Thursday, May 8, 2008

When a Video Game is More Than a Video Game

We all played them growing up. Whether it was on Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, Game Gear, Playstation, XBox, whatever. Sports games were a part of our lives. The thrill of rushing home to start up the new release of a game was a feeling like no other. All of us didn't just play the game. We lived the game. There were two in particular that set the video game bar in my life.

The NHL Series (The Sega Genesis):
If you watched the movie Swingers, you have an even better understand of why these games were great (Especially NHL '94 and '96). What was better than playing on ice that was too small and with players that were too quick?

The best features of this game were the little ones. I loved the Spin-O-Rama move that they instituted later on(I think in 1995, dont quote me). I found it hilarious that you can do a little ballerina twirl and get by three players. Best of all, the Spin-O-Rama was the Start button. How stupid is that? Somehow, it worked. And what also worked was the wrap-around goal. You can have a player go behind the net, come around and score. The goalies were always too slow to react to this. They did make it a little harder in NHL '96 to pull the move off, but if you were down 4-3 with 5 minutes left, it was your best bet.

Now I don't know if this was just a glitch or it was just my game, but anytime I popped in my game after a long period of not playing and tried to load up my season as the Rangers, it would always vanish. It was like the game was punishing me for not playing. It was telling me "You ignored me for so long? You will pay for this!"

I just loved getting a quick game with my buddies and just playing to see who allowed the most goals. I can go three years without playing it, pop in my Sega Genesis, and my night is fulfilled. It was simple and to the point. It was money and everyone knew it.

The Madden Series (Any system): You could spend a whole post just on the Madden series by itself. I went from Sega to Playstation, with a little Dreamcast and XBox thrown in there. But Madden was not just a game, it was a franchise. I don't know one male under the age of 25 who did not have a Franchise mode that lasted less than three seasons. Not only could you play a season, but you could draft and scout players, building them up into future superstars. Your team was not just a team, part of your favorite teams.

One of my favorite all-time athletes (Right below Derek Jeter and Patrick Ewing) was my RB in Madden '02, Doug Hamilton. He was an absolute beast and was about 90% of my offense. With Ogden Traylor manning the QB position, my team would dominate any level (Yes, his name was Ogden. A hilarious feature of Madden is the made-up player names, which would just shuffle first and last names of existing players). The Madden series was so amazing that you would feel a little sad getting the game the next year, because that meant you had to start a new franchise.

I was also one of those losers who played online when if first came out (PS2 in 2004 or 2005, forgot the year). You could pop in your game and play against someone from another country. My ultimate goal was to beat the top players. If I lost, it actually affected me for a good half hour. My claim to fame was beating the 20th player in the world. I felt proud of it.

I also loved the players that were great in Madden but awful in real life. I could make a list of guys who had 98 Speed or 95 Throwing Accuracy but were fourth stringers rotting on the bench of a real team. Trung Candidate had the skills of Barry Sanders. Michael Bishop had a cannon of an arm. Jerome Mathis STILL can be put in at WR and go for 1,300 yards in a season.

Were there plenty of bugs? Of course there were. You could run the same curl route with a big WR and he'll catch it 9 out of 10 times. When Michael Vick was on the cover, you could run around with him all day and he'd find a way to get 20 yards. You can kick a 59-yard FG as if you had the leg of Pele. But that's what made the game unique. Madden became its own sport.

This was part of my life growing up. Unfortunately, when you grow up, you are too busy to play video games. But there's always that one rainy Sunday afternoon when you can pop in that old video game and remember the days of your childhood.

Everyone had a franchise that lost the Super Bowl two years in a row or a Jari Curri which scored 65 goals in your season. If you could go back in time to play one more season as the St. Louis Rams, you'd do it in a heartbeat. Everyone has a story.

But now the most pressing question. Do I draft Pete Welker or Hardy Barnes with my first-round pick?


Xavier Hutchinson said...

THERE IT IS! HARDY BARNES! The greatest Jets backup quarterback of all time, who of course never existed.

The Pro said...

I loved the NHL series! Best hockey gaming ever! I never had seasons deleted on me, but that damn 128 pt bug in 94 or 95 was a game killer. Not sure if you even got that but if your team got 128 pts in a season or more, the game would put your team LAST place in the division and miss the playoffs.

Never was a big football fan though.

Check out my extensive blob post about my historic hockey videogaming going back 25 years....

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