It was impossible to grow up around here during the seventies without being a Steelers fan. Sure, I never watched the games and I had no idea how the sport worked, but it was an easily observable fact that when the Steelers won a Superbowl (which they did quite a bit in those days) it was recognized by all as being a Very Good Thing. I still have a vivid memory of a day we spent with friends in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won the Superbowl, and the adults were all happy. Then we drove back to Butler and found the main street packed with cars, horns blowing. This was before cars were equiped with polite “pardon-me-but-could-you-move-over-a-bit-if-it-isn’t-too-much-trouble” little European beepers. This was when everyone had big, loud, “move-it-or-lose-it buddy” American-style horns. The football fans in town (that is, everyone) were blowing these things nonstop, up and down the street while waving yellow towels out of their car windows. From my perspective as a three-foot-tall boy sitting in the back seat of my Mom’s car, all I could see was a great boiling ocean of yellow fabric and hear the cries of thousands of warriors as they returned home after a glorious campaign of conquest abroad.
When I realized that all of this excitment, all of this energy, and all of this intensity was the result of the football game I’d been ignoring all evening, I realized that there was something important about this game and this team that I’d been missing. It took me almost three decades to figure out what it was, but I’m getting the idea now.
As I’ve mentioned before, football is a strange and wholly unique sport. I never really took an interest until last year (er, I guess two years ago, since it’s 2006 now) when I started to learn about the game. Football is unlike other sports in that you can’t sit down and intuit the game by watching it. Soccer, Basketball and Hockey are, at a fundamental level, the same sport. They are obvious and easy to comprehend: The Thing Goes In The Net. Your team makes it go in, and the other team tries to stop you. Baseball is more complex, but a time-traveler from the past or an alien from another world would probably have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on after watching a game, even if they don’t speak the language. The same is not true for Football. I tried many times over the years to understand what it was about this sport that made my younger brother so nuts. I watched a game every few years but it seemed like total confusion. How did any of these people understand what was going on? To enjoy football, someone has to teach you.
What helped me out quite a bit was playing Madden 2005 on the Playstation. Having the sport translated into computer game where I could see the action clearly, where I could absorb each play without advertisements for beer and cars breaking my concentration, where I could direct the action on the field and see how it all reacted: this allowed me to grasp and appreciate the game in a way that would not have been possible on my own. I’m sure the NFL and EA Sports imagined that this was a video game for Football fans. For me, it worked the other way. It turned a video game fan into a Football fan.
So anyway, the Steelers made the playoffs.
Even as a newcomer to the sport (or, I should say, as a newcomer to the Fandom of the sport) I have no interest in any other team. I don’t have a “second favorite”. If the Steelers are defeated, I won’t switch to rooting for another team. I will stop watching football alltogether, until next season.
I have no illusions about our Superbowl chances right now. There are many fine teams out there, and the odds are long that the Steelers have what it takes to go all the way this year. I’ll be happy if we get one or two more weeks before football season ends for me. However, I feel certain that if we did win, I would drive right into town, wave a yellow towel, and blow the horn until the battery went dead.
Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?
The Plot-Driven Door
You know how videogames sometimes do that thing where it's preposterously hard to go through a simple door? This one is really bad.
Push the Button!
Scenes from Half-Life 2:Episode 2, showing Gordon Freeman being a jerk.
Batman: Arkham City
A look back at one of my favorite games. The gameplay was stellar, but the underlying story was clumsy and oddly constructed.
There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.