Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 4:10 pm  |  56 responses

Links: Games People Play

Digital good times…

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Today, a few words about video games. This has nothing to do with basketball, so skip it if you don’t want to read it.

Almost two weeks ago, just before I left for vacation, EA Sports dropped NCAA Football 11. I know Madden has become the gold standard for sports video games, but the NCAA series is my favorite game, mostly for the dynasty and career modes.

Even though I’m 30-plus, I play a lot of video games. Pretty much every night, once Wifey’s asleep, I fire up the PS3 and just veg out for an hour playing either soccer, football or baseball. Sometimes I’ll play a first-person shooter or an adventure game, but those are almost too intense. One Saturday when I was home alone, I’d spent three or four hours deep in some Tom Clancy game that required a bunch of sneaking around through the dark alleys of a run-down city. I turned off the game and turned on some travel show where the host was walking through dark alleys in a run down city, and I nearly yelled “Watch out!” when the host turned a corner without looking both ways. That was when I realized I probably needed to get out of the apartment for a bit.

The sports games are a little more brainless, requiring less strategy, more reacting. I keep coming back to these games because they’re the most relaxing part of my day. Most days, I spend all day at a computer juggling words and plans and thoughts and ideas. At the end of the day, pretty much every day, I’m fried. So video games have become my palette cleanser, a way to let my dome rest, my thoughts reorganize, new ideas bubble up. For me, video games are a way to temporarily think about nothing so that I can eventually think about something.

With the sports games, I love creating a character, starting at the bottom and trying to work my way to the top. It allows me to have the career playing or coaching that I never had, and gives me a narrative to follow that I can pick up and set down on my own timetable (e.g. pretty much every night). So when the newest version of NCAA dropped, I could barely wait to get home, throw it in and start a new career as a head coach at a low Division 1 school who, through terrific play schemes and shrewd recruiting, would quickly but methodically work my school into a BCS bowl and then leave the small college for a larger school, ultimately seeking my dream job at the University of Georgia, where I would settle down and coach for decades, winning an staggering streak of national championships.

I was about three minutes into my first game as head coach at Tulane when the PS3 suddenly just switched off. Weird, but not without precedent. I’ve had the same PS3 for about 4 years now. Sometimes it would get too hot and a loud exhaust fan would kick in, and occasionally it would freeze up in the middle of a game. But it had never just unilaterally decided to shut itself completely off in the middle of a game. When I tried to flip the PS3 back on, the machine refused, and the power light, which was usually either red (off) or green (on), flashed yellow, a color I didn’t even know it was capable of becoming. More than anything, I was confused by this — it was as if I’d pulled up to a red light in traffic and it turned blue.

Since I was leaving the next day on vacation, I didn’t really sweat it, other than to google “PS3 yellow light” and discovered that eventually some PS3’s die a valiant death. Considering the warranty on my PS3 had run out years ago, I had two choices: 1) Pay $150 to get a refurbished PS3; 2) Buy a new one.

Once I returned from vacation, I copped a new PS3. The was I see it, I had that last one 4 years and it worked like a champ. And I don’t expect much of anything that I buy to last over 4 years. So Tuesday night, I waited for Wifey to go to sleep, then went to the closet and removed the PS3 from where I’d hidden it in the hopes that Wifey wouldn’t noticed I’d dropped a few bills. I disconnected the old one, connected the new one and sat down to play some NCAA 11…only to realize the game disc was trapped inside the broken PS3! I ran and grabbed the broken system and plugged it in (in my kitchen), hoping that it would stay on long enough even to eject the disc. But it wouldn’t. So I went back to 2K10 The Show. (And my folks at EA are replacing my NCAA 11. Thanks!)

You know, I get it. Video games are for losers, for nerds, for kids. Whatever. Trying to relax, some people smoke, some people drink, some people shoot up, some people do all of that stuff. Maybe I’m getting old or something, but I just play video games. And I love ‘em. And I’ll keep playing for as long as I can.

I mentioned earlier how fried my brain gets from work, and a lot of that is because it seems like I’m always working on about 10 different projects at the same time. One thing I’ve tried to help out on a little bit is the magazine Antenna, a quarterly mag which is published by our parent company. I write little essays in each issue about stuff other than sports, and two years ago I wrote an essay (in the guise of a fake news story) about video games…

by Lang Whitaker

Amidst Controversy, Sanders Deleted In Career Prime

NEW YORK CITY (AP) — Video game characters around the world expressed emotions ranging from disappointment to outrage yesterday upon hearing the news that Snake Sanders, one of the most promising “MLB 08 The Show” video game characters of all time, had been deleted by his creator.

Sanders was 28 years old.

“We had a good run, but I felt it was time for us to part ways,” said Sanders’ owner, Lang Whitaker, a writer and video gamer who lives in Manhattan.

Sanders will leave behind a storied “MLB 08 The Show” career. In just his sixth major league season, Sanders, a dynamic second baseman, was leading the Colorado Rockies with a .345 batting average and 15 home runs at the 2017 All-Star break when Whitaker deleted him.

Sanders could not be reached for comment.

The deletion of Sanders wasn’t received well by many of the characters within the video game universe.

“If that Whitaker guy can delete Snake in the prime of his career, what chance do any of the rest of have?” wondered Oakland A’s left fielder Kanye LeBron, who was created as a character in “MLB 08 The Show” by Amarillo, Texas, video gamer Steven Jenkins. “This really sucks. If it can happen to Snake it can happen to anyone.”

In a statement issued by his publicist, Super Mario said, “Speaking on behalf of everyone in the Nintendo world, this seems like a horrific, cruel and unjust decision by Mr. Whitaker. We video game characters will not take this lying down.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Whitaker seemed oddly unaffected by the criticism. “Yeah, I deleted Snake,” he said, chuckling, not seeming to realize the backlash he’d generated. “And I’d do it again, too.”

Speculation amongst the video game characters seemed to suggest Whitaker deleted Sanders because he was simply tired of playing “MLB 08 The Show.”

“Oh yeah, Whitaker had definitely been playing less and less. He’d gone from a few hours every day to a few hours a week,” confirmed LeBron.

Whitaker denied boredom was behind his decision, stating he was curtailing his play of “MLB 08 The Show” because he was increasingly interested in the new release “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.”

Sources close to Whitaker’s wife insisted to the Associated Press that Whitaker had done little else after acquiring “Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.”

Whitaker declined to comment on the allegations except to say: “My personal decisions had nothing to do with the deletion of Snake Sanders.”

Sanders was created by Whitaker in March of 2008, soon after “MLB 08 The Show” was released. While Whitaker claimed he never intended to make Sanders physically resemble himself, Sanders and Whitaker shared the same birth date, hair color, facial hairstyle and height. Sanders did, however, weigh approximately 40 pounds less than Whitaker.

Many characters thought Sanders ended up looking more like actor Jake Gyllenhaal than Whitaker.

“If Whitaker thought he looked at all like Snake, he was insane,” said Sanders’ infield mate, the computer-generated Young-Il Ma. “That just shows you how self-absorbed Whitaker is.”

Whitaker named the character after two of his favorite retired athletes, Ken “Snake” Norman and Deion Sanders.

“I always name my video game characters after athletes I like,” Whitaker said, “or if I’m working on a story at the time, sometimes I’ll name a created character after whomever I’m writing about. Although there was that one stretch I spent playing the college football as Flava Flav. I actually won the Heisman with Flav.”

As an 18-year-old professional baseball rookie, Sanders signed with the Atlanta Braves organization, where he was assigned to the AA team in Mississippi.

Whitaker simulated most of Sanders’ first two seasons in the minor leagues, pausing occasionally to spend accumulated bonus points and increase Sanders’ ratings in offensive categories.

Going into the 2010 season, Whitaker forced Sanders to be re-assigned from the Braves organization to the New York Yankees.

“Even though I’ve been a Braves fan my entire life and would like nothing more than to play second base for the Atlanta Braves, if I had a better chance to play in the majors with another franchise, frankly, I’d have to consider it,” said Whitaker.

After Sanders played with the Yankees throughout spring training, New York declined to offer Sanders a contract.

In 2011, Whitaker sent Sanders to spring training with the Florida Marlins and suffered the same fate.

After sitting out a consecutive seasons, Sanders returned in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies and was offered a minor league contract with the AAA franchise, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

“That was a tough period, for both Snake and myself,” admitted Whitaker. “Neither of us wanted to be out of baseball for two seasons, but Snake was still young enough that we were able to wait for the perfect situation to come along.”

Midway through the 2012 season, Sanders was called up to the majors with the Colorado Rockies. After a brief adjustment period, Sanders shined. Before his deletion, Sanders was approaching 100 career home runs and had played in two major league All-Star games.

“I’m not going to lie to you: Deleting Snake was a load off my shoulders,” stated Whitaker. “I was starting to feel an insane sense of responsibility toward Snake. I needed to take a break, to move on. If I play the game again a few months from now I’ll just create a new player.”

“[Snake] had such a bright future…” said LeBron, his voice crackling with emotion. “It is really inhumane to just delete him like that.”

LeBron later added that the video game characters were talking about unionizing in order to avoid similar future situations.

Despite the vehement criticism, Whitaker was convinced deleting Sanders was the right thing to do.

“I don’t see why this is such a big deal. I mean, these are just video games. Aren’t they?”

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  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    I’m digging NCAA Football 11 too, Lang. Sorry about the PS3 too. 4-years-old is just too young to die. I’ll be sure to pour out a lil, er, something for it before I fire up the game later on and beat UGA for the SEC Championship…again. Roll Tide!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    “For me, video games are a way to temporarily think about nothing so that I can eventually think about something.” Truth. Although if, like me, you’re not very good at video games, you can start to think about how you’re not very good at video games instead of nothing at all. I wonder how many good ideas I’ve inadvertently blocked due to not being good at video games. Probably a few.

  • O

    Hey Lang, you need to fux with Dead Space, Batman: Arkham Asylum, God of War 3, Resident Evil 5 and Dantes Inferno.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Jake: That’s what rookie mode is for.

  • http://www.sonicbids.com doyouwantmore

    Hey Lang, quit being lazy and pretending you’re busy. Rationalizer! ;)

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    O: I played Arkham, GOW3 and Dante’s. Couldn’t get into any of ‘em. But I was completely obsessed with Assassin’s Creed 2. That game was crack and about 200 times better than the first game.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    Lang: Funny. Although truth be told, I’m too good for Rookie Mode. It’s that there’s no real level between Veteran and All Star to make things realistic enough for my skills. And I’m a Mets fan so all I really want is to end up with 86 wins and to be playing meaningful games in September. I tweak the controls sometimes, but I usually end up too far on one side or the other.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Jake: Mess with the sliders. Seriously. You can basically make a level in-between the levels.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jake Appleman

    Word. I’ll give it another try.

  • The D Train

    33 years old with 2 kids and I still dig my vids. Loved Assassin’s Creed 2, but it’s tough to find time playing those games when 3 and 7 year old daughters are running around. Just scored FIFA World Cup Soccer South Africa to tide me over till Madden. My oldest is a soccer nut, so it’s kind of fun to toss that on the PS3 and hang out with my kid. She makes a list of “tips” that she learns at practice, then I lie to her and say it helped when I get lucky enough to score a goal. Rookie level is the only reason I can even score, let alone trying to do a pull-back to get around some Brazilian dude. Pretty fun game, even for a beginning footballer, though. New Assassin’s Creed comes out this November…already told the wife it’s gotta be an early Christmas present.

  • The D Train

    And Lang, I’d says AC II is about 200 times better than almost any other game around. Seriously loved it that much. The last game I remember being that addicted to was Baseball Stars.

  • http://dez@nba.com dez

    its funny as i read this, bc my PS3 just started acting up last week. Wouldn’t recognize the cd. but the oddest thing, because if I turn the PS3 on its side, so its standing tall, everything works properly. And its only 2.5 years old. Still better than XBox’s Red Ring of Death

  • eyal

    Sad that we’ve gotten used to electronics kicking the bucket after 4 years. My super nintendo and gamecube still work flawlessly after 16 and 7 years respectively!

  • hoodsnake

    Anybody knows when GT5 will be released? They keep on pushing it back and back and back…

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Strangely, I like video games as an escape, but I don’t like unrealistic sports games.
    And I agree on those shooter games. You start thinking like the game is real. Like driving after playing GTAIV. That ish is dangerous.

  • total scrotal implosion

    Modern warfare 2 and nba 2k10

  • total scrotal implosion

    Very funny that u snuck a new ps3. She still hasnt found out? Lang must handle the money and bank accounts. ….. For me, video games are a lil different. When I was growing up, we didnt have them, no money for that kind of ish. So, I would play them when I was at a friends house who had them. First console I ever owned was a 360 in 08. Last year it was jacked , with many other items. So, I bought a 360 elite. Its fun to get on modern warfare 2 online and merc kids. And I create dynastys on 2k10. Its a fun way to release tension and a challenge at the same time

  • http://double-technical.blogspot.com zee!

    Lang, whats your gamer tag? Let me know if you wanna play NCAA 11.

  • http://bulls.com C-Lo_The_Great

    it must be that time every offseason where free agency went too soon and world championchips cant come soon enough

  • Jackie Moon

    No talk about Arash Markazi’s Lebron in Vegas piece on The Worldwide Leader?

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    I love the my player mode in nba 2k10. I played one season of Madden last year and copped 2k10 and haven’t put it down since.

  • http://www.twitter.com/NotebookNick NotebookNick

    My dad still does stuff like this in his 50s. He’s an inspiration to us all.

  • http://chugachugachugachuchu.blogspot.com/ BETCATS

    I enjoy making the Bobcats a super team where everyone is 99 everything. We were like the Miami Heat before the Heat even had that sort of idea.

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    I love playing that Myplayer mode on NBA2K10. I’m on my 3rd season as the starting point guard for the Celtics and I’m averaging a trip-dub.

  • total scrotal implosion

    In 2k8 I won a few titles with the warriors. Boom, jack, rudy gay, smoove, biedrins. Plus good bench. They couldnt handle that boom smoove pick n roll…….. And damn nick, he had the og pong huh?

  • Morgan

    Great piece, glad I read this first thing on a Friday. Its amazing how you have only gone through 1 PS3 in the same time as I’ve gone through four 360′s..they don’t build them like they used to I guess.

  • LOAF

    Call of Duty Online destroyed about half of my social Life for a period, along with Nazi Zombies spending hours upon hours shooting zombies High as a kite, was fun times…!

    MAss Effect for X Box is a good one! spend numerous hours on that life sucking game too and dont get me start on Final Fantasy…..

    Stragey Games are My Fave though, Command And conquer and what not!

    ALL about X Box and the HALO Series, though tempted to traitor to PS£ just for Metal Gear….

    though i am offically a retired GAMER!


  • http://www.boogiewilliams.com Boing Dynasty

    @Lang, playing videos games dosnt make you a loser, but sneaking a ps3 into ur place and hiding it in a closet so wifey dunno you spent some money does. Your now Ed Helms, in The Hangover.

  • Lebran

    Thanks to Red Dead Redemption i have virtually no life. And the small amount of real life i do still lead is filled with daydreams about lassoing innocent women, putting them on the back of my imaginary horse and riding to the nearest train track to watch them get squashed. That and shooting bears in the face.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    is that red dead redemption game more like GTA than the first one? I copped the first one, but while it was kinda tight, I was pissed there wasn’t as much opportunity to freelance like on GTA. I was interested in kinda cutting loose in the Wild West but all I could do was those crazy missions. And that “draw mode” was annoying.

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer


  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    RED… DEAD… REDEMPTION. Yes! Much better than Revolver. You can freelance forever. Just riding around on horseback is soothing. The hunting animals on the Great Plains is a great game in itself.
    LeBran, I did that to the FBI guy’s brother. He deserved it.
    And Lang, I too have been playing a myplayer baseball career, in 2K10. I hit one off Joba that still hasn’t landed. He tight.


    I was at the ea nyc showcase last month and let me tell you, madden 11 is as good, if not better than all its predecessors. also, like Lang, i don’t play many action/adventure games at all. They’re just too exhausting but dead space 2 is truly amazing.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    That sneaking around game was probably Splinter Cell, the new Splinter Cell Conviction is out. Sports games are the best, I play them all the time at night once wifey sleep too. Madden 10 is the game, and NBA 2K10 my player mode is tight. The new Madden 11 demo sucks, they added this strategthy pad crap where making audible slow. Also some of the deer hunter and soccer games are fun too. Even played some tight tennis games too. Plus XBOX 360 is the system, you can play more people online and the graphics is not that much different. Also Xbox 360 coming out with the Kinetic system to play games by just moving your hands and feet without controller, it is going to blow the Wii out the water. BOOK IT!!

  • chingy

    Lang! I had EXACTLY the same problem…except its my 2k10 that is stuck inside. Too bad I’m a working student so a new PS3 is not yet an option :(

  • The D Train

    Red Dead Redemption is totally worth the price-tag. Riding through the plains when the sun sets is totally relaxing, as Sam noted. Lots of cool side missions, and I found the cattle rustling and lassoing the wild horses to be shockingly entertaining. I was hollerin’ at my wife, “you gotta come see me rustle up these cattle!” I’m not much on the cowboy-style stuff, but damn, they made a nice game with that one.

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  • total scrotal implosion

    If u got modern warfare 2 on xbox live, get at me, GODSHAMGOD913. Also, u guys are makin me want to get red dead

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I got Red Dead when it dropped and never had a chance to really play it. You guys are making me want to get it out tonight…

  • gregor

    I once made a Memphis Grizzlies team with 16 straight championships and 5 players with MVPS. Simulated each season too. And I think the top player was rated 95 in his prime if i remember properly.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    AC II > anything else.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I got myself running around as the 2nd yr man out of Australia – PG for the Dallas Mavericks. Rookie season with the Grizzlies, average about 8pts and 8 assists a game (4 min quarters)… I find it real hard actually.

  • Vish

    This is awesome. I live half way around the world in India and its crazy that the evolution of gamers worldwide is the same. From Nintendo to PS2 to PS3′s, we are a gaming generation…
    I am 30 and don’t see myself stopping gaming. Gaming is therapy, leisure and time out combined.

    great article….

  • Vish

    This is awesome. I live half way around the world in India and its crazy that the evolution of gamers worldwide is the same. From Nintendo to PS2 to PS3′s, we are a gaming generation…
    I am 30, married and don’t see myself stopping gaming. Gaming is therapy, leisure and time out combined.
    Wifey understands….for now

    great article….

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  • str8 from samoa

    im sick of my games already. just waitin on that 2k11 haha

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    yeah i’m waiting on 2k11 also. I got real sick of the 2k10 blips and freezing on occassion.

  • Zamhar

    ‘You know, I get it. Video games are for losers, for nerds, for kids. Whatever.’ Don’t sell yourself short, Lang. Recent statistics show that the average videogamer is in their early 30s. It’s become a viable hobby for many adults. It’s also one of the few industries that can sustain high sales no matter the economic situation. Videogames are a billion dollar industry and even academics like myself have started researching videogames as a field of study. Games HAVE come a long way since the days of Pong and Pacman.

  • The Philosopher

    PacMan is the G.O.A.T.

  • Ronald

    Shut up Philosopher. @Zamhar: You’re totally right. A lot of people hate on games and gamers but claim that they rather watch a movie and/or T.V for a few hours because it is more intellectual challenging/artistic. They don’t understand that VGs are more stimulating and that a few decades ago people were condemning the Cinema and TVs for being a “fad” and that it had no artistic value.

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    Yo new school I’m very happy for you and Imma let you finish but Super Smash Bros. 64 was the greatest video game of all time.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Man, I used to murk cats on that Super Smash Bros! Fox McLoud was that dude!

  • total scrotal implosion


  • Boom Dizzle

    Completely hooked on fm10 right now!!! Takes about 5/6 hours of my day

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