention is not for complex or sophisticated entertainment. Instead, the idea is to shut your brain off and just let the silliness take over your world. The next time you see a shitty game on the shelf of GameStop for $10 don’t completely disregard it. Sure, it won’t be the greatest of games; however, it may be so bad that it’s worth playing.