I thought I might write a blog post that’s not about Not Quite Normal for a change. That’s in the past, man, time to look to the future.
A little while ago I wrote about the impact video games have had on my life. Essentially that they are to me what music is to most people. But one thing I didn’t mention is how that all relates to sport.
Growing up, I was not a sport fan. At all. My dad enjoyed watching football (he remains a Liverpool fan) and I think he wanted me to get into it – although he didn’t force me. I have memories of owning a Tottenham away strip when I was about seven (although I rarely, if ever, wore it), and of claiming to be a Manchester United fan to fit in with a couple of guys at school. Other than that, I took some swimming lessons when I was about 5 or 6 and, obviously, had to do some sport during PE and Games lessons. And that was all the contact I ever had with sport. I just wasn’t interested in the least.
And then Nintendo brought out a game called Mario Tennis.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Mario Tennis taught me the rules of tennis, and, for the first time in my little life, got me vaguely interested in a sport. I never played it until years later at secondary school, but I watched it on TV. I still do. It’s not like I’m a monstrously huge fan of it, but I do enjoy it. And all that is thanks to a video game.
The big one happened a few years later, though. I was at a friend’s house sometime in late 2006. During that evening, he introduced me to one of the most famous sport video games ever – the Madden NFL series.
Now, being British, my knowledge of American football at that time was, to say the least, slight. I knew that there was a player called a Quarterback, who said some random words and then shouted ‘Hut!’ I knew, vaguely, what the Super Bowl was. Also being British, I had been given the assumption – both actively and passively – that it was just ‘rugby for pansies’. And that was about it, really.
But I thrashed my friend during that first game. It was immensely fun. And, to cap it all, it was nothing like rugby. It blew my mind that a player could be tackled (well, blocked) even if he wasn’t carrying the ball. Something about the violence and, in particular, the strategy, struck a nerve with me. And thus began my slow crawl into being a fan of American football. I bought the latest Madden the next week. A year later, I watched the Super Bowl. A year later, I watched the play-offs and the Super Bowl. And then I watched an entire season. And now I love it. It is the only sport that I have ever been properly into.
Around this time I did, briefly, flirt with football – soccer football, I mean. That was entirely down to me owning FIFA 10, which, despite being based on one of the world’s least interesting sports (ooh, I went there 😉 ), is actually a brilliant video game. It’s very fun to play. The most recent editions declined in quality, though, in my opionion at least, and thus my relationship with football ended almost entirely. Although, my dad seemed to hook onto me being more involved for that one season, because ever since then he still talks to me about it when a match is on, clearly expecting me to give a shit. Example: “Suarez just scored a cracker, have a look.” To me, it just looked like he was doing what he was paid – an extortionate amount of money, I should point out – to do. (Incidentally, I also hate the way that fans of clubs talk about the team in the first/second person. For instance, ‘We’ve got Rooney, but you’ve only got Terry to stop him.” Sorry, do they live in your back garden or something? I could write a whole blog about why I dislike football so much, actually, but I fear the repercussions.)
See, games aren’t all bad. As well as igniting a fire in my belly like nothing else can, said fire can be spread quite easily onto other things. Like the time Rock Band and Guitar Hero convinced me to get a real guitar. Yeah, that worked well…
Thanks, as ever, for reading.