Gamer’s Hangover – 10.25.04

Gamer’s Hangover – 10.25.04
by Cory Laflin

So I’ve now crossed over into full-fledged adulthood. I’d already caught myself eschewing the Top 40 stations for “Classic Rock,” which are playing more and more Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins, I’m noticing. I’m window-shopping more at suit stores than at sporting-goods stores. And now, I’ve made the jump in my gaming life. I made the video game equivalent of buying the Van Halen greatest hits album:

I bought Midway Arcade Treasures 2.

Midway 1 was a little too old for my $20. It had lots of games that I used to play, but those were games from my pre-teen years. Midway 2 hits my late high-school/early college “glory days” right on the head. It includes two of my top five favorite arcade games of all time, Arch-Rivals and Cyberball 2072, as well as Mortal Kombat 2 AND 3, Gauntlet 2 (Red Warrior is about to die!), Narc, Xenophobe, and Hard Drivin’; games that I liked but didn’t have the time or the money to get good at. Now I can play any of them whenever I want from the comfort of my reclining sofa with infinite quarters all for the bargain-basement price of $20, which is far, far less than I’ve spent on Cyberball alone over the past 15 years.

It’s amazing how cement-like our opinions become, isn’t it? I mean, take the least of this season’s NBA-licensed console games (whatever 989 puts out, in case you were asking) and put it next to Arch-Rivals and only old people like us would have the audacity necessary to say that Arch-Rivals is the better game. Arch-Rivals had jumpy, cartoonish graphics (although, in its defense, that was intentional), extremely simplistic controls (although, in its defense, the ability to move without the ball and direct teammates was a HUGE innovation in AI at the time), and it had a VERRRRY suspect opponent AI sometimes (although, in it’s defense, it was still far more fair than anything released by the NBA Jam team), but ask me which game I’d rather play and I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you Arch-Rivals. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I just like the idea of punching opponents and pulling their shorts down on-court. Maybe I like the fact that one of the players you can select is a red-headed guy with glasses. Maybe I like that little mascot dog on courtside. All of the above. None of the above.

And Cyberball 2072 (not to be confused with its lamer predecessor Cyberball, how could it stack up against any football game produced today? You only have ONE BUTTON, for goodness sake! You have to pitch, pass, switch players, and speed burst all with just the one button! And they didn’t even bother to try and model human motions (unless you count the herky-jerky motion of the bipedal quarterback ‘bot), they just made these fantasy pre-Robot Wars robots that they really didn’t have to animate beyond spinning their wheels. And six periods? A blatant attempt to milk more quarters out of kids! How can this be considered superior to even the least of this season’s NFL releases (again, 989)?

Well, first there’s the fact that it’s DIFFERENT, which is something sports games stopped being a decade ago (thank you, Electronic Arts). They took a well-loved American sport, and they modified it just enough to get around technical issues of playability and to pique its ‘cool’ factor. There are several plays that feature two people … er … robots in motion before the snap. There is no pass interference, or really any penalties of any sort (a vast improvement over most football games, real or video), the robots themselves are cool (my favorites are the unicycled receiver ‘bots with the basket arm, and instead of fourth down you have CRITICAL ball temperature, where the ball explodes upon being tackled, taking your titanium running back along with it. How does this not just scream “COOL!” for sports game fans?! Not to mention that it was one of the first sports video games that allowed CO-OPERATIVE play. Me and my pal Ken Wells were, are, and always will be undefeated as a team in Cyberball 2072. I would go up to Manhattan to visit him some weekends and we would take on anyone in the K-State Student Union who would dare step up, and we sent them ALL home. Ken was the quarterback because he could thread ANYTHING in. I was the running back because I knew just how to make defenders miss. And on defense, we would routinely get so many picks that, by the second half, we’d have to start angling out of bounds after making one so that if our linebacker blew up when tackled, the ball would bounce out of bounds and we would retain possession.

Plus Cyberball 2072 had one of the coolest game modes I have EVER seen in a sports game: GameBreakers. You’re given a starting play and a situation, and you have to either score a touchdown before the ball goes nova, or you have to prevent one. You only have three failures before the game ends. Each situation is attached a monetary value. When you make so much money, you go on to the next ‘page’ of plays. Every three pages, one of your failures is taken away. You go from having to punch it in from Warm and 3, to having to heave and pray from Critical and Long.

And the play names themselves were fabulous. There wasn’t any “X Dog Sweep Right Cover 2” business going on with the play names. Defensive plays were straightforward “Corner Blitz”, “Flat Nickel”, etc. but the offensive play names were both adequately descriptive and highly entertaining: “Wham Bam”, “Crosstown”, “Sweetness”, “Double Cross”, “Expressway”. They became a language in themselves. Play flag football with a group of old Cyberball 2072 players and tell them to run a “Mail Drop” and they’ll know just what to do. Call a “Run-N-Gun” and see them fight over who gets to be the man in motion.

This is insane, trying to defend a bastardized football game with ONE BUTTON against the NFL games of today, where you can spin, hurdle, stiff-arm, pump-fake, lateral, juke, and do end-zone celebrations at will. Let alone do them with smooth, near-photorealistic graphics and sampled stadium sounds. Just like we thought it was insane that our parents would defend The Beatles and Elvis against Van Halen and Aerosmith. And, really, how could things get better than the 1984 and Permanent Vacation albums? Do you realize that Van Halen’s ‘1984’ is TWENTY YEARS OLD?!?!?! It’s five years older than The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album was ‘1984’ was released. And ‘Permanent Vacation’ is seventeen years old. The Boy won’t even be in school yet when “Rag Doll” is 20 itself. Nirvana’s best stuff is over a decade old already, and that blows my mind, that I’ve been out of the Clay Center public school system for over ten years. I’m well on my way to either needing “Just For Men” hair treatment or that spray paint you put on your bald spot. I *am* the person that the high school kids make fun of when I talk about how great Arch-Rivals and Cyberball 2072 was. Stick a fork in me.

Oh, but that’s not all, fellow aged gamer.

This has been brought up a lot in the last year, but the age of the average video gamer is 29, not 15 or 18 or even 21. What does that mean, other than Midway Arcade Treasures 2 is going to sell a lot of copies? It means that we haven’t stopped playing, old folks.

Remember what made square adults square back in the day? It wasn’t that they listened to oldies, it was that oldies was ALL that they listened to. The ‘cool’ adults were the ones that listened to and appreciated the newer music. My Mom wasn’t ‘hip’ by any stretch of the imagination, but she got major cool points just for listening along with what I liked, and even liking some of it. She wasn’t terribly happy with my Aerosmith infatuation, given Mr. Tyler’s capacity for double entendre, but she knew me well enough to know that it wouldn’t cause any harm. Besides, she was in the same boat that I was growing up; the real radical music never reached her in Linn, Kansas or even in Clay Center after she was married. NPR played a bunch of Ramones tunes after Joey died (God rest his punk soul) and I talked to Mom not long after that and she asked me if I’d ever heard of them. Turns out she really liked The Ramones, she’d just never heard them before. She’s in her 50’s and she’s finally discovered Punk. Go figure.

In 20 years, imagine where games are going to be, old gamers. Imagine how rinky Madden is going to look in 20 years. Imagine the improvements in graphics and control. The NFL games of 2024 will probably look more like “The Michael Vick Experience” commercial than anything else. It’s going to be intense, and where are our kids going to be when that time comes? They’ll be buying EA Sports Classics 2005 for their Xbox-VII and blissfully blathering to THEIR kids about how you used to be able to hit guys after the whistle in Madden, and quoting that line from “Swingers” about making Gretzky bleed. But as long as they, and we, keep playing (although I should probably start getting more exercise if that’s where NFL games are going) we’ll be okay. The kids will put up with our old-school as long as we’ll walk them to THEIR school.

But The Boy is STILL not playing anything with “Grand Theft Auto” in the title until he’s 35.

Pimp-Licious

Lucard is off to do darker and more sinister things, but he’ll still do them at InsidePulse, so that’s good news.

A-Will, Baxley and Yeager dispense with a little Bushian justice on a game that I’ve never heard of. Well, it’s foreign, so at least my Bush analogy still holds.

Angeloni won the Kliq Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament and got to review X-Men: Legends.

Eric S. needs to find more to do in Emporia than review wrestling shows all the time.

Toner begins the IP preview of the No Ballhandling Association.

Murphy gets medieval on your political ass, but it’s all about media, so it works. It boils down to this: Write-in John McCain for President – Opus for Veep.

Quasi-Random Thoughts

Walking around the Sedgwick County Zoo’s “Night Of The Living Zoo” last night (it’s a trick-or-treat event for kids sponsored by the Zoo) and wearing my Scott Fujita Chiefs jersey, I ran into several people who chatted me up about the win over Atlanta yesterday. They all … I should say WE all because I did it too … had the same look on their faces, one of unbridled, unashamed relief. No arrogance, no put-downs, just a collective ‘Wow.’

As for the National Sports Media ™, all they had to say about it today was, “Michael Vick is a fraud!” Now, I’ve been saying something like this (although not nearly as harsh) in my sports column for weeks now, but really guys, was it Michael Vick’s fault that he never had a pocket to work with all game? Was it Michael Vick’s fault that two easy passes (one for a sure TD) were dropped, with one of them bouncing off of the guy’s numbers and into the hands of Eric Warfield? Was it Michael Vick’s fault that the Atlanta defense couldn’t stop the running game? Can K.C., which looked as fired up as I’ve ever seen them on Sunday, get just a little love?

K-State may suck this year. They may suck BAD this year. They lost to Oklahoma. They lost to Texas A&M. They even lost to KU. But they beat Nebraska, and that is enough to make the entire season a success, people.

I also finally rented Rugby 2004 (by our “good friends” at EA Sports). Now I know how non-Americans feel the first time they pick up Madden.

Spent yesterday afternoon sitting in the living room with the PS2 on the little TV while Roni watched movies on the big TV. Call it our lazy-day compromise.

Now, I’ve got to go and look up the fatality moves for MK3 … again.

Until next time, get some sleep.

-Cory