The Itch

I was at GameStop yesterday, chatting up the employees (especially the hot girl who I know from HS) and tendering my application. I perused the shelves for a few minutes as they tended to a customer, and found myself, almost unconsciously, grabbing MVP Baseball 2005 and walking towards the counter. I caught myself, and put it back on the shelf.

This will present a problem, a twofold one. First, that I am a recovering EA junkie. I have been a slave to the company since 1992, and only in the last year have my gripes with the company become serious enough to warrant a full-scale boycott.

Previous to that, I was fully on track to be one of the people screaming "E-A SPORTS! IT'S IN THE GAME!". I had literally played every single EA Sports title from roughly 1993-2001, without fail. FIFA, NHL, Madden, NBA Live, Triple Play ('96 was a favorite because of the hidden All-Time Greats), even Rugby. I was an addict. But, as I grew older and began to demand more "simulation" from my games, EA went more for the NFL Blitz crowd. I knew we were on the outs when they introduced the "Big Hit" and "Big Shot" buttons to NHL, since those sounded twice as insipid as I could imagine. In 2001 I left for school, discovered Championship Manager, a year later I discover Out Of The Park Baseball and Winning Eleven, and just about sever all ties with the company. Then the NFL deal, and now i'm trying to go cold turkey.

This leads me to my second problem. I am a seasonal sports gamer. As a sports fan, I always, without fail get antsy at the beginning of every major sports season. I begin to want a game to play along. When Hockey begins, I want a Hockey game. When Baseball begins, I want to be toeing the rubber with all the real-life pitchers, etc. But this was always, always, inevitably at its worst in August and September. When College and Pro Football begin.

I love Football, both College and Pro. I love them only slightly more than I love Soccer, and i've come to be a devotee of "The Beautiful Game" in recent years. I love my Giants (save for Tom Coughlin), I love my Orangemen, and will watch/root for them at every chance. I played the sport throughout High School, I enjoy it viscerally. And i've been playing Football games for as long as I can remember, as far back as Play Action Football for the NES.

As I put MVP Baseball back on the shelf yesterday, I looked above it, to where a shelf was lined with promo boxes to encourage people to preorder NCAA 2005, and sighed. I hate EA Sports but, being bereft of any Football games this fall will be trying on the soul. Even then as I thought about my promise, like a junkie, I could feel myself pulled towards it, wanting to ring in the new season with a new game.

But I remind myself that I can't, that it will most assuredly fall into the same pitfalls that have driven me insane about EA Sports games for the past 3 years. Some new, flashy gimmick that, even worse, is half-done, much like most of the game. A number of frustrating bugs, 3-5 real showstopping bugs, and still-shoddy AI. It's happened before. It happened with the aforementioned "Big Hit/Big Shot" changes in NHL, it happened with NBA Live when they introduced "Freestyle Control", which brought the game closer to NBA Street than the NBA (my friends and I dubbed the control "the Paul Pierce button" after a particular game wherein he had scored 55 points via me simply flicking the stick, beating my man and dunking over and over and over again), and in Madden and NCAA with the "Hit Stick" and the godawful "Homefield Advantage" addition to both games, respectively.

Madden was saddled with bad AI, some idiotic coverage routines, and a Franchise mode that would see some moves of transcendant stupidity (Browns going with 2 QBs, Packers moving to Manhattan, etc). And NCAA's Homefield Advantage may have been the most atrociously implemented feature in a game, ever. Supposedly, players would have given levels of composure, and would gain and lose composure over the course of the game, increasing or decreasing their ratings. The problem was this happened rather drastically, in the order of my Junior QB losing eight points off his overall rating after throwing an incompletion on first down. In a half-full Arizona Stadium. I nearly blew a vessel.

And yet, still, despite knowing all this, I know, this fall, when there's no ESPN, and naught but the faux-playmakers takeoff to sate my urges come football season, i'm going to walk into a video game store with $100 and be sorely tempted to continue the cycle. And I seriously hope i'll be able to keep myself from doing it again.

1) Why aren't you in any of our leagues, then? It'd be great to have you in them.

2) I was under the impression that we, as a group, would wait and get used copies of Madden '06 so that we can play in some sort of f*cked-up EA league system.

I'm disenchanted with Madden. Bought it last year played a handful of games. Give me NCAA or give me death!

Pred, MVP is by far the best graphical baseball game I've played. The mixture of graphics, decent sim engine, great game play.