Four Reasons Why We Enjoy Things That Are “So Bad That They’re Good”

I’m sure that I’ve written about this subject before, but I ended up thinking about things that are “so bad that they’re good” recently.

This was mostly because I ended up playing part of a computer game from 2003 called “Deus Ex: Invisible War”. Although it’ll be a while until I post a full review of it here, it’s a perfect example of something that is “so bad that it’s good”.

If you’ve never heard of this game before, it was the sequel to a game from 2000 called “Deus Ex” (which is widely regarded as a masterpiece). The sequel, on the other hand, isn’t a masterpiece. I could spend quite a while listing it’s many faults but, strangest of all, I actually find them to be slightly endearing. So, I thought that I’d look at a few reasons why things that are “so bad that they’re good” are so enjoyable.

1) Forewarning and curiosity: One of the reasons why things that are “so bad that they’re good” are so enjoyable is because the audience is often forewarned of this fact by either reading reviews or just by looking at the packaging/promotional material for something. For example, if you see a DVD in a bargain bin with a slightly cheesy title and some slightly shoddy cover art, then you know that it probably isn’t Oscar material.

However, hearing that something is hilariously terrible will probably make you curious about how or why it gained that reputation. As such, it means that you are likely to start watching, playing etc… the thing in question with an attitude of amused curiosity. This attitude generally results in a much more enjoyable experience than if you just approach it in the way that you would approach an “ordinary” game, film etc…

However, if the audience isn’t forewarned, then these things lead to nothing but disappointment and frustration. So, forewarning is a key part of why things that are “so bad that they’re good” can be enjoyable.

2) Adorability: Simply put, things that are “so bad that they’re good” are adorable. This is because they are often examples of someone really trying to make something good using whatever limited skills or resources they have.

For example, one of the reasons why “Deus Ex: Invisible War” is such an endearingly terrible game is because, unlike the original “Deus Ex”, it was originally designed to also run on the original Xbox console. Since this console wasn’t even close to computers of the time in terms of processing power, memory etc.. there were a lot more limitations. As an example, here’s how the first two “Deus Ex” games depict nightclubs:

This screenshot from “Deus Ex (2000)” shows part of a sprawling nightclub with a large dancefloor and several large balconies.

This screenshot from “Deus Ex: Invisible War” (2003) shows the whole dancefloor of a nightclub. Yes, this little room is the entire dancefloor!

Yet, the people behind the game still tried to make a good “Deus Ex” game with these limited resources. Yes, they failed. But, the fact that they actually tried is extremely adorable.

Things that are “so bad that they’re good” are enjoyable for the simple reason that they show us someone trying to make something great. They show us that the people who made these things were enthusiastic. They are examples of hope and ambition.

3) “I can do better!”: I can’t remember where I read this, but I vaguely remember reading something about the horror author Shaun Hutson – where he apparently pointed out that one of the things that got him into writing horror fiction was reading a badly-written horror novel and thinking “I can do better than this!“.

If you are a creative person (or want to be one), then seeing things that are “so bad that they’re good” can make you feel better about yourself by comparison. It can also make you feel less disappointed about your own failures, for the simple reason that other people fail too. It can also motivate you to actually create something just to see if you can make something better.

4) Cheapness and counterculture: Finally, another reason why things that are “so bad that they’re good” are so enjoyable is because they are often both cheap and (most of the time) non-mainstream. Since things that fall into this category are often either made on a low budget, are sold at a reduced price to recoup any expenses and/or are quickly dumped in second-hand shops by unsatisfied customers, they often tend to be slightly on the cheaper side of things.

So, we tend to feel like we’re getting more value for money when we find something that is “so bad that it’s good”. It also reassures us of the quality of any more expensive things that we’ve bought too.

Likewise, there’s a certain perverse thrill to looking at films, games etc.. that are widely considered to be terrible and unpopular. There’s a slight sense of sticking two fingers up at popular culture telling us what we “should” watch, read, play etc.. So, this can also explain why these kinds of things can be so enjoyable.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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