Yooka-Laylee showing the main characters being chased by enemies in a colourful scene.

In Defence Of ‘Average’ Games

Games don’t have to be perfect to be worth playing.  There, I said it.

I know that’s rich coming from someone who complains about a lack of time.  After all, there are so many great games out there, why settle for something that is just “good,” let alone “mediocre” or flat out “bad”?

Lower your pitchforks, friends! Let me explain!

For a game to be considered outstanding in this day and age, it has to tick a ridiculous number of boxes – far more than a decade or two ago.

An evolving, moving story?  Check.  Realistic characters, with deep backstories that make you want to invest your time talking to them?  Check.  Realistic graphics?  Check.  An intuitive control scheme that the whole gaming universe agrees to work well?  Check.  Online play?  Regular DLC that is reasonably priced, or free?  The ability to mod the game to make it your own?  The list could go on and on, with check after check – it’s exhausting.

The moment a big red X sits against one of those points, the game is no longer perfect.  Two red Xs?  Congratulations, your game is average.  Three red Xs? Don’t even bother.

That is completely false by the way – a game need not be perfect to be a worthwhile release, but unfortunately there is an elitist subsection of the gaming community that feels that way.  Anything less than a 9/10 on their favourite game website and a title suddenly means nothing.

But then there are the other gamers – gamers like me.  We are realistic.  We understand that a game may suffer from pop-in, or that the button to shoot is awkwardly placed, or that the voice acting sounds amateurish.  And, that’s okay, as long as the game has other rewarding features.

Maybe it has a wonderful story, or an interesting world to explore, or maybe the hand-to-hand combat controls are the most intuitive we’ve ever used.

Let’s be realistic.  Not every game can be perfect.  Heck, there are a ton of games with astronomical budgets released with glaring flaws on a seemingly daily basis. Quantum Break is a recent example, which continues to sell poorly, and yet it has several redeeming features.

Some of the best games I’ve played have also been the least perfect.

An example that springs to mind is Lost Odyssey.  It had a moving story that sticks with me even to this day.  We’ve all wanted to be immortal, but after experiencing the struggles of someone who will live forever, I’ve reconsidered.  The highlight of the game for me was the A Thousand Years of Dreams short stories, which feature some exceptional writing.  But, Lost Odyssey was always viewed as a poor-mans Final Fantasy, because it wasn’t perfect.

An example from a different genre is Pro Evolution Soccer.  It doesn’t have the commercial rights to the teams and player names (thank you, Fifa), nor does it have the best commentary you’ll ever hear.  It also doesn’t feature an intuitive skill control scheme, and online lag can make matches unplayable.  But, you know what?  It’s good fun.  Moving away from the realistic football simulation that Fifa has morphed into, to the fun arcade style championed by Pro Evo is refreshing.

Pro Evo isn’t perfect, no, and it has flaws than no football game should ever have.  But, it’s fun – and isn’t that all that matters?

The list could go on and on.  First-person shooters that are rubbish at shooting, adventure games with a drab world to explore, racing games with boring tracks – yet they offer something special that still makes them worth checking out.

It is a shame that there are games rated 6/10 and lower that hold experiences that could stick with us for the rest of our lives, but that we may never play because of a low number hovering over a ten.  For me, games aren’t about greatness, but the memories they leave me with to look back on years down the line.