Embarking on a voyage of discovery needn’t involve travelling to foreign countries, although it may sometimes feel like it.
I’m not much of a sportsman. As far as revelations go, that ranks up there somewhere between MTV’s sudden realisation that Kanye West is a general jackass and that Cliffy B has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with too many burly men packed into too small a space too far away from their wives. Who, apparently, are ‘unfortunately’ no longer in the picture, so to speak.
But, I digress.
I’m not much of a sportsman; on some level, I never really got sports. Basketball I understood, but then again, I was tall. And, when you’re tall and speak with an American accent in Australia, it’s a given that you can shoot a hoop, trash talk, and dunk. Still, performance on the court aside, on some level I could at least get the attraction to sports. If not physically then intellectually – the rules offered interesting dynamics, even if I frequently couldn’t play worth squat. While I didn’t have close to the requiste knowledge to understand A-list team dynamics, the attraction constantly floated just beyond my realm of comprehension, much like most of the deconstructionism we covered in English lit. There was something there, even if I couldn’t touch it, explain it, or fully understand it.
It’s not like I never enjoyed sports, either – I played football as a kid, I skated, and I loved the crack of the bat on ball. It’s probably why I loved Hardball III on the Apple so much, even if it was a Sisyphean effort to find anyone who was willing to sit and hunch with me over a common keyboard. As far as genres go though, it’s probably the single biggest gap in my playtime, despite it being one the biggest selling and, apparently, one the biggest time sinks in the market. The average EA Sports player spends between 200 and 300 hours per year playing their game of choice. I mean, what the hell?! I spent around 60 hours on Fallout III, and that was a near record for me – between family, a full-time job, and my other activities (check out my Flickr photostream … no really! I’ll wait …), I can’t even begin to imagine spending that much time on a single game. At that kind of time investment, you could probably justify purchasing a console purely for a single game. People talk about system sellers, but if those numbers are to be believed, sports games almost literally are the archetype of a system seller.
Clearly, there’s something there that I’m not getting. Or, quite possibly, missing out on.
So, I decided to do something about it.
Climbing Mt. Everest it ain’t, but dipping my toes into a totally foreign area wasn’t as easy as it sounds; I tried playing Madden back when EA actually gave a shit about the PC market, but that didn’t go very far. In retrospect, it was quite possibly because I didn’t have an analog gamepad and my only non-keyboard controllers were a left-over Flightstick Pro and a digital Logitech gamepad I’d bought when the first NES emulators had been released, neither of which worked too well for throwing the pigskin. I used to enjoy NBA Jam, but more than anything else, I think that just dates me. FIFA I never got. Sorry, Dan!
The upshot is that picking a sports game wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. So, Metacritic to the rescue; my logic was that if I couldn’t decide, throw it to the Internet to make my mind up for me. Surprisingly, something fell out – of all the top-scored releases for the PlayStation 3, there was only one sports game over 90%: MLB 09: The Show. Of course, what with Murphy’s law being in full effect, the publisher didn’t believe the game would be popular enough to justify stocking in Australia. Much like Rock Bank 2, if release schedules are to be believed.
But again, I digress.
Play-Asia to the rescue! Twenty minutes, an estimated shipping time of 15 days, and a long wait later, I dropped the disc into my PlayStation and, briefly, imagined I felt much like the pioneers of old must have as I embarked on a wonderful new journey of discovery.
It wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.
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- Why I’m making my kids play games