In defense of bad things

Day in and day out, we are surrounded by an unfathomable volume of media products. Some are good. Some are bad. And some, some are so bad you would rather crawl back into the womb than partake. In today’s article, we will tackle the very latter proponent of this spectrum of products. And, like a knight in shining armor, we come to its defense. In defense of flawed and abhorrently produced media, I offer the position that we consumers ought to cherish, even revere the most abominable bad things. And this argument is not merely some snide play at a devil’s advocate. In the same way that good cannot exist without evil, good media cannot be distinctly separated from the bad if we were not given exemplars of the truly awful. Additionally, to say that a piece of media is devoid of merit can be an overgeneralization. Many amazingly flawed pieces hide a nugget of gold beneath a crude surface. In fact, a lot of products fail because of experimentation, failure to successfully conform to industry pressures, low investment or production value, the list goes on. Of course, no one wants to make a bad product. Every developer wants to make a good product given the cards they’ve been dealt. Perhaps then, if we approach the problem of bad things from this angle, media that have been collectively deemed unacceptable may have some hidden value yet to discover.

Media analysis is a tricky business, and often a lack of understanding the difference between reason and opinion can lead to misplaced beliefs. Nowadays, people seem to be infatuated with the latest movements in multimedia development. Whether it be the new age wave of music or the overdone open world structure of AAA videogame titles, consumers and producers alike fall prey to the unyielding winds of conformity. This theme of conformity leads to a separation in media, a divide between what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’. While some media pieces are objectively good, or at worst, mediocre, the main point of separation is the disparity between what is popular and what is not. However, figureheads leading the tip of the spear in defining a list of ‘good’ products need a standard by which to calibrate their assessments. To fulfil this requirement, these people often use “less than stellar” pieces in a comparative fashion. Unfortunately, negative press of this nature also leads the masses to not even pay ‘bad things’ any mind. In other cases, individuals display outward displeasure towards a form of media but harbour a secret affection for it, ever while circulating talk of a ‘bad product’ within their sphere of influence.

A good analogy to the problem here would be comparing apples to oranges. One cannot say that the orange is better than the apple; after all, the two fruits are inherently different things. I, for example, do not enjoy pop. Nevertheless, to say it is bad simply because it is not progressive rock is flawed reasoning. Here, I am grading an orange according to the qualities of an apple, perpetuating negative press of a genre that is not remotely the same. In the same vein, I might even listen to J-pop secretly (I suppose now is a good a time as ever to come out). The point being, the distinction between what is popular and what is unpopular is not the same as the difference between good and bad. And, frequently enough, consumers and producers alike are too swept up in the bandwagon to appreciate single titles. Learning to make these distinctions, to recognise what is an apple, and what is an orange, is the first step to understanding bad things.

On the other hand, there are products that are genuinely bad, garnering so much negative press that they no longer see the light of day. Nonetheless, in this deep isolation, sometimes gold is still buried. Take videogames, for example. With the ample amount of videogame reviewers on the web echo-chambering off each other on their respective platforms, certain games get buried beneath the rubble due to the constant bombardment of criticism. In this storm of negative attention, the merits of a game can become almost indecipherable, as the layman avoids it on principle. To be specific, there is a game I am currently playing called Dynasty Warriors 9, which on release garnered plenty of criticism. Perhaps this was to be expected. After all, the game was a massive departure from the traditional Dynasty Warriors formula. On top of that, an open world that nobody asked for was clumsily tacked onto the game. On release, it was additionally met with criticism for the bugs, the corner cutting and the framerate. Though the game has improved plenty over the last year, it is still victim to the community’s hate.
Perhaps here I can defend this title. I believe that Dynasty Warriors 9 introduced a much-needed change to the Warriors formula. While they may ask for change, what people often want most is more of the same. Despite this, the typical gamer does not usually consider what a genre needs to stay afloat. Change in a series of games is a normal process of course, as any genre must have a natural evolution. However, when a developer makes a major departure from said evolutionary path, we can begin to see genuine innovation. Here, there is a nugget of gold, lying in the fact that Dynasty Warriors 9 is raw innovation for better or for worse. It is an entire makeover for the series, even if previous entries showed no indication for such a revolutionary path. Despite this, DW9 is still a very fun title, a diamond in the rough. This is an accomplishment, regardless of the sudden shifts in gameplay. It is not an easy venture down untrodden paths. In fact, you might even say it is admirable that a developer would try to advance their own work in such a drastic manner. These things cause me to question the nature of a ‘bad game’. There is clearly a hidden artistic merit here, as well as an overwhelming fun factor that can be had if one puts in the effort to enjoy it. But, more often than not, we fail to even try.

Ultimately, no game is perfect. Inversely however, no game is unequivocally horrendous. There are hidden merits to every piece of media, and at the end of the day, every producer/developer wants to make a good product. Nevertheless, we face challenges when sifting through the rubble. Ultimately, the media collective tends to make decisions as to what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. Despite this, the literarily enlightened can take a different approach. As a conscious consumer of media, one must try to stand outside the wavering mass of sheep and consume media with an open mind. Perhaps then, we can begin to fully experience new, undiscovered platforms of self expression yet unknown. Perhaps then, we can come to the defence of bad things.


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