Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

That is right my dear friends, convention season is upon us once again. My first show appearance this summer is this weekend (Friday 8/13 – Sunday 8/15) at C2E2. Yes, my devoted and passionate followers of my work (all three of you) this weekend you and all other lovers of comics, art, anime, movies, and so forth can come out and enjoy this young but impressive comic convention. I will be in the Artist’s Alley section – table G8 – alongside professional madman Jon Michael Lennon. Jon will be showing off his newest comic anthology Product of Society #5, in which my most recent comic poem Forgiveness appears. I’ll also have all three of my previous graphic novels – Miséréri Nobis, Passage, and A Drifter Midnight – as well as a plethora of art for your eager eyes, hands, and minds to explore.

C2E2 is being held in the North Building of McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Friday 8/13 1pm – 7pm; Saturday 8/14 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 8/15 10am – 5pm.

Also, please keep in mind that any person who should read this and NOT attend C2E2 will be considered both clinically insane, a horrible person, and be labeled as a co-conspirator in the Lizard People’s plot to overthrow humanity and pillage the Earth.

Follow me on Twitter @Mat_Festa

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And my personal site Tiamat’s Garden.

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I’ve spent a lot of time writing about baseball games these last couple of months. It’s only natural. Baseball is my favorite sport after all. I don’t feel like I’m doing anyone a disservice by writing solely about baseball, but a little variety now and then can’t hurt.

Basketball is not my game. I tried playing it when I was a kid and found that my two main skills, free throw shooting and fouling other players, weren’t a recipe for a star hoopster. Subsequently, I only enjoyed it when winning or losing didn’t matter to anyone involved. I loved playing 21 and horse during PE in both elementary and high school and to this day still love the idea of just shooting a ball around, not that I ever do. At the end of the day basketball is just a fun game that I can’t take seriously. At least I can’t take it seriously enough to watch others play.

That’s why I love NBA Jam.

It’s a basketball game that doesn’t take the sport seriously. While winning and losing may be a personal matter within the game, there’s no season riding on it. There are no teammates to ridicule or be ridiculed in the locker room after a blowout loss. There isn’t a shred of remorse or hurt feelings when a game is over. Just another couple of coins dumped into the slot. There have been several games released with the NBA Jam name, and many more similar games of varying quality under different titles. All hipster douchebaggary aside, the original arcade cabinet is still the best version available if you can find a place that has one. It had balanced teams and it just sounds and feels right. Plus it had Shaq and Barkley so there.

When you play NBA Jam on the original arcade cabinet, you are playing a caricature of one of the most exciting and storied times in basketball history. It was a time when old greats faced off against young new stars, new dynasties were being formed as old standbys crumbled, the NBA was taking chances by drafting new talent from Europe and for the first time sent its top stars up against the increasingly tough talent in the Olympic games. That’s not even mentioning that Micheal Jordan had just forced his name into the world’s collective consciousness, whether they liked it or not, by winning his third consecutive championship ring and five MVP awards in the process. (Two regular season, three finals.)

So why is NBA Jam still such a popular game? How has it endeared itself to so many fans? What’s the magic? What’s the trick? The gimmick? What’s the secret?

For one, it’s fast. The 3 minute quarters blink past without a care. It’s really a testament to how great a game is when people don’t even realize they are being duped into dumping extra coins in a game due to a fast counting clock. Then there’s the gameplay. Through all the shoving, turbo passes, flaming dunks, and shattered glass you don’t even realize how much time really goes by or how many games you’ve played. You put in your first quarter, you play, you look up and your pockets no longer jingle and its been three hours. What the hell?

Another reason people like NBA Jam is the flamboyantly comical art style and presentation. Between the static player photographs put on what seems to be a single body that is repeatedly pallet swapped and re-sized, and commentary provided by Tim Kitzrow it’s hard not to smile while you watch and listen to the game. Everything is so over the top that there’s no room for rational basketball rules. I mean, how do you call a foul in a game where you can set the net on fire with a dunk? How could you allow the game to stop just because the ball goes out of bounds when any given player jumps higher than the rim? You just can’t. It’s an arcade sports game at its core and NBA Jam does it so right, there’s no way to really improve it. Even the newest version on the Wii, PSN, and Xbox Live is just the same game with updated rosters and visuals.

There is, however, an underlying theory as to why people love NBA Jam. One that is buried within the confines of sports history and the evaluation of what was happening in basketball between 1991 and 1993. The 1980’s were a period of rising popularity for professional basketball. Starting in 1979 when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league, star player after star player emerged culminating in a virtual renaissance in the NBA. The 80’s saw the retirement of some of the game’s most storied players including Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Julius Irving, and Walt Frazier. But while these greats were taking a seat players like James Worthy, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Micheal Jordan were easily making names for themselves in a sport that was fast becoming a contender for the worlds most popular sport. Basketball was clearly evolving and it would take a loss on the world’s stage for America to understand just how far the sport had come.

In 1988 the US men’s basketball team finished third in the Olympics. Third. They lost to Russia and Yugoslavia. What was happening? All the time the US was sending college kids to play in the Olympics in basketball the rest of the world was sending its best players to compete and they were getting better every year. The best players from the United States were in the NBA and weren’t allowed to play in the games due to their professional status. In effect, that gave the US a huge disadvantage. Sure nine of the players on the Russian and Yugoslavian teams that beat the American team ended up playing for the NBA at some point and with varying success, you may remember Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, and Drazen Petrovic, but that was no excuse. So in 1989 when the worlds governing body over international basketball, the FIBA, decided it was cool to allow professional players to compete the stage was set for something crazy to happen.

The 1992 US men’s basketball team featured eleven NBA players and one guy from Duke (pfft they couldn’t get one more?). Not only did they tear up the world qualifying tournaments, beating the six teams they played by an average of 52 points, but they flew through the Olympics with ease. They averaged 117 points per game and beat the opposition by an average of 44 points per game to win the gold medal that year. It was a great moment in sports history and The Dream Team is one of only eight complete teams to be elected to the basketball hall of fame. Combine that with basketball’s general rising popularity and you have a country ready to eat up anything basketball related. NBA Jam couldn’t possibly fail in at atmosphere like that.

NBA Jam represents a time in sports history where everything was on an upswing and a time in video game history when new avenues of game development were being explored. These two elements combined to bring about a classic game that painted a bombastic and flashy picture of American culture. One that I dearly miss and has yet to be matched.

Stay tuned for part two, The ghosts of Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic.

Boomshakalaka.

MLB 12 The Show is once again the best sports game available. Period. It’s better than every other game for every other sport again. Period. I don’t know how they keep doing this. It’s almost supernatural how great this series is. The play mechanics are flawless. Ball physics are as realistic as they come and you won’t see a 30 foot leap to rob a home-run anywhere. You can learn from this, MLB 2kwhatever. Though you probably won’t. Most likely, when your cross platform contract with the MLB runs out after this year, EA will get it next and we won’t have to see you sitting there being mediocre anymore, wishing you could play in the big leagues.

I can’t say enough about how well the game plays. It’s just as good, if not better than it ever was. If I were to give a review score on gameplay alone, it would be a super high 9. Like a 9.9999999999. I don’t think there are enough extra credit points available to give it an accurate letter grade and the northern hemisphere would be pretty devoid of stars if I gave MLB 12 The Show as many as it deserves. A tad bit over-dramatic I know, but it’s just that good. I couldn’t come up with anything related to thumbs up, but you get the picture.

So what do you do when your review score is a forgone conclusion? When it’s almost impossible to quantify the level of smile inducement? When all you can say is, “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude, you have to fucking play this game!” there is only one course of action. You tell people how you personally feel about the game instead. You relate your emotions and impressions. Your experiences and thoughts. You don’t review it. You merely express it.

It was a little nerve wracking. Throwing for my first time in a professional team’s uniform, even if it was just a AA club. I couldn’t hit my spots in practice, but my arm felt as good as it ever has. I couldn’t quite locate my fastball, though it was quick and lively. My sinker was dropping like a bomb, but mostly in the dirt in front of the plate. I don’t even want to get into what my slider was trying to do. My first start as a professional ball player was looking to be a terrible day.

You always see yourself succeeding if you just get the chance to prove yourself. Even though you may be thinking about the possibility of failure, you see a win in your head. You know what never even crosses your mind? You never once think about just doing OK and walking away without a loss or a win. I pitched well enough, but I allowed 3 runs over 4 and a third and got yanked. Luckily the guys gave us some runs after I left and we pulled out the win, but the “W” isn’t attached to my name. It’s not what I wanted as my first professional start, but I’ll take what I can get.

My second game? My God that was a different story. I started out slow. I couldn’t hit my locations again. I got a little wild, but made it through the first two innings without letting a run by, something I couldn’t even do through the first inning of my last start. When I came into the third, something clicked. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt like I couldn’t lose all of a sudden. I struck out the side and just kept going from there. It started getting hectic around the sixth, I really just had no steam left, but I was throwing a gem and I was getting no sign that they were gonna pull me out. So I just kept throwing. I kept the ball low and outside, throwing at their hands every once in a while to keep the batters honest. I kept throwing different pitches and, miraculously, when a hitter made contact with one of my meatballs it stayed on the ground. I finally thought I would be sitting down when our closer started warming up in the eighth, but no dice there. I got sent back in to finish. Complete game shutout is the most beautiful phrase to a new pitcher, probably to any pitcher. To have it spoken about my last start is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Honestly though, I’m not sure what possessed me to take on a contract right out of high school. Though what’s done is done and I’m here now. With two starts under my belt and a third coming on only three days rest after a full nine, barring some form of lineup change, I’m worried about how I’ll perform. I just had two drastically different games. I still don’t know what I’m capable of, or incapable of for that matter, but I’m going to throw at everyone. That’s always been my style. Throw strikes and pray.

Exactly what baseball’s supposed to be.

My first two games as a starting pitcher in Road To The Show mode in MLB 12 The Show are pretty indicative of the series as a whole. The game, while being the best sports simulation available for any sport, is often erratic, random, unpredictable…

I picked up a no decision in my first start, allowing 3 runs and 5 hits over 4 and a third innings with 2 strikeouts. Then 4 days later I threw a complete game shutout, allowing 7 hits with no walks and 7 strikeouts in my second start. That is the essence of baseball. It’s erratic. It’s random. It’s unpredictable.

Sure it’s a video game, and there are ways to win or do decent pretty much all the time. Though The Show has always done well to minimize this by throwing in that bit of chance. Even if you have perfect timing on the meter, or the new “Pulse Pitching,” there’s a chance that curve ball will, well, not curve. Even whether a batter capitalizes on that bad curve is totally up in the air. That’s what baseball is all about. It’s tension and release. Every pitch. Every at bat. Every game. All season long.

It feels good to scrape away two seasons worth of pine tar.

I had a rocky seven year relationship with Allstar Baseball 2003. It was the only reason I kept my Xbox connected to my television for a long time. As soon as I played a game in MLB 10 The Show, I felt comfortable throwing the Xbox in the closet. I knew it was my new sports series for good. I tend to skip seasons on sports games, picking the new version up every other year (Madden’s, and EA’s, lack of true updates every year caused this habit to form.) so I’ve never played The Show 11. So much has changed in these two years that it feels like a totally new game to me. It still has the same overall feel and flow, still has the same sounds and visuals (though it’s the prettiest it’s ever been) but still feels new and fresh. The modes, features, and UI all have a fresh coat of paint but there’s enough new included to justify a new game.

This season marks the debut of two new mechanics. For pitching you have the option to use Pulse Pitching. It’s an innovative approach to pitching that I do like, though I feel the meter during the windup from 2010 is still more immersive, since the meter moves during the windup and delivery, synced with the animation. Pulse pitching allows you to select your pitch, then location, and then your release point by using a pulsing circle. The circle gets smaller and larger, rather quickly, and you have to press the pitch button when the circle is smallest to hit your location. The ball can end up anywhere within the circle and anywhere along its outline so timing is far more important than using the old pitching meter, and obviously takes some adjustment. Don’t expect to just start painting the plate corners your first time.

The second new mechanic is complete analog batting. The idea is that you use the left analog stick to locate your swing, and the right stick to time it. Since you have to pull the right stick down to set your front foot and then push forward to swing at the right moment, as well as locate the ball at the same time with the left stick, there is a HUGE learning curve. Even though I admittedly haven’t used it much yet, I’m going to come right out and say that I don’t really like it. It feels cumbersome and slow. The target that shows where your bat will make contact is obtrusive, often obscuring the ball as it comes in at you. It also has a spring return. Meaning that if you let go of the stick, it bounces back to center so you have to hold the left stick steady as you move the right to swing. It’s all just too much too soon.

That’s not to say it won’t feel much better with more practice, but as a new feature it has the feel of something meant for only very skilled players. Some people just want to play baseball.

For those people not interested in being the best at moving analog sticks, you have the option of using the older batting methods from previous versions of the game so you aren’t forced to even look at the new stuff if you just want to play the way you are used to.

Forced into retirement.

I’m a little disappointed that I can’t carry over my RTTS player from 2010. I know it’s a bit much to ask, and maybe you can do it if you have the 2011 game, but there’s still a feeling of loss there. I’m five seasons into my career on that game and in the middle of my first season at the MLB level and I just have to start over. It’s a shame, but I’ll get over it.

Want to hear something else that could fit the above tagline? Muting Eric Karros is almost a requirement. That guy has all the personality of a lobotomized brick in a coma, not to mention he says things that the guy he replaced last season used to say in the 2010 version of the game. What the fuck? Luckily, as I stated, you can mute any of the three commentators if you so choose. Crisis averted.

What do you mean I don’t have to work the bullpen?

I’m pretty sure (maybe 80%) this was included in the 2011 game, but I’m not enamored with the idea that you pitch your first game in AA as a starter. I liked how you had to earn a start in RTTS 2010. Being a starter right out of the gate has the advantage of speeding up your time in the minors, but it also has the disadvantage of taking away the feeling of accomplishment when you’re awarded with a spot in the starting rotation, even if it is just to keep it warm for an injured player. I’ll miss that feeling to be sure, but in the grand scheme of things it makes little difference to the game.

What it allows you to do is build up stats faster since you are seeing more batters and earning more points per game than you would otherwise. Some people don’t attach themselves to their virtual counterparts like I do. I’m sure other people with even less time than I have are big fans of not being stuck in a relief role for half a season before they are given a start.

Still, this is the only area of real contention I have with the game and it’s only because there’s no option to change it.

What it all comes down to is this.

Our resident stat nerd and baseball superfan, Mauricio Rubio, took a shot at the game while a plumber was fixing my kitchen sink. (NOT a euphemism for sex) It’s important to note that ol’ Rube is a fucking savant, I think he may actually be autistic. The man knows every player in baseball, past or present, and perhaps even future. Within moments of picking a team and starting a game, he was able to compete simply based on his knowledge of baseball. He knew where the pitch was going. Every time. Without ever playing any game in The Show series.

Who cares right?

Fucking wrong. That just goes to show you the amount of detail thrown into this game. Mauricio knows how a pitcher is going to throw at Alfonso Soriano, at what count, what number of outs, with runners at whatever bases and so does the game’s AI. That amount of detail wasn’t put together by no slouch. That takes constant and painstaking research from a team that absolutely loves the game of baseball. That’s why The Show is the best sports simulation in existence. You don’t create a game like this with code and QA testing. You give birth to it. It’s the love child of baseball fans and video game fans coming together in an explosion of statistics and gameplay polish. It wasn’t made for me. It was made for the game of baseball itself.

This has been making the rounds a little, but it’s still great. It really fits the feeling of the game as a whole.

I’m going to be entirely honest here. I don’t think of the iAnything as a gaming device in any serious sense. Having games on your phone is neat, but I never really expect them to be of any real quality. Though, I’m generally more forgiving of them since they are usually free or 99 cents. That being said, there are some folks out there who’s only link to video games is their iWhatever and this article is really for them. Let’s face it, it’s hard work trying to decide what to spend our 99 cents (or nothing) on, and those of us who have the capacity challenged versions of our respective devices have even more to worry about in the realm of music, video, app, book, and photo priority. So here are the best and worst iThing sports games, in no order and written about totally at random!

Lies. Utter lies.

I wrote that paragraph before I actually looked into what was available in the realm of app store sports games. What has my research taught me?

Every sports game in the app store is garbage.

Seriously. There is so much trash in there you can almost iSmell it. And No, before you even say it, I haven’t played them all. I’m not going to pay 99 cents for every game and try them out. That’s crazy, and if I had a budget for these things I wouldn’t spend it on iOS games. I’d spend it on important things, or some grillz.

I’m not a very good journalist, so I actually just picked two games to write about out of all the crap I tried. I’m such a bad journalist that they were both baseball games. I’m such a terrible journalist that, in fact, they were both different versions of the same game. I could go on, but at some point your going to figure out I’m only going to write about one game. That one game is really great though. So good in fact, that I don’t think you need to play any other game on your iJiggamawhatzit.

 Just play Baseball Superstars II

Baseball Superstars II is pretty neat. It has everything you would expect a big name baseball game to have. It has the exhibition, home run derby, tournament, and season modes that all baseball games have. It also has “My League” modes, which allow you to manage a single team, single pitcher, or single position player through multiple seasons. In the My Pitcher and My Batter modes, you take control of a user made player and develop him into a star from the ground up, much like “Road to the Show” mode in MLB The Show. For a free iPhone app (the price has since gone up to not free) this mode is surprisingly robust and fun.

Overall, the actual gameplay in Baseball Superstars II is a fantastic mix of fast arcade style play and simulation. On the arcade side of things, it’s very easy to have a .400 or above batting average or an on base percentage of .600 or more. As a pitcher, look for 14 or 15 strikeout games all the time and wild curving fastballs that top 100 mph on a regular basis. The games are fast and it’s possible to play two or three games in ten minutes or less in some modes. You can fill out your batter or pitcher with super swings and super pitches, respectively, and choose two super players in the team mode. The super players are generally strange and entirely out of place, but they are still a fun addition to the game.

Some footage for all of you to see.

On the flip side, you have the different My League options that offer up a more realistic-in-quotes type of play. These modes are where the game both shines and shows it’s ugly side. The great gameplay is still very present, but there are nagging issues with how the My Pitcher and My Batter modes progress. While all three of the My League options are spectacularly engrossing and fun, they show the true nature of Gamevil’s business model in all its money grubbing glory. Sure building up your superstar pitcher is fun, but it happens so damn slowly and there are so many restrictions on you that some of that fun is ruined, all in an attempt to coerce you into spending real money on pretend shit. It’s an ingenious, although evil, tactic and I will never fully understand the hideous hate engine that is working behind the scenes.

At the heart of it, the My [Player] mode is a story based baseball RPG. After choosing whether you want to create a pitcher or position player, you alternate between training, resting, going on short dates with several virtual baseball girls (not kidding), and playing baseball. Overall, the story parts are overshadowed by the development of your player and actually playing baseball, but they are written well enough and are mostly humorous. At times they do feel out of place, but since they often give your player bonuses for watching them, they can be worthwhile.

Training your player is little more than deciding which stat you want to increase and watching a little animated exercise, but, as with the entire game, the presentation and style are great. Unfortunately though, this is where the game’s ugly side makes its appearance.

The training system is incredibly flawed and seems to be built entirely around funneling you into spending actual money in game. Since all of the actions you can take between games require “active” points, you are severely limited in how fast you can improve your player and experience the story. On top of that, you also have a moral rating that affects your ability to play at 100% and also if you get hurt or sick. Training reduces your moral far more than it increases your skills and winning games increases your morale far less that training reduces it. So you have to rest a lot to regain morale rather than train or hang with the ladies. You fall into a loop where if you don’t train, your player is slapped with skill debuffs. If you don’t rest, you get hurt or sick from low morale. If you’re always training and resting, you never see any of the story segments. It really is a vicious trap where the only solution is spending real money for boosts to in game cash so you can buy items that heal your player or give him more active points, or paying to turn off sickness and injuries.

The micro transaction business model has the ability to work and be profitable without sticking it to the player, but it’s a flaming pickled pitch-fucking-fork in the ass in this case. I find that sad because the game is so good, Gamevil could easily have priced it higher, made it a little less of a jerk, and kept those micro transactions out entirely. Why they chose to be assholes I will never know. It not only decreases their relevance and credibility as game developers, but also tarnishes iOS devices as gaming platforms in general. This is an argument for a dedicated video game site however. Cad T. Wasp is too good for that kind of talk.

 /soapbox

My ranting aside, this game is absolutely great. The pitching mechanics are intuitive and easy. There’s a good selection of pitch types to choose from and they generally function realistically. Batting requires skill and timing, but isn’t so difficult to be a detriment, though the “swing” button could be a bit larger. Other than that the touch controls work flawlessly. Creating your pitcher’s Super Pitch is one of the more fun and well thought out parts of the game, and making your own Bugs Bunny pitch is well worth the trouble. If you have the patience to stick with the game, eventually all the stuff in the last two paragraphs won’t matter since you will accumulate enough money and G-points (the game’s currency) to never have to worry about your morale or limits on the actions you can take between games. It’s all fun from there on out.

If I was a reviewer, instead of just some guy, I’d grade it or give it some arbitrary number. But I am just some guy so I’ll just tell you Baseball Superstars II is the best sports game in the app store. There are actually several games in the series, many of them free and all of them great, but I find the visual style of this version to sync the best with the mechanics and overall feel of the game. Though some people may be put off by the anime style, the art is charming and the overall presentation is top notch.

So get it. Get it now and reduce the game speed in the options menu to give it a real leisurely baseball pace. Otherwise it plays way too fast.

If you want to know just how Asian this game is, check out the trailer.

Oh yeah, it’s also on Android stuff now. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE!

HOMELUN!

Video games and sports have been close partners since their inception. Throughout the turbulent 80′s and the death of the arcade, the grand times and great triumphs of the game industry, sports games have been there. They entertain the wishes of would be NBA stars who can’t play at a professional level. They fill the void for baseball fans during the off-season who itch for the first pitch thrown in April. Most importantly, they offer hours of entertainment for gamers and casual players alike, and every so often change the nature of the industry. There has not been one single home video game console released that did not have at least one sports title in it’s library of games, if not in it’s launch lineup. Sports games have proven time after time that they can both sell systems and destroy them, introduce new heroes to gamers and bring new markets to the gaming industry, and if not for one specific sports title and the man who created it, video games as we know them may never have existed at all…

…but you’ve read all that twice before.

#1 Tennis For Two

All my life, I’ve had and played video games. I’ve “wasted” a good third of my life playing them and I don’t regret a minute of it. I’ll take a great game over the useless sleep I get any day of the week. I think I feel about video games, the way Mauricio, this site’s fine host, feels about baseball. I’m just lucky enough that there is no gaming season and I can have them all year long. So when I write a list of ten games that I feel are the most important sports games in the history of the gaming industry, understand that each entry in the list has a special place in my heart. This is due to the fact that they have improved my hobby of choice and I am thankful for their respective contributions. That’s why “Tennis For Two” is my number one game on the list.

Tennis For Two has the grand distinction of not only being the very first sports related video game ever, but the very first video game ever, by definition. This being (and no it ain’t Webster’s), a game played entirely within the confines of the display screen purely for amusement. There were electronic computer games before Tennis For Two, but most of them were just glorified performance tests for the computers at the time and few of them used any real or purely visual output. TFT (see what I did there?) is the first and there’s no question about it.

William Higinbotham, the game’s inventor, was a physicist who developed electronic components that were used on the first atomic bomb. Although he spent the rest of his life doing the work he wanted to be remembered for, which was speaking about nuclear arms control, he may well be remembered more for his contributions to the video game industry. He had expressed regret before his death that his memory lives on more in Pong than in a peaceful, nuclear free world, but perhaps he can take solace in the fact that his game led to countless millions’ enjoyment and happiness. That is no small feat.

So sure, it’s pretty much the first video game ever. If that’s the only reason it’s number one, video game elitists would probably have me lynched. There is another reason why I’m rating it so high. Higinbothom never bothered to patent the damn thing. He never made any money from it and even went so far as to testify against Magnavox when they went and sued everyone in the late 70’s and early 80’s for patent infringement when they made better game systems than the stupid Odyssey. (Seriously, read about that thing. It’s dumb as all hell.) Since Higinbothom never patented Tennis For Two, stating that he didn’t think it was a big deal and the US government would have owned the patent anyway, it opened to door for anyone to make similar games. Think about that. Just a second. Think of your favorite video game. Think of all the fun you have or had playing it. Now think of its chances of ever existing if the United States government held sway over the patent it was based on.

Are you getting it yet?

Even though Magnavox won all of their lawsuits, except the one against Atari when they settled out of court, it was too late. Video games had already become such big business that companies could afford the miniscule royalties they were ordered to pay Magnavox. So everyone continued to make games and the industry as we know it survived and flourished, then fell apart, then Nintendo came and saved everyone’s ass but you get my point.

Mr. William Higinbotham

it might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavors have relevance for society.” -William Higinbothom

William Higinbothom is probably the first true video game developer as well, creating his game solely for the amusement of others. Tennis For Two was meant to be an interactive display at the 1958 Visitors Day at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Higinbothom realized that some people just aren’t satisfied by looking at stuff. So he grabbed an oscilloscope and an analog computer they had laying around and drew up plans for his game. He said it took about two hours to design and a couple weeks for lab technician Bob Dvorak to put it all together with parts that were available. I was, unfortunately, unable to find any specific pricing for the parts used back in 1958, but considering how popular the game was at the time, it has to be a record for the cheapest successful video game ever made even with the high cost of computers in the 50’s.

It was a simple game. Two players held controllers that consisted of a metal box with a knob to control the angle of the ball and a button that allowed you to hit it. Unlike Pong, which was a top view of ping pong, Tennis For Two was viewed from the side of the tennis court with the net upright in the middle of the screen. Check the video.

So there you have it. This simple little game, created solely to amuse visitors at an otherwise static and uneventful display of scientific gadgetry, that the creator didn’t think was any big deal and never bothered to patent is the most important sports video game ever.

Are you surprised?

Higinbothom sure was.

Next week I promise to have some reviews up. In fact, look for a quick overview of the state of sports gaming on your iPhone.