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.
Drew Magary is a longtime columnist for Deadspin and Gawker and a GQ correspondent with a penchant for brutal honesty on such topics as the NFL, cooking, and fatherhood. He is the author of a science fiction novel, The Postmortal, and an upcoming book on modern parenting, Someone Could Get Hurt, out May 16. Magary talked to The Gameological Society about finding time to play Angry Birds and why he can’t hang with present-day Madden games.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Drew Magary: [Laughs.] Because I am old, I am lame, I am playing Angry Birds Seasons. Because I’m old. I would like to have better control over my gaming life and have an Xbox and stuff like that. I’m not going to get one for the kids because it’ll just ruin their lives. So I can’t. I had Temple Run on the phone, but as you know, if you have it on the phone, you’ll just play it 20 hours a day, and your brain will just rot.
Gameological: I had to do the exact same thing because I felt like I wasn’t getting any better at it. I just kept dying in the same spot, but I kept wanting to play it for some reason.
Magary: Oh, yeah, you die every time. Existentially, it’s such a rough game because you always start in the same place, and if you’re lucky, you get 2,000 meters. Then you just die.
Gameological: And that’s it.
Magary: I was so pissed when I found out that they had other characters you could play. And I was like, “Oh, I definitely want them because they probably have special powers.” Like, one would jump extra high, or one would have triple sliding powers or something like that. But they did nothing! You turned into a girl. Who cares?
Gameological: I saw one that was a football player, and I thought that looked pretty cool.
Magary: Yeah, but he can’t do anything. It’s not like he’s fast. He can’t nudge the flying monkeys out of the way with his superior hip-checking abilities. Also, I had Dooors on my phone, this puzzle game, and it was like some Japanese game. You always have to sort out a puzzle that opens a door. Like, there was a fire in the corner, and you had to place the fire underneath the chandelier, and stuff like that. I like games like that because it provides me with the illusion that I’m curing my own Alzheimer’s. Like I’m preventing it.
Gameological: You’re keeping your mind active so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Magary: I’m doing this brainless activity, and I’m like, “This is so stimulating! For my brain! This is going to be so good.”
Gameological: Do you pretty much only play games on your phone because you don’t have time or because of the kids?
Magary: I don’t have time to fit it in because of the kids, and I didn’t have an iPhone until a few months ago, so it’s kind of new to me. And it’s nice to have something to do when I go into the shitter. It’s probably ruining my marriage because my wife will catch me playing Angry Birds, and she’s like, “I know what you’re doing.” I just do it right in front of her and don’t think she’s seeing me. She’s totally seeing me. I’m out in the open.
Gameological: I think when everybody gets their iPhone, they go through their Angry Birds thing.
Magary: Yeah. I’ve gone through all of—I’ve almost gone through all of them. This is the last one that I’ve done through. Once I get through all of that, I’ll probably never look at it again. Also, I have the free iPhone, so it has like half a gig in it. So every time I download a new game, I have to sacrifice an old game. It’s video game triage.
Gameological: That’s kind of good, though. You don’t clutter up with a bunch of stuff you don’t ever play.
Magary: I downloaded Real Racing, and this other one where you’re falling all the time. I never play any of it. Stupid. I used to play a lot more before I had kids. I had a Nintendo 64. I was always one behind on platforms. When I was a kid, we had the Sega Master System instead of the NES, and then I had the Genesis instead of the SNES. Although the Genesis had a little bit of a moment. And then I had an N64 instead of the PlayStation. The PlayStation took off when I was in college. I was good at N64 Madden, but all the other kids were good at PlayStation Madden, and my skills did not translate as well. A lot of times, I would just stay in my room and get drunk and play Super Mario 64 or Ocarina Of Time, which is a great game.
Gameological: Do you ever revisit Madden? Do you ever play as the Vikings? I know you’re a big Vikings fan.
Magary: No, because now it’s so real that—like, I used to like the sports game when you could figure out a way to score 100 points. You were like, “Oh, I just do this play.” Or, “Oh, I just run punt block, and they’ll fumble the ball everytime.” I liked it when it wasn’t particularly real. And now it’s so real, and I’m so behind now that I’ll never catch up. I’ll never be as good as I used to be. And there’s just too much other crap I have to do. I can’t get good at it. It’s one of those things where if you’re young, you have the time. You’ll have 40 free hours in a weekend to just dedicate to that. I can’t do that. I have to buy fucking groceries.
Gameological: I spent hundreds of hours playing Joe Montana Football when I was younger. And you’d run a halfback option on first down from your own two-yard line, and you score a touchdown.
Magary: Yeah! Yeah. It’s great.
Gameological: I tried to pick up Madden recently, and you’ve got to call actual defenses and stuff. It doesn’t do it for me either.
Magary: There’s too much actual coaching, which is terrible. Like, the actual job of coaching is just awful. No one would really ever want to do it if they weren’t thrusted into the situation. Only crazy people want to coach. I don’t want to be a coach. I want to be the guy who scores a billion points. I’m a glory boy. I want to be the one who scores all the touchdowns.
Gameological: When you were in college playing Madden, did you ever betray your own team by playing as a team that wasn’t the Vikings?
Magary: I had it when they didn’t necessarily have the agreement with the NFL. So Minnesota was basically “Minneapolis.” You didn’t have the player names, and it was really awful. It just sucked. I’d always play it as the Vikings, but it was always much better when your team was at least named after your city. The fact that the Vikings were in Minneapolis in the game just grated on me.
Gameological: If you stuck around with Madden until the late ’90s, you could have played it as Randy Moss and Culpepper.
Magary: Yeah. That would’ve been great. But now I’d be terrible at all of that. I wouldn’t even be good at old Madden anymore. There was one run where, like, emulators a big thing. Like a few years ago you could get the NES emulators on your computer and I had a Tecmo Bowl run where I played for, like, a year. Like, I did the Bo Jackson thing. So exciting.
Gameological: Are you afraid to get a console in the house because you’re afraid your kids are going to kick your ass one day, and you’ll just feel old?
Magary: I know they’ll kick my ass, but I don’t get it for growth and development reasons. They’ll turn into 500-pound mongoloids, and everything will be ruined if I do that. We’re holding out as long as we can.
Gameological: Do you think it’s because games are so much more realistic now? When we were kids, games were very cartoony. And now there’s Call Of Duty. Do you think that factors into it?
Magary: There are literally first graders that my kid knows who are playing Call Of Duty. That’s insane. Like, you’re in first grade! You shouldn’t be playing Call Of Duty. Even though I support war games and shooting people virtually. I’m all for it. But to have first graders doing it, I don’t know if anything good can come from that.
Gameological: It’s a little too real.
Magary: It’s too real, and plus, it’s so in-depth and so involving, they eventually want to do that more than anything else. The old video games you just had till you’d done enough. And occasionally, they had that glitch where you just couldn’t get past one level and finally got up to go read a book or something.
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.