Some off the rail thoughts about...
The Celebration of Bad
“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink.”
An oft repeated nugget of wisdom from my uncle, or maybe the internet. Who knows at this point. It pairs well with another classic expression, “Everyone's a critic.”
Criticism isn't entirely a new idea, though some casual googling suggests the term and practice came about sometime in the 17th century, which coincides with the rise of printed works rising in popularity that were not the Bible. As a result, it became a newspaper feature to inform folks of a newly available title and maybe some thoughts if it's worth the investment. Today we refer to it as “Journalistic Criticism”.
It wasn't too long before literary enthusiasts began publishing more pointed opinions, seeking to raise or destroy the profile of local authors they deemed worthy. Fast forward a couple centuries and it was easy to slot those fancy new talking pictures into the same format. A lot of coverage focused simply on the release of a new title and a few impressions. But a new generation of nerds came about becoming the latest taste makers of cinema.
Fundamentally, these critics certainly had a deep love of their chosen media. At the end of the day, however, they were always concerned with what is “Good”, by whatever arbitrary metrics and standards they devised.
Enter Mystery Science Theatre 3000, brain child of Joel Hodgson. Inspired by the likes of “The Golden Turkey Awards”, which nominated and awarded the worst movies, MST3K took to commentating and joking over old B-tier films. The kind of parody may be older, but it was the first time I was made aware that just because something is maybe “Not Good” does not mean it has no value. Even if the only value might be poking fun at it.
Speeding through history again, we see the rapid explosion of video games hitting worldwide markets. And again, a cottage industry of reviewers informed the public of what was worth a substantial price tag. The best were put on pedestals while the rest were tossed to the gutters of history. At least, until the internet popped up.
Much nostalgia was waxed for arcades and past generations of home consoles. Aggravations were shared for money wasted on bad rentals or squandered gift opportunities with regrettable titles. Until comedy found its way round again to make light of bad video games with the likes of James Rolph his creation: The Angry Video Game Nerd (formerly The Angry Nintendo Nerd).
This video series took early video sites by storm. A novel mix of nostalgia exploration and foul mouthed lamentations infected my adolescent mind as I watched them on repeat alternating between nodding in agreement and howling with laughter. It was such a wildly successful format, many speculate it single handedly paved the way for most (if not all) video game content on YouTube. Personally, nearly everything I consumed on YouTube from the late oughts through the mid 10's got their start doing largely the same thing: find an off beat “bad” game, poke fun at it, add a review spin to it, maybe even validate some elements of it.
Thankfully, there's been evolutions in content creation. Not everything needs to be presented with an over the top aire of vitriol. Many creators now make deep dive documentaries on technology and specific titles. Others simply take an honest look at a game and comment on what works and what makes it a worthwhile visit today. And still others just show off playing them for the simple joy of playing.
And that's a beautiful thing. Taking movies or games that may have been lambasted or pushed aside when it came out and giving it a sort of second chance. Not necessarily to defend a specific title, but for the pure love of a medium and just wanting to celebrate all of it, good or bad.
(Disclaimer: These rambling thoughts were at one time part of a larger piece taking up space in the cluttered attic of my mind. Maybe someday I'll come back to this and rework it into a more polished full piece.)