Super Tecmo Bet: Predicting The Super Bowl With Video Games
Super Bowl crisis: The game's coming up and I don't have enough money for beer. (I don't even have enough for Bud.) And since watching the four-hour pregame sober counts as attempted suicide in my book, I developed a four-step financial plan.
In order to successfully predict the Super Bowl, I decided to watch several simulated showdowns, forcing consoles to play with themselves for my amusement (something I'm almost certain counts as a fetish) and rating their performance on three factors:
How valid I think the game's prediction is. For example, it's helpful to play a few warm up rounds. If a console predicts that the Rams will win anything ever, it loses all credibility.
Each game will result in a prediction on the Super Bowl. If you actually needed that sentence, I would like to bet everything against everything you do.
The Super Bowl is about the score in the same way James Bond is about the civil services. This section will rate each game on how exciting it was, instead: Did it come down to the wire? Did the best team win? Did I stay awake past the coin toss? In this case, I've redefined "excitement" on a scale where "the doorbell ringing" counts as one-million choirs of angels.
Madden 10 - XBox 360
I reassured my wife that I was planning our financial future as I inserted the Madden 10 disc, and decided she was probably packing her bags for the holiday. The holiday I'd buy with my winnings!
My financial advisor.
Powering up the game, I was treated to an inspirational video so self-affirming I thought I'd accidentally loaded Tina Turner 10. To reassure me that I was really living the life of a simulated NFL player, I was asked to accept a contract... and deal with advertising offers. And fill out a survey. And provide an e-mail home address, password and account information. I was half expecting to be asked to represent the player's union in a prolonged labor dispute by the time the game started.
I chose the teams, setting the game to "Spectator" and sat down to watch the synthetic Super Bowl. EA immediately assured me that SNICKERS was CHOMPTASTIC before running a ticker-ad for an ad for a trailer for EA's Mass Effect 2--it was rapidly becoming clear that I had paid money for the privelage of watching advertising. But the negative feelings were quickly washed away by nostalgia as the computerized commentators started off their telecast referring to "THIS TEAM versus THAT TEAM" as though their nuts are slammed in a desk every time they say a proper noun.
Madden 10 seems determined to add a frightening level of realism to the game, but when the feature list includes "animated hand towels," I begin to wonder if they're really focusing on the important stuff. When it adds "up to nine-men gang tackles," I wonder if the game was outsourced to a Japanese company that got the wrong impression from all the sweaty grappling.
The Japanese Madden '95
Plus, EA had Madden 10 predict the Super Bowl at the start of the season and gave it to the Patriots. And I just can't trust a Patriots fan.
The Colts win 35-27. Computer-Madden adds that Addai and Bush put forth powerful running games.
It's a solid attempt, but it can't quite simulate the feel of a real Super Bowl. I mean, the screen is an authentically choked gaggle of random ads and irrelevant bullshit, it's just that all the ads are for the same three things. And none of those ads feature offensively obvious pandering by way of boobies, so this is clearly not the Super Bowl.
Madden 09, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03 - Xbox 360
I repeated the experiment on every iteration of Madden released from 2003-2009, and obtained exactly the same results with minor graphical changes.
Madden '96 - Super NES
Every play on Madden '96 is the same: You're asked to choose whichever player you think is most comfortable with his sexuality, give him the ball and watch him get rammed by 10,000 pounds of beef. It's like giving someone an ultra-powerful meat magnet and throwing them into a gay slaughterhouse.
I've never left a game in spectator mode before, the only narrow proof that I didn't completely waste my youth.
The game treats anyone running against perspective as strange optical illusions worthy of an MC Escher finger painting, and running backs occasionally accelerate at speeds only approached during the NFL's experimental rocket-boots period. So it's awesomely entertaining, and that's clearly not accurate football.
A 44-17 smash by the Colts. Up 36-17 with two minutes to go, Indianapolis decided kneeling the ball was for sore winners, going on to score and take a two point conversion. That's not just ballsy, that's practically spiteful.
The SNES seems to be strongly in the camp of the folks who think The Colts will run away with Super Bowl 44, as well as those who think The Colts are coached by Bill Belichick.
Madden '93 - Genesis (92)
My desperate attempts to make booze money were delayed when I was tragically struck and killed crossing Childhood Street by a runaway Nostalgia Truck, otherwise known as the John Madden '92 theme. The next morning, I woke up arguing the merits of Street Fighter versus Mortal Kombat. I ultimately decided on Killer Instinct.
Thus was I sucked back into the pain-in-the-ass Genesis version of Madden. Including collision detection, every player is about 10-meters across. Breaking a run up the middle is about as easy as bouncing a tennis ball through a disco filled with velcro Sumo wrestlers. And don't even think about passing the ball, which only works if a receiver bounces off a defensive player's force field hard enough to count as pass interference, or rupture the space/time continuum and start a Marvel comics crossover event.
There was also the problem of the voice samples repeating themselves five times a minute. Luckily my brain had been sonically transported into 1992 by the theme song, and was still impressed that the computer could talk coherently at all, and didn't sound like Jonathan Ross yelling profanities through a distorted guitar amp.
Not great, unless both teams hire Doctor Doom to design their armor before the game. Cricket is a better simulation of the Super Bowl; at least the players occasionally catch the god damn ball or run for more than two yards without recoiling into the stratosphere.
The Genesis predicts an underwhelming 9-3 comedy of errors for the Saints.
Worst. Super. Bowl. Ever.
This game was like watching someone cheat at flower arranging; you know they're fundamentally doing it wrong, but it's just too pathetic to say anything about it. The Colts fumble the very first time they get the ball. After that, the most exciting moment is when the Saints kicker has an absolute melt down, missing a field goal AND the extra point on the only touch down of the game. Sadly the Genesis is incapable of rendering shame-induced suicide, so it was only implied.
Miami residents better hope that this particular verse of Genesis, Saints 9:3, is wrong or their city will be reduced to ash by exactly 76,500 enraged fans setting fire to everything as a result of the first game ever that results in both teams losing.
Tecmo Super Bowl - NES ('91)
This wasn't going well: The Genesis presented the worst spectator sport since synchronized eye-stabbing, the SNES thought the Super Bowl was a fancy dress orgy and the 360 didn't give a damn who won as long as they CHEWS WISELY with STATISFYING SNICKERS. With time ticking away before I'd have to repay Throat Opener Charlie his money, I brought out the big guns and headed down to the Mega-computational Super-computer System.
I gained access to their exclusive hyper-machinery, which I somehow convinced them to reprogram for money-making purposes.
Behold the feats of man, and despair!
The simulation paints a terrifying picture of the supernatural game to come: Players are constantly phasing out of existence, proving that both teams have been spurred by the success of Twilight to include illegal vampires. One can only assume that, since cameras contain mirrors, the paranormal players are not actually disappearing, but rather flickering in and out of visibility. That's slightly less illegal than general phase-shifting in American Football, but it's still heart-breaking, as the Founding Fathers insisted all Super Bowls be played in daylight precisely to avoid this sort of thing.
The NES version I used for my simulation left a little to be desired in this category, since the computer insisted that the clash between Steve Walsh and Jeff George would be the core of the game. There were also a record five incidents of players staggering out of the game and into the crowd, presumably trying to escape the monsters on the field. Cruelly, they were forced back in.
The Saints take it 31-10, dominating in rushing yards despite the Colts' far superior passing game and all-star, all-monster line-up.
Sound-wise, the NES was the star of the simulated spectator sports--from the kickin' theme music, through the jaunty first down tune, to the bum note which says in one frequency what it takes an ex-player commentator two paragraphs (apparently not catching the ball is bad). The NES was like R2D2: It only had four basic sounds to work with, but it had more personality than the rest of the cast (consoles) combined.
Understanding the special occasion, Tecmo even recreated a past halftime show.
Total aggregate score gives a 92-88 victory to the Colts, in what would be the most awesome (and rocket-boot powered) Super Bowl of all time. I walked into the bookmakers to lay $50 on the Colts, telling the cashier that I was doing so because a series of small grey and black boxes had discussed it and commanded me to gamble my entire life savings on the outcome. She took the bet, which indicated that there may be some room for improvement in gambling regulation, and I awaited my sweet victory liquor parade.
I'm not sure when this article is going to run, so by this point you might already be mocking me for being wrong -- in which case congratulations on being able to tell the future by living in it, Captain N. But if I'm right, I've just proved that an entire day of your (and dozens of highly paid athletes') lives can be replicated by a small plastic breezeblock.
All I know is that if I lose this bet, it will not be from a lack of preparation. I did everything in my power to improve accuracy of simulations, in the case of Tecmo Bowl, even manually venting air over the memory cartridge interface slot.
If I lose the bet, this is the first of many old, sad, gray things I will have to blow to keep my throat in its pristine, virgin, unslashed state.