Is There A Market For B Games?

by Andrew Reiner on Apr 11, 2011 at 10:52 AM

I'm a fan of bad things. I've seen more Roger Corman films than I have Oscar winners. I can tell you more about the Legion of Super Pets than I can the Legion of Super Heroes. I bleed Chicago Cubs blue. And over the last few months, I've been digging through Game Informer's vault to find more games like Overblood.

I wasn’t dropped on my head too many times as a child. There are other people like me. Most entertainment mediums recognize that amusement can be reaped from bad things. Look at Twilight. Hollywood has the B-movie. Syfy Network really exists. And comic book writers know all too well that camp sells.

A lot of the “bad” entertainment that I consume is by intentional design, except for most of the video games I go well out of my way to find. The video game industry doesn’t have a B-movie equivalent. Most of the games I’m finding B experiences in were intended to be good games. Most of these titles fall into experimental eras of game development. The PlayStation, Saturn, Dreamcast, Jaguar, and 3DO are hotbeds for these types of games.

As I mentioned earlier, Overblood was the game that sparked my desire to find games that offered similar experiences. I reviewed Overblood when it originally hit store shelves in 1997 and gave it a score of 7 out of 10, thinking it had “a rare spark of imagination” that could give way to a “new breed of point and click adventure.”

Flash-forward 14 years to today. The video game industry has come a long way fast. Overblood, a title I thought was creative and believable at the time, has taken on a new identity. That rare spark of imagination has aged poorly, and now resembles the amusing B-grade schlock that has hundreds of people flocking to second-rate theaters to see a midnight showing of The Toxic Avenger. It’s not just Overblood that aged poorly. If someone who has never played Resident Evil ventured into Raccoon City today, they’d probably ask you if it was one of the worst video games ever made. Resident Evil holds a special place in my heart, but time has not been kind to it. The first generation of polygonal games has not aged well.

As crazy as this is going to sound, I ended up enjoying Overblood more today than I did when I first played it in 1997. The bad voice acting, crude animations, and archaic gameplay add up to comedic gold. The Super Replay that we recorded for the game has spawned a cult following and a Facebook group consisting of over 675 members.

The fanfare it has received, and my desire to find more games like it, begs the question: Why doesn’t the video game industry have a Roger Corman or a Troma? Could a developer that specializes in B-quality games make ripples in the industry today?

Deadly Premonition is an interesting example. This current-generation game feels like it was designed 15 years ago. The production values are low, the animation is terrible, and combat is less than ideal. Many people who play it are able to get past the shortcomings to discover a story and an experience that are as entertaining as any you’ll find in a triple A product. It’s the best example we have of a modern B game. Deadly Creatures, Earth Defense Force, and Rogue Warrior also fit the bill.

If the Overblood Facebook is any indication, there could an untapped market for this style of flawed-but-fascinating game design. If the B games are made well (which would often be poorly), I could see myself playing just as many of these as I would triple A games. I’m not always in the mood to play Call of Duty or Dead Space. Sometimes you just need to see a Tyrannosaus Rex beat the loving piss out of a giant squid.