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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • BLOG: Football video games have come a long way

  • No. 1 Minnesota took on No. 2 Iowa recently to determine which squad would go on to play No. 9 Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game and possibly advance out of that contest to the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.
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  • No. 1 Minnesota took on No. 2 Iowa recently to determine which squad would go on to play No. 9 Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game and possibly advance out of that contest to the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game.
    That's a more fantastic December story than a jolly fat man traveling the world to deliver presents.
    And it happens all the time in the world of video gaming.
    Certainly, Santa will deliver sports video games to kids and adults alike this holiday season, sparking hours of enjoyment for fans everywhere. Taking your favorite college or pro team to the championship game is pretty darn fun, especially if that doesn't seem like it will ever happen in real life.
    In that spirit, let's take a walk down the memory lane of football video games and see just how far this has come.
    It probably all started sometime in the 1980s when Atari came out with a football game. And trust me when I say that the graphics were fairly crude. I am sure the game was thrilling at the time, but looking at it now, it appears that the game developers simply put Space Invader characters on the screen in place of football players. Give the programmers a break though. At least this game was more like football than, say, Pong.
    The first really good football video game didn't come out until the early 1990s when Super Tecmo Bowl hit the shelves.
    From a graphics and game play perspective, this was a quantum leap from the days of Atari. And the game had players like Bo Jackson, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Jim Kelly, just to name a few.
    Game play was easy, but there weren't many features. There was no draft, so the dynasty feature of today's games was not present. Still, that game produced many a fond memory for this sports guy, even if the Dallas Cowboys had to count on Tommie Agee at running back. The programers must have had a grudge against that guy. He was horridly slow.
    Front Page Sports Football Pro represented the next revolution. There were a number of versions of this PC based game and, like Tecmo Bowl, the Front Page franchise gave us a major leap forward in video gaming for football.
    Front Page had a lot of features that were fun. Video gamers could create teams and whole leagues with different playoff formats. Trades and drafts made every season new. And the game even included a format for the Canadian League.
    It was also the first time that video gamers could, ahem, artifically enhance player statistics.
    Playbooks were greatly expanded over Tecmo Bowl and gamers actually called defensive plays. In Tecmo Bowl, a defensive player was forced to guess what the offensive player or computer controlled team would run.
    Page 2 of 3 - In another advance, Front Page Sports players could actually come up with their own plays. Drawing up a play for a special blitz or attempting to draw up an option play in a professional-based sports reality were favorite past times.
    While Front Page Sports was making its run, Madden and NCAA were getting their starts.
    The main plus for both of those games was that you didn't have to update your computer to run them. Buy a console, plug in the game, and have fun.
    Sadly, the Madden and NCAA games had less than ideal game play features, however. One of the more frustrating quirks on an early NCAA version was that a receiver and a defensive back would often deflect a pass back and forth pin ball style until one of them caught it.
    Madden and NCAA had some of the perks of Front Page Sports though and both were starting to make progress. Simply having a college based game was major progress since college football run in the Front Page Sports universe didn't seem to work, no matter how much imagination a gamer possessed.
    The versions of both Madden and NCAA got better and better, however, and both are now the gold standard of the industry with Front Page Sports being left on the scrap heap of history.
    We should all be thankful.
    I remember one night when I bought the latest version of Front Page Sports and spent about eight hours trying to get the correct device drivers and graphic cards so that the game wouldn't freeze my system when it booted up.
    NCAA 2013 for the X-Box might freeze up, but at least it doesn't happen that often, and all that's required to bring the system back up is to turn the console off and turn it back on again.
    The positives of the current NCAA and Madden titles far out reach the negatives. Video gamers can create players for their teams and construct teams in both versions of the game. There's conference realignment, drafting, recruiting and the list of features could go on forever.
    Madden's game play took a major step in the right direction with the 2013 version as well.
    But there's still work to do on these games. Maybe there always will be.
    Think of it as a glitch that nobody can scratch.
    Every game has one of these. Tecmo Bowl had a glitch that allowed computer teams to run out of bounds all the way down the field and score a touchdown. It is kind of hard to tackle a player when that player is out of bounds.
    Front Page Sports users found that, upon drawing up a swinging gate play, a touchdown could be scored at any time.
    Page 3 of 3 - For Madden and NCAA users, there are those plays, both offense and defense, that are almost guaranteed to work against computer controlled teams.
    Once a video gamer figures it out, it becomes difficult not to call a blitz play that guarantees a tackle for loss or dial up the offensive play that guarantees a touchdown every time.
    But in the end, glitches can and should be overlooked.
    Just look at how far video game football has come. If you do, you won't want to go back.
    P.S. In the Christmas spirit, here's a little gem for you to enjoy. Tecmo Bowl 2013! For Free. YES!
    http://www.joystiq.com/2012/09/06/tecmo-super-bowl-2013-gives-classic-game-up-to-date-nfl-rosters/

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