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.
Adam Wilson is the Brooklyn-based author of the novel Flatscreen and the forthcoming short story collection What’s Important Is Feeling. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He also contributed to A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss, And Football In Dillon, Texas. It’s fitting, then, that our talk mostly covered old sports games.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Adam Wilson: I’ve been playing some NBA Jam.
Gameological: That game is pretty old. Why NBA Jam?
Wilson: Well, my brother got me a Sega Genesis for my birthday, which was the system of our youth. And he also got me a few games for it. It’s actually not an original Sega Genesis. I guess they sold the rights to it to some Japanese company. It’s a new one that has wireless controllers, and also it has 81 game digitally inside of it. So that’s interesting. A new version of the system. It has all the Sonic games in it. It is called—I can tell you what it’s called, hold on—it is called AtGames. That’s the company that makes it.
Gameological: They’re just capitalizing on our nostalgia.
Wilson: Pretty much. I never really made it past the old systems. Once things got 3D on me, I kind of just gave up. I mean, I played a lot of [Nintendo] 64, but I was never good at it. Not much beyond that. But the sports game of old, especially, I always had a special knack for NHL’94 and then NBA Jam. I’ve been watching a lot of the NBA playoffs, so I decided to buy a copy of the game on eBay for like three bucks.
Gameological: You know, ESPN has been counting down the top 25 sports video games of all time.
Wilson: Oh really?
Gameological: Yeah. I’m sure NHL ’94 and NBA Jam are both on it.
Wilson: They gotta be. They gotta be. I actually once spent a year deeply involved in a Sega Dreamcast baseball game, whichever one they have. I was playing a season with like four other guys. We each had a team, but at some point the season got erased, like 100 games in. And that was it. I kind of swore off video games. I had to take a break, and think about how deeply involved I was.
Gameological: Get some perspective…
Wilson: Yeah. I remember I had a friend who played that Dreamcast game as the Red Sox, and every time the Red Sox played, he would play as them. He did the full nine month season.
Gameological: That sounds like a Red Sox fan. He could overcome the real-life disappointment by winning in the game. I’ve been kind of kicking around this idea that something fun has been lost in the drive toward realism in video game sports. The sillier arcade style games are no longer in fashion.
Wilson: The older ones have something goofy about them. I feel another thing that’s fun about them—these days, if I go over a friend’s house and play some sports game against him, the fact that he owns the game and has the system means he’s just going to destroy me no matter what. I feel like with these old games, even if you’re good, you can’t get that good at them.
Gameological: Yeah, NBA Jam basically requires you to run back and forth and dunk.
Wilson: Exactly. And it’s sort of fun that if friends come over, it doesn’t matter if they haven’t played this game in 10 years, or if they’ve never played. Like, I’ve been playing NBA Jam with my girlfriend. She has never even heard of it before, but it’s still fun, and she can still win. It doesn’t really matter. The level of skill is sort of negligible.
Gameological: I was at a barbecue a few weeks ago, and, true to form, stayed long past the time everyone had left and or passed out. My buddy and I played Streets Of Rage while moderately impaired. It took us five to 10 minutes to figure out that we weren’t supposed to be suplexing one another.
Wilson: I was just going to mention Streets Of Rage, actually. So I played that recently too. This system comes with the 81 games, right, and that includes all the Sonic games and a bunch of crappy games. And that includes the Streets Of Rage series. And when I first got it, I was like, Oh, I remember Streets Of Rage. That game is awesome. But then I started playing it, and I was like, this is the crappiest game ever. I mean, it was kind of fun, but I couldn’t figure out the strategy. You just walk around punching.
Gameological: The strategy is rage.
Wilson: Yes. It’s rage. That’s true. There are a few other games like that on here that are all pretty—I mean, you realize how good EA Sports was, comparatively. In terms of graphics and stuff. Some of those old games are terrible looking. Over Christmas, I was at my girlfriend’s parents’ house, and they still have a working original Genesis and Nintendo. Because they’re the type of people who don’t break things, I guess? I don’t know. In my family, every video game system ended up getting smashed by someone angry about losing. Like my brother took a hammer to our original Nintendo after I beat him one too many times in Tecmo Bowl.
Gameological: Do you remember that guy on the Giants kick blocking team? He was the fastest guy in the game, and that’s counting Walter Payton and Bo Jackson.
Wilson: Oh yeah. What was that guy’s name?
Gameological: I don’t think he had a name. Special teams players were nameless.
Wilson: Maybe this interview will finally get him the recognition he deserves.
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.