I’m a complete sucker for the so-called “lowbrow.” What I mean by that, specifically, are movies and games that are “so bad they’re good.” At least that’s the colloquialism for it. I’ve argued elsewhere that maybe they’re just a different type of good.
So when I learned that two of my favorite people ever, Michael J. Nelson (“Mike” of Mystery Science Theater 3000) and Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka (of Something Awful) got together to play and poke fun at some of the worst videogames ever made, I was immediately intrigued.
Above you can watch Mike and Rich playing Miami Traffic 3, what’s arguably the silliest Grand Theft Auto clone imaginable. You play as some weird cat-human hybrid, on the mean streets of Miami (which, incidentally, is Twinfinite’s HQ), doing your typical GTA things: killing dog cops, stealing yachts, smoking mad ganja. Ironically, given the title, there is very little traffic.
Needless to say, this is a game ripe for some good-natured ribbing. And Mike and Rich do not disappoint. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll just say that I’ve laughed harder during this 15ish minute video than I have in a long time. If Miami Traffic 3 doesn’t strike your fancy, instead check out Mike and Rich as they tackle two other abysmal games: a Slender knock-off literally just called “Horror” and the absurdly surreal Luigi’s Forgotten Mansion.
But some of you might be wondering what the heck, exactly, I’m talking about. What is this “Mystery Science Theater 3000” of which you speak? What is a “Something Awful,” and more importantly, is it contagious?
Mystery Science Theater 3000, a.k.a. MST3K to us cool kids in the know, is pretty much the best show ever. The premise is simple: a trio (⅓ man, ⅔ robot) are forced to watch some of the worst films ever committed to celluloid. In order to maintain their sanity, they make wisecracks throughout (if you can’t laugh at something horrible, what’s the alternative?), a process that’s become known as “riffing.”
Thus, these nigh-unwatchable movies become not just palatable, but entertaining. If you’re the type of person who appreciates a homework assignment, I’d recommend watching at least one episodes from both the “Joel-era” and “Mike-era.” My personal favorites are Mitchell and Space Mutiny, respectively.
As for Something Awful, I’m going to work from the assumption that you at least know what it is, even if you’re not a card-carrying goon. As a brief history lesson, Something Awful was created by Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka back in 1999. It’s since become one of the Internet’s last bastions for humor. More accurately, all those annoying memes people regurgitate on Facebook and Reddit probably originated, years ago when they were still funny, on the forums of Something Awful.
Their riffing powers combined, Mike and Rich form a sort of proverbial, irreverent dream team. When they joined forces last summer, with the noble goal of lampooning 3 really shitty videogames, it was comedy gold. And it left me wanting more.
I’ve played a few terrible games in my time, but I never would’ve come across the likes of Miami Traffic 3 without Rich and Mike’s help. Scouring the Internet for the worst games ever made, Rich then actually plays them for our entertainment, like some kind of goddamn masochistic saint. Incidentally, not unlike the team of MST3K (many of whom now make Rifftrax), whose humor made bad movies better.
The videogame industry needs more of this, we need to laugh at videogames more. As a whole, the industry tends to take itself way too seriously. Don’t get me wrong: games are art, and as such deserve to be taken seriously. But I almost get the sense that videogames, which are young compared to other art forms, are in the midst of their moody teenage goth phase.
How can we shake this industry out of its dark and gritty, hyper-realistic doldrums? Why, by reminding videogames that they can have a sense of humor and still be “art.” We need more games like Monkey Island and Octodad. And this starts by laughing at terrible games.
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