Nobody wants to feel like they’ve wasted their time with anything. No one typically sets out with the intention of doing something they don’t want to. Lately, I’ve been reminded of this idea however, that we kind of have to do things that we don’t want to in order to realize something new about ourselves. It teaches us something new when we have to go outside of our normal habits or interests.
We gain a new perspective when we are thrust into something weird and we have to live through it. It always feels bad at first and if we had seen it coming, we surely would have run in the opposite direction but sometimes life doesn’t give us the option to say “No.”
I’ve been trying to find these opportunities in recent weeks to subject myself to things that I wouldn’t normally find myself doing or enjoying. I don’t always end up super stoked about what I got myself into, but I have felt that I’m learning and growing through all of these experiences.
Just last week, our question of the week was “What is the worst game you’ve ever played?” We answered this question amidst our planning stages for game of the year conversations, as it made sense to recognize the truly bad as we highlight those that we find masterful. Reading through our answers reminded me again of exposing ourselves to something different for the sake of experience.
It’s the same idea that allowed me to buy 2015’s Need for Speed when it went on sale without blinking an eye. I had an idea about the quality of the game and what it was going for. I’ve read from people that I trust, some varied opinions on what the game ended up becoming, and more than enough reasons why I should avoid it altogether. Yet it’s installed on my PS4’s hard drive and I played about an hour of it, eager to play more.
What developer Ghost did with this entry of the series is intriguing, albeit grimacing at most times. You play as a silent protagonist who is entering the underground car racing scene. Along the way, you meet people to race, team up with, and buy new things from. It’s pretty standard fare for what we’ve come to expect in a Need for Speed game. What Ghost did a little differently is compose a story that is played out via full-motion video sequences in first-person. They’ve applied some type of filter or rendering to the footage that gives the sequences a game-like quality while retaining a level of visual fidelity currently unachievable by game development costs and standards. It’s actually pretty clever, unfortunately set back by what the cutscenes offer.
Imagine you are not at all part of the underground racing scene. You’ve never lived the life of an outlaw and you have no idea what the kids are talking about. Now, take your life experience that includes nothing about that life and create a story about that life. Use what you’ve picked up from other media and clichés that you’ve learned over the years, apply them to outdated character tropes and people who you really wish and hope don’t actually exist- then make a game out of it.
Need for Speed is filled with dialogue and scenarios that even in the hour I’ve played drew out the pinnacle of mockery and eye-rolling that I could offer. The stereotypes and archetypes within the game are so trite that its laughable and I wanted to throw eggs at every new character that I saw.
Still, I cannot wait to get back to this game and see where it goes. Not because of some guilty pleasure nor because it’s “so bad that it’s good.” I want to play more because it’s just dumb. It’s a stupid game and I can drive a car through a really pretty city, earn money and buy a new car. I can paint it or make it look like a Batmobile. I can put stupid stickers on the windshield.
From the handful of things I’ve seen in the game, it’s the antithesis of me and everything I want to do- in life or in a game. The objectives in the game are stupid; taking pictures of your car in random areas or building up my reputation within the “crew.” It’s silly and for humanity’s sake, I hope there aren’t real humans who actually live like the characters in this game.
Sometimes, playing something outside of your comfort zone leads to a magical surprise. I really wasn’t someone who ever cared for JRPGs. After I let Final Fantasy into my life for a month, I started to branch out and find others. I finally gave EarthBound a real chance after it came to the Wii U and I didn’t scoff at the idea of an RPG that wasn’t Pokémon, and it’s now become one of my favorite games of all time. It happened again this year when my aversion to first-person shooters was set aside for DOOM and I gave it a perfect score in my review of the game.
It doesn’t always work out. I don’t expect Need for Speed to become one of those edge cases at all, and sometimes a bad, dumb game is just that. Still, I’d rather spend some time in a different world and see what it can offer me. It’s an experience that is broadening and helps to really give credence to the greatness of the games that I hold in such high regard.
Do yourself a favor play something stupid. Don’t spend a lot of money. Don’t give up right away. Just find something that seems dumb and go for it. You’ll be better off in the end because of it.