Reading about the next step in online play for EA Sports' NHL 09 is a one-way trip to the other side of the generation gap. Obviously, this is nothing new for the hardcore gamers, but for a guy who's still perfectly content to play Madden or the NCAA 08 college football game for hours on end on a PlayStation 2 (how 2002!), it's mind-bending.
(For anyone who's wondering, given a choice, today's trivia question would not revolve around a certain former Raptor who will never, ever be forgiven. Time heals almost all, but not that.)
David Littman, the producer of NHL 09 (like Chuck Klosterman once said, how long until we have video-game critics, the same way there are film critics?) offered a window earlier this week into what's in store for the gamers. The latest edition of the hockey franchise will include an EA Sports Hockey League where teams, with up to 50 members, can be created and compete against other teams. This builds off the 6-on-6 mode that's apparently pretty popular (some of us still like playing these games alone, usually with alcohol within an arm's length; sweet liquor eases the pain).
Far be it to suggest that if you can swing getting 50 people together at one time in this day and age, all that energy should be put to something other than an activity that's popular among eight-year-olds with ADHD. How about organizing an actual hockey game? Or reading to children?
You should read it all, if you're interested, to get the full appreciation, but this kind of jumped out in a not entirely pleasant way for the guy who's on the wrong side of 30 (cue the Logan Run's theme):
"... we want to make the people sitting at home into superstars. Instead of wearing someone else's name on the back of your jersey when playing online, it is your name on the back. Your team is trying to win the EASHL Championship and you will feel the pressure to perform for your teammates. With our performance tracker feature, you are graded on how well you play hockey, not on how well you play a video game. The leaderboards show the real names of people instead of their gamertags. This is the first step for people to become the next sports superstars. In a few years, we want there to be SportsCenter-style highlights and interviews with our gamers.Jesus. This runs counter to the gaming experience of someone who came of age during the Paleozoic Era of sports video games. It wasn't about feeling like a superstar, sitting at home -- there was supposed to be guilt attached to playing your 11th game of NHL 94 that day when it was bright and sunny outside. Another part of the appeal was that the games weren't realistic, whether it was Bo Jackson being untackle-able in Tecmo Super Bowl, the hot spots on the floor in NBA Jam, or being able to deke the goalie with the same move every time in some of the early EA Sports hockey games. Remember the one-timers? They were unstoppable.
Obviously, the paradigm has shifted. Gaming is serious. People post their highlights on YouTube. It used to be that if you, say, played an entire 162-game season of Earl Weaver Baseball on your parents' Tandy, you kept it to yourself and didn't tell anyone about it, because you know sharing that fact was a sure way to be socially unpopular -- even more so.
The next edition in EA Sports hockey franchise will probably reward gamers for their use of hockey cliches in postgame interviews, which is another step toward a world where no one will ever having anything original to say.
Ah, you kids. You'll never know what it was like to make Gretzky's head bleed. Those of us who did, and still do, are going to go listen to some sad bastard music.
NHL 09 Q&A: EA Sports Hockey League Revealed (Adult Gaming Enthusiasts)