In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Will Leitch is the founding editor of Deadspin and a contributing editor at New York magazine. He is the author of four books, including Are We Winning? and God Save The Fan. He also writes regularly on sports and media for Sports On Earth. Leitch talked to The Gameological Society about his sports-game fandom, which endures despite the fact that he almost never plays the games himself.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Will Leitch: I am notoriously really bad at video games. I have a hard time with any game that doesn’t reward button mashing. Games have evolved away from that, but I’m still stuck on the idea that if you hit the buttons on Excitebike really fast, you’ll get really good. I realize that’s not how people play video games anymore, but I’m old.
Gameological: Don’t beat yourself up.
Leitch: But I do love sports games, even though they’ve gotten infinitely more complicated. They passed me by—not the games themselves, I love the games—just the actual playing of them. I actually wrote a column for Sports On Earth about this, about—what I do with sports games is I have them play each other. I have the computer play each other, and I kind of use it as a running background as I’m working throughout the day. Unusually nerdy, I know, but I kind of enjoy it. I feel it actually helps me cover sports. I don’t want the game to be ruined by my clumsy thumbs. My wife thinks, “Oh, my husband is a grown man who is watching the video game play itself.” But that’s what I do.
Gameological: I’m sure she’s not the only long-suffering video game wife out there.
Leitch: It was actually very disappointing this year, that you can no longer do seasons on Madden. Now they have that new Connected Careers or whatever it’s called. I don’t really understand. I’m sure it’s for hardcore gamers. I’m sure they’re more important customers than I am. But for me, one of the things I would do is simulate the season for my Arizona Cardinals. I know it’s very strange to see how good football players are through a video game, but they make them so accurately, so realistic, that I find it helpful. Not that I’m basing my predictions or analysis off of it, but I find it a useful way to get to know certain players I might not know very well. It’s particularly great for basketball, I think because the athletes are so into the games themselves, that they’re eerily accurate representations. I guess it helps that there aren’t as many players in basketball, and you can really go into detail. They’ve really got that down so well. My dad came to visit and I had the game playing on my screen, and it took him an actual minute to realize it wasn’t an actual game going on. That’s the main way that I “play,” quote, games anymore. I feel like once I start playing the game, it becomes something different.
Gameological: I don’t know if games have accurately captured the genius of JaVale McGee.
Leitch: That’s true. I’m not sure you can. I think that would require perhaps the construction of the Matrix. If you start trying to capture JaVale McGee, the game itself becomes self-sentient.
Gameological: Ah, the JaVale McGee singularity scenario.
Leitch: Well, today, the Knicks were talking about trading for Luke Ridnour, so I plugged him into the Knicks to see how it looks. I know a real actual analyst would watch game tape of the actual player, but this is what I do. I kind of enjoy the process of it.
Gameological: Best video game athlete of all time: Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson, RBI Baseball Andre Dawson, or NHL 96 Jeremy Roenick?
Leitch: It would be fun to go with Roenick, because I remember that game specifically, but nobody was better than Bo. I remember when Deadspin first started, one of the first really big posts that we had was when somebody put the track of Vin Scully calling Bill Buckner’s error to RBI Baseball. It’s pretty amazing. It’s somehow more tragic when you see Buckner, rather than have the ball go between the legs, just have the ball hit him and go “boop.” It’s a lot more tragic.
Gameological: Poor Buckner.
Leitch: That sound does a pretty good job of emulating what it’s like to watch your player make an error. It’s not like you made an error because you made a mistake as a player, or put him in the wrong place. It’s just that every once in a while, the game would decide, “Okay, you’re making an error.” I kind of enjoyed the justice of that.
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.