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…
So having been put onto Luther by my parents, we’ve been watching that particular BBC miniseries. Simply put, it’s freakishly good and you ought to watch it. I spend rather a lot of time clasping my knees to my chest or covering my mouth with my hands in disbelief. Good signs, both.
It has that hallmark of extremely good drama (or perhaps specifically crime drama?) in that it’s not afraid in the slightest of terrible things happening, and frequently to people you’d usually assume were regarded as “off limits” for the terrible things. It has a nasty and thrilling habit of surprising you.
A good point of comparison is The Wire, which, appropriately enough, the lead of Luther, Idris Elba, plays a major part in as Stringer Bell. The Wire pulls no punches, and the ones it throws are frequently sucker punches. In fact, we were watching Once Upon a Time in the West this evening, and it, too, had that same kind of attitude – that nothing in particular was sacrosanct or to be regarded as out of bounds. Frank confronts the little boy, they consider each other, and then bang.
These indelible moments of drama that leave us breathless and shocked.