04 September, 2007

Why we give ourselves 'The Claw'

The trend towards living vicariously through an electronic intermediary is more obvious today than ever before, with easy opportunities to shop, stalk (sorry, “socially interact”), adopt actual children and most importantly, play football like the ghost of George Best.

The advances since these early games to the modern re-incarnations of the FIFA and ISS (or Pro Evo for those of you born after 1990) series are staggering, so we at STT feel that it’s about time people asked: Are we at the stage where modern console football is better than playing real-life football? You know, outside…on actual grass…physically kicking a ball yourself.

Taking a cursory glance at the obesity of the majority of today’s youth, I’d say it’s pretty obvious where their allegiances lie, but as a slightly (whisper it) older computer gamer, I would always happily throw my friend’s X-Box 360 out of a window given half the chance to nutmeg a real person and call it, or chip an actual goalkeeper. There are even added health and social benefits that I need not spell out, but at the end of the day, personally nothing will ever top that feeling of scoring a wonder-volley or puling off a textbook Maradona spin.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the jeering/outright violence that comes from Pro Evo, and there is definitely some perverse satisfaction of waking up the morning after playing a World Cup with what pilots refer to as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and what seasoned players will know as ‘the claw.’ At heart, it’s a geek’s game played by absolute hooligans, but herein lies its hook; no matter if you’re fat, thin, tall or short, the Pro Evo field is level. That fat, pale, fast-food dependant friend of yours can compete, and rather than seeing it as a fun football simualtor, he is able to see Matrix-style to the core of the game. Futhermore, nature has seen it fit to offset his natural ‘big bones’ with a secret weapon far beyond the realm of human physicality – fingers more powerful than Lindsey Lohan’s inner thighs.

His moments of glory are emphasised by another key difference between the two schools: when you are put to the sword in Pro Evo, there are no excuses. That childhood injury that stopped you from playing for West Ham, or any amount of cigarettes and booze, do not carry into the electronic realm, making every defeat that bit more wrist-slittingly personal. I’ve seen chairs put through windows, proper punches thrown, and friendships genuinely ruined over those simple polygons. In perhaps the greatest case of bad-sportsmanship I have ever come across, a friend of mine even destroyed his copy of FIFA ’04 after losing and sent a letter, along with the broken pieces of the disc, to EA Sports (makers of the FIFA series) to complain about the standard of the refereeing in the game after what he saw as a perfect goal was disallowed. Suffice to say he didn’t receive a response.

Still not convinced of Pro Evo’s validity in the football realm? Let me put it this way then: computerised football is literally as close as you will actually ever get to destroying Arjen Robben with a tackle of the ferocity normally reserved only for Mortal Kombat fatalities…over and over and over again…

So what are we left with? I guess each mode of the beautiful game has its advantages…perhaps if we were to integrate the best elements of computerised football into the Premier League, that would be a happy compromise. Therefore each player has to be incredibly stoned, and everyone has a magic ‘through-ball’ button then right?