Monday, October 5, 2009

The Zen of Irritation (10-Yard Fight and 1943)

10-Yard Fight, it turns out, is a football game. I should get out of the way that I have only the narrowest understanding of football, and that was acquired more or less wholly as a survival mechanism in the last four years. Most of it stems from the fact that my ex-wife likes to watch the Superbowl, and I was willing to tag along. This level of knowledge does not translate into any practical ability to render any sort of strategic judgment on football.

I say this mostly because I honestly do not have the first clue whether or not that is a liability in playing 10-Yard Fight. It is clear that I am not very good at this game, but that could be because I do not know what I'm doing in football terms, or it could be because the game is capricious, arbitrary, and silly. I honestly don't know. Stranger than that, I don't entirely find myself caring. The mechanics of the game, which feel frustratingly slow and clunky at first, eventually expand out to a certain zen state, and half an hour of playtime passed relatively quickly in practice. The game eats up tremendous amounts of time doing basically nothing, but in a way that evades
boredom somehow.

There is a metaphor to draw here - the video game as anesthesia, that which neutrally eats the time. It would be very easy to establish that 10-Yard Fight is my life right now - a befuddling but not-quite-unfun way to pass time. I reject this only because, frankly, I refuse to be that emo. But on the other hand, the slow and pointless crawl of my avatar towards the end zone is oddly poetic.

It is a vision that is all too quickly wrecked by the utter crap that is 1943. A straightforward shooter game of the sort that has been done far, far more often than it should have been, it is an almost classically unforgiving game. Your health is automatically sapped as time goes on, even if you avoid being hit. Your special weapon is actually crappier than your regular weapon. Your super attack doesn't work on bosses, which you have a limited time to beat. The game is brutal - a throwback to my youth when I better understood the fact that having fun is an extremely unpleasant activity based primarily on self-punishment. (Seriously, the number of games I remember playing almost entirely out of a sense of self-loathing is staggering, and I cannot wait to get back to some of them.)

It says something that I now appreciate the quiet, contemplative frustration of 10-Yard-Dash more than the aggressive machinery of death that is 1943.

I am not sure, however, what that something is.


  1. I've often found it disappointing that no word exists in English or Japanese to describe the act of accidentally and inevitably using up one of your super attacks while trying to figure out which button is the regular shot.

    Much like the illusion of toast always falling butter side down, it seems like every trial button press of my life in these games has resulted in the wasted use of a resource that should be carefully squandered.

    1. Years later, I swoop in to note that Yiddish (of course) does have such a word: davke. (Pronounced, roughly, "duff-kuh.") Used in a sentence it merely means "inevitably" or "precisely," but in isolation, as an exclamation, it means roughly, "Murphy's Law in action."