The Charm of Imperfection
It doesn’t take much to notice the difference between a table that is crafted by the lone hands of an artisan compared to one that is farmed out of an Ikea warehouse. The little grooves and imperfections tell a story about the time that the artisan put into the piece, and it makes it unique.
In the gaming world, much of our favorite games are created by teams of people in the upwards of hundreds. Big budget titles, while flashy and certainly rewarding on the dollar, can feel stale after a few hours of play, and even lose luster after just one play through. On the other hand, somehow the artisan craft of a small team that is able to really get their hands into the development on a personal basis end up with something that is more akin to a piece of art then simple entertainment.
Many of you can think of these high budget titles without me having to mention them. Worlds that are buffed out to a sheen, perfect looking characters, fairly low glitches, and safe gameplay that will leave a wide market of very different people entertained for their $60.
But then you have game developers who take a very different approach to this development, and after playing the game, although at first wondering ‘what the fuck were they thinking’ you realize that they had the courage to make the artisan aspect of their game go further because of the capabilities of the small developer. This is where the cult status of games begins, in this niche market that will only ever be visited by the few that really want to invest their time in something different, something with meaning.
Ico, a game with very dated AI, however while the player walks through the Castle in the Mists hand in hand with Yorda, it’s easy to allow the idea of her being ‘strong willed’ to take place over complaining about her poor computerized attempts and going the right direction. In Xenosaga, the strange choices made concerning the pacing of story or the direction of when and where to use music has more to do with the important focus of the director and not the needs of the player. In Killer 7, ambitious gameplay and a jarring, psychological spin on traditional game storytelling will put off most players, but makes it an absolute gaming classic.
Games like this need to exist, and they need to exist with their flaws. They are like a strangely brewed, aging wine. Somehow these games sweeten with each passing year, and are only picked up and appreciated by those gamers who will take the time to understand them. Gaming doesn’t really need another director equivalent to Michael Bay, nor does it need yet another 600 person development team just to make a multiplayer online shooter. These already exist, there’s enough of them.
It’s time to start treating classic, cult favorites as they are. If you’ve heard someone rave about a game that a reviewer said was less than stellar, why not challenge yourself and give the title a try? You never know what part of it you might fall in love with, and sometimes the titles that are harder to digest just become better and better the more you play. But the little imperfections, the things that prevent some of these brilliant games from getting the strangely coveted perfect scores of biased review magazines, these things can be enjoyed in their own right.