03 April 2010

Ice Hockey - Atari 2600

This blog began 93 days ago when I decided to spend a year defining the canon of console gaming. I was to post one essay every day about one of the greatest games of all time. I soon realized that, despite a few exceptions, greatness in gaming is defined as much by the experience the gamer has with the game as it is the qualities of the game itself. The blog has become a daily reminiscence on gaming from a few authors, all from different places in the world, but mostly it's been George Morse and I cranking them out. George is my reporter at the newspaper. In this business we often say things such as "he's my reporter" or "she's my photographer." By saying "my" I certainly don't mean that I own George or that he exists to do my bidding. He gets that. Most people get that. (Except newspaper photographers, who can be a prickly bunch.)
What George has certainly become is my friend.
Now more than ever I have less certainty about the future of the newspaper business and my role in it. But I know this young punk from Riverside with a good heart and head will always be a friend of my family. He knows my kids, has watched our pets and impressed my wife with his intelligence and charm (a serious accomplishment).
And there was a time before life got complicated for the two of us that we used to play video games together nearly once a week. We eventually settled into a routine of either Gears of War or No Mercy (N64). But in the early days when he was still my reporter and not yet my friend, I took great pleasure in whipping up on him in Atari games such as Activision's Ice Hockey. It's probably the best sports game for the Atari 2600 - and still one of the most fun sports games ever made. It's two-on-two hockey on a crisp rink with colorful characters. Unlike many early sports games the precision on this primitive title is excellent. Passing is effortless as is the transition from one of your players to the other. Control is perfect and, despite a decent computer opponent, playing against another human being is a blast.
Especially when that opponent is George.
I would eventually discover that George is a better gamer than I. He has beaten me at most games, but he routinely hammers me at No Mercy, which is a game near and dear to my heart. But I owned him in Ice Hockey.
This column is sure to ignite a new rivalry. Maybe George and I will take to the ice soon to revisit the Arnold Street Cup. If he manages to get one by me, I will revisit this post with an update.
Until then, consider this the definitive account of how an old man kicked his reporter's ass at a game that was created five years before the reporter was born.
By Victor Paul Alvarez

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