For whatever reason I’ve been playing a bunch of Tecmo Superbowl again lately. I suppose it’s a combination of the NFL’s offseason and a desire for some simplicity. And a desire, frankly, to escape from my MVC Racer.
By and large, playing Tecmo has served as a kind of peaceful repetition of known activities, tactics, strategies. I usually defend against a run play to the weak side and bring my strong side linebacker in to blitz. It’s weak against the pass, but that’s life. I usually call a shotgun formation with the outside wide receivers streaking and spam the hail mary. Cheesy, but effective enough on average to score most times. I usually defend the kickoff by running my kicker down the bottom of the field and then angling up as the kick returner starts his motion to deflect him to the outside and into waiting tacklers.
In many ways I’m playing the same game-within-the-game over and over again. To the extent that it’s possible, I’m reducing the complex and dynamic system of the game to a known quantity. There’s a decided pleasure in these rhythms and knowledge. Even the times when my set-pieces give way to the opponent scoring there’s a weirdly soothing inevitability involved in it. There’s a oddly soothing element to all but removing my own agency from the game over time.
That said, today I was reminded of how games always have a little something you haven’t seen before, and how exciting that is. In the same game (against the hated Washington Redskins) I managed to return a blocked field goal for a touchdown and to recover a strip-sack in the end-zone for a touchdown. I’d never done either of those two things in my entire (long, long, long) history of playing Tecmo, and it was electrifyingly and thrilling!
Tecmo has thus today served to illustrate two of the deeply wonderful aspects of the fact that games are systems that swiftly become too complex for us to truly grasp. We can settle into a comfortable relationship with them over time, eyes narrowed in a drowsy reverie, but then they’ll up and surprise us and make us care.
Still crazy after all these years…
Well, it’s football season again. The Dallas Cowboys are trampling my heart as they are wont to do. They’ve fought their way to an impressively self-defeating 1-3 record to this point. By and large they seem to lose games by tripping over themselves in all kinds of creative ways. Damn their eyes. Their lovely, lovely, Dallas Cowboys eyes.
Anyway, football season also means my weird run-ins with superstition are on the rise again. Once again, I walk the fine line between knowing in my heart that nothing I do can make the Dallas Cowboys win (or lose), and believing fervently that there are aspects of my life of great importance to my favourite team’s outcomes.
Some of my superstitions are run of the mill “if this then that” kinds of deals. Most recently, that was “if Rilla runs a good time in the marathon, the Dallas Cowboys will beat Tennessee.” Rilla ran a great time in the marathon. The Cowboys lost. Superstition disproved? Or is it in fact that Rilla should have run only a good time and not a great one? I think we know who to blame there.
More important to my perceived influence on the Cowboys’ success is my ongoing playing of Tecmo Superbowl with updated 2010 rosters. That is, an ancient Nintendo Entertainment System NFL game with this year’s teams put into it. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s also a strong superstition magnet, since the games I play in Tecmo obviously correspond exactly to the Cowboys’ real schedule in life. Thus I’ve tended to believe that if I win in Tecmo that will have some positive influence on the actual game.
To this point, that hasn’t been working out so well for me. My Tecmo Cowboys are cruising to victory in almost every game (we’ve lost just once), while the real Cowboys have been – what’s the word? – sucking. And yet still, still a part of my heart beats to the hope that my overall success in Tecmo will reflect an overall success in the Cowboys’ season. That is, if I pull off a great video game season, the real Cowboys will turn it around and end up doing well.
I’m doing it for you, ‘Boys!
Ah, Tecmo Superbowl. In my latest engagement with it I decided to limit myself by playing through a season without ever using a ‘save and reload’ in order to avoid an unfortunate fate. To play the game ‘live’, in a sense. The main reason for this was to resolve my addiction by making it possible for the season to end without getting to the play-offs etc., without the possibility of just trying again. And again.
But, thanks to my tireless devotion to mastering the art of Tecmo, I actually managed to steer the Cowboys to a Superbowl win over the Tennessee Titans. I went through a number of defensive and offensive strategies throughout the season, honed my ball-pursuit skills, and juggled my roster mercilessly. I was the coach (and god) the team needed to push it over the top.
I won the Superbowl while sitting on a train going between Dhaka and Chittagong. It would not be an understatement to say that it was a surreal experience. It would also not be an understatement to say that I was exceedingly elated by winning this pixelated, low-fi, ancient game. Go Cowboys!
The Dallas Cowboys lost their Divisional playoff game last Sunday, which was a very painful experience for me. I don’t like it when they lose in general, and losing a playoff game is far, far worse. I was pleased to find the despair tempered in a couple of ways, though.
First of all, because the Cowboys hadn’t actually won a playoff game since 1996, the fact they had won their previous playoff game (a Wildcard game against the Philadelphia Eagles) still felt like a huge accomplishment for them, at least historically. 13 years is a long time to wait for a playoff win. I was actually quite shocked I’d been tracking them for such a long time without that gratification.
Second, it was actually very helpful that I was watching the game with Phil, who was staying with us at the time. There’s definitely something about watching the game with someone else, particularly someone I don’t know too well, that means I can’t really spiral off into utter despair.
All in all, it really sucks that they lost and that I have to wait such a long time for the new season, but I’m less broken up about it than I’d expected to be.
Watching your team squander a pretty decent opening half is agonising enough. Doing so while sitting in the midnight darkness at a Danish modernist dining table is somehow much, much worse. Part of me wants to superstitiously wear my Cowboys helmet. Part of me is afraid of just how low I would have sunk if I did that.
And then the other part of me says: how do you know that wearing the helmet won’t help them win the game? Do you know it won’t? What about that time you were sure they used to always lose if you didn’t watch the game? What about that time you muttered feverishly under your breath about them getting a first down and they got a first down? What about the time you wrote that you would sacrifice a goat if they won the game, then said you wouldn’t because it’s just the wrong thing to do, and then they lost…
What about all that, Mr. Rationality?