Brand New Low

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 30, 2008

This is the fourth entry into a series about great moments from my gaming past. These wrinkles in time refuse to go away in my conscience, and I want to get them down before all the details are lost. The events are not in chronological order.

I’m not sure if it was Christmas ’94 or ’95, but this wrinkle deals with NFL 95 for the Sega Genesis and a specific memory I have of it.

My dad is a good sport. Back when all I had was the Genesis, he would humor me and play a few games now and then. We didn’t play them too long, because back then I didn’t have the, how shall I say, the “patience” I have with others when it comes to games that I do today.

I’m referring to little-used practice of letting someone else win. This involves knowingly backing off of someone who may not be as good as you, or just doesn’t know how to play a game as well. Ever tried it? Sadly, I’m doubt few people have; but, I find it essential in keeping friendships going and new people coming to the table of video games.

That said, I didn’t practice “patience gaming” with my dad enough when I was growing up. Racing games, fighting games (Street Fighter II: Special Championship Edition), etc. – it didn’t matter. I would crush him as soon as I mastered the game. This put him at a distance; he didn’t really want to play with me anymore – and looking back, I can’t blame him.

All this changed whenever I received NFL 95 as a Christmas present. After the celebration, we sat down and spent some good quality time with the (virtual) pigskin. I won’t get into the details of the game play, but we were pretty evenly matched and had a great time. I knew he enjoyed it because even after we came home late from my grandma’s house, he asked me if I wanted to play some more – which of course I did. It was great.

Now I’d like to say that we had many more football sessions after that, but that would not be the case. You see, by that evening, my skill had begun to pull away from his…and that put us right back where we started: me constantly winning and the joy being sucked out of the game for him.

This ending may not seem happy, but it is – I got to bond with my dad over video games, and it taught me that sometimes you can have the most fun without winning all the time. (To be fair, I didn’t learn that lesson that night, but eventually…)

I’m not likely to ever play NFL 95 again, but every Christmas I’m reminded with a smile of some good times with my dad – and what a good sport he is.

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