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The Xbox Live Indie Marketplace — what an interesting place.

A couple years ago, I headed to my fiancé’s house with our friend James. We were trying to decide what to play, and James brought up the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace. Since I was fairly new to the Xbox 360 at the time, I had never heard of it. “Oh, you’ve GOT to see it,” they both said, almost in unison.

James launched the marketplace and downloaded five or six games. One of the first games he launched, Maids with Balloons, rendered me speechless. Kind of like this:

I have one word, or question, rather: WHY? The gameplay consists of moving a maid around and throwing balloons at seagulls to stop them from crapping on you. Who thought of this?! It was so bad that I couldn’t look away, and he couldn’t stop playing. The live-action cutscenes really were the cherry on top of this dung pile.

Next up was Alderman, this truly delightful piece of work that somehow made its way into the eyes of the public:

The premise is … well, I honestly don’t know what the point of this game is. It’s an on-the-rails game where you basically knock away the knights that get in your way. I watched James play for about five minutes, and nothing really changed. It was the same thing over and over. The only redeeming quality was the music on the title screen although I’m not sure that it wasn’t a song that was ripped from the Internet somewhere without the artist’s consent.

Now, I do realize that there are some great games in the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace, but let’s face it: Sitting around with friends and playing really terrible games is a lot more fun than downloading a great one. I have spent hours watching and playing horrible titles on there, and I don’t regret a second of it. It’s like watching a cheesy ‘80s horror movie: It’s so bad but oh-so good.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), with the Xbox One’s new indie program ID@Xbox, it seems like Microsoft will be taking indie games a lot more seriously than it did with the Xbox 360. On the current console, almost anyone could make and publish a game to the Indie Games Marketplace as long as they passed a peer review. On the Xbox One, the process won’t be as open. Self-publishing won’t be available on launch day, but Microsoft claims that in the long term, anyone with an Xbox One will be able to “develop, publish, and sell their game on Xbox Live.”

Still, I don’t think we’ll be seeing more Maids with Balloons-type games anytime soon.