Football Finally Makes Sense to Me
Kotaku’s Tim Rogers gives Football — aka, “American National Football League football” — a glowing review and breaks it down for those of us who are of a nerdier persuasion.
I’m here to tell you that Football is, beneath its blaring American pop-culture facade, a turn-based / real-time action collectible trading card game of fine, minute mathematical depth, with just the right pinch of procedural randomness, and character / plot development unparalleled in any other role-playing game released yet in the history of games. You might not believe at first that Football is a deeper, harder, more interesting game than Advance Wars, though once you give it a chance and look past the boring graphical presentation, its math will blow your mind and you will be a convert for life.
It’s all starting to make more sense now. Still skeptical, though? Consider the quarterback’s job. Who knew it was so… epic?
The QB has to think quickly: ahead of him the center, two guards, and two tackles — the biggest, toughest, and smartest players on the offensive team — are pushing back with all their might against the defensive linemen — the biggest, toughest players on the defensive team. Whose “tanks” are tougher than whose? That’s a question that a game of Football asks dozens of times in its course, and the answer is never always the same.
Depending on success or failure of his blockers, the quarterback might have two seconds to get rid of the ball. Or he might have six. He might be about to get tackled by a successful defensive player. Or he might just have enough time to get the ball to one of his receivers.
In the case of a forward pass play, the quarterback is under severe pressure. Maybe the linebackers and/or a cornerback and/or a safety (another defensive unit) are attempting a “blitz”: that’s the Football equivalent of “suppressing fire” in a first-person shooter. In a “blitz,” the defense tries to psych out — or even take down the quarterback. If the defense tackles the quarterback while he’s still holding the ball, that’s called a “sack,” and it is the Football equivalent of most first-person shooters’ “shotgunned in the side of the neck at close range.“
Completing a pass is a genuinely heroic action. One might even call it “magical,” and one might call the quarterback a wizard. (Uh-oh — didn’t I say the coach was a wizard? Hmm. The coach is a Level-100 Wizard, then. Or a general. Got to think fast, metaphors falling apart – )
By way of the “magic” of a “pass,” the quarterback teleports the ball many yards. If the wide receiver is in position, and able to outwit his defenders, he catches it, earning multiple yards — healing his team, and damaging the other.
In the real world, the physical act of completing a pass is about as easy as playing a full round of Halo 4 multiplayer viewing the game through a sniper scope – and winning.
Rogers concludes his piece, which is far more sincere than you might think — even with the “class breakdown” that compares halfbacks to “paladins” and linebackers to “clerics” — with a very astute observation:
[E]veryone who loves Football is, in some way, as much a “geek” for Football as people who play video games are for video games. And why shouldn’t they be? Football is so deep and so complex you have to be some sort of geek for it just to understand what the heck is going on.
I know that many of you out there have the impression of Football as a game for big dumb knuckle-dragging, beer-guzzling brutes. I understand that whenever a sports championship ends, fans light a car on fire in the winners’ hometown and the losers’ hometown. However, if you look beyond the microscopically car-arson-decriminalizing, drunken-idiocy-enabling graphical facade, you’ll find a game as strategically rich as Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem’s Ivy-League-educated firebaby, with action as mechanically ferocious as an entire Street Fighter III: Third Strike tournament.
I’ve never quite understood why football fans don’t name and claim their geekiness, or why they seem so offended when you call them out on it. They’re not exactly making any secret of their geekiness, especially when fantasy football rolls around.
I’ve played my fair share of video games and role-playing games, and they’re nothing compared to what I see when my friends and co-workers hunch over their computers while building and managing their fantasy football teams, or when they start discussing the pros and cons of various players while pulling the most arcane stats out of thin air. It’s really quite impressive… and impressively geeky.