Are B-Game Video Games Possible?


As a fan of movies like “Cripple Creek”, “Thankskilling”, and “Trolls 2”, I’ve got a healthy appreciation for the media that’s “so bad it’s good” otherwise known as B-Media. B-movies have a long tradition as low-budget, marginalized flicks that unjustifiably receive attention either for excessive gore, unbelievably bad acting, or production qualities so low they would give Michael Bay a massive coronary. But B-movies have moved away from the definition of low-budget (see “Dragon Wars”) and into the over-saturation of modern movie tropes. The writing must be terrible, the acting equally so, and the plot as canned as Chicken of the Sea. And there’s a niche market of consumers, myself included, who love this kind of film exactly because of those qualities, partially in jest and partially because we can’t look away from the carnage (I call it the “WNBA effect”). It’s a true phenomenon in the film industry, and one worth exploring if you have yet to brave those tepid waters.

Can game developers, then, apply this philosophy to their game design, and should they even want to? I believe it’s distinctly possible to make a B-Game, but sadly it has yet to be done. Here’s why:

Games differ from movies in their interactivity. So if a B-Game were to be made, then the gameplay would have to be as insufferable as the plot, right? Wrong. Take a game like Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks, a shoddily crafted TV tie-in game that I had the misfortune of reviewing a while ago. Among all the forms that the main character can assume and the powers that they possess, none of them play fluidly. Everything has a clunk or a clank about it, and the environments don’t do much to help. As a game marketed towards the young Ben 10 audience, it does little to help young gamers push their way through to the generic ending. It’s got a bad story told poorly and it’s held together with paper-thin movement and ability mechanics. This is not a B-Game.


Getting closer is Crackdown, a game that makes no qualms about its ridiculous nature but delivers satisfying moments of super-powered exhilaration. Jumping over a building to lay the smack down on some Latino punks toting AK’s? Check. Throwing an 18-wheeler at a crowd of samurai sword wielding Asian gang members? Double check. Even outside the thinly veiled stereotyping,Crackdown gives players a crap storyline peppered with intolerable one-liners from the radio-voiced narrator, but it’s all wrapped in a package of genuinely enjoyable gameplay that works and feels like it should (given the objectives).

I don’t think Crackdown goes far enough. Sure, it’s bad, but I get the feeling the developer was going for “comic book gaudy” rather than really, truly bad. I think the potential is still out there. Imagine Uncharted 2 where all the enemies are vampires and you have to use your Blade-like abilities to hop from train car to train car in a single bound to grab out the heart of your blood-thirsty foe and stab it with your silver katana. Or Heavy Rain where the Origami Killer is actually a giant snapping turtle who can only be soothed by calm, rational discussion? Ooo, or a crazy remix of Ninja Gaiden with “Garfield”?!

B-Games can be done, though they haven’t been yet. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of these (clearly brilliant) ideas coming to fruition because, like B-Movies, B-Games wouldn’t make much money and marketability has a huge influence on game design, whether the creative types like it or not. Tim Schafer and the crew over at Double Fine are probably the most likely to produce something close to a B-Game, but I doubt any truly horribly great game will ever see the light of day. If only someone had the balls to make “Road House” into a game…


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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