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Madden NFL 10 loudly and proudly proclaims itself as the best NFL game on the market. But look a little closer and you'll realize that it is the only NFL game on the market. And it sucks.

Madden 10: Everything you'd expect a game featuing gang tackling to be.

If you haven't been playing Madden since 1989, don't bother picking up the controller unless your idea of a good time is sitting in rush hour traffic while the car next to you plays music you can't stand loud enough for you to hear over the sound of the horn blaring from the car behind you. Everything about the game is designed not for the football enthusiast but for the Madden-ophile, though the game would attempt to berate you into believing that the two terms are synonymous with its derogatory help text and insulting in-game commentary.

By "help text" I really mean "sarcastic text." Because while the instruction booklet includes an entire page devoted to button combinations for establishing a "Defensive Playmaker" without ever defining what exactly that is, its advice on how to complete a forward pass is limited to "Throw the Ball: X, A, B, Y, or LB." Needless to say, this "instruction" is surprisingly inadequate to the task of conveying the exact level of skill needed to get the ball to what would appear to be a wide open receiver but is in fact a masterfully created interception beacon for the CPU's defense.

Byzantine menus require hours of exploration to decipher. Franchise mode alone shows more non-football data about your team than you could glean in an entire week's worth of NFL Network coverage. Taking the time to navigate the dozens of unexplained play-calling options means that you hear only slightly more delay-of-game penalty whistles than in-game Snickers advertisements. (I'm not kidding: they're everywhere: Snickers heavily subsidized a game that still costs more than $60.) At any given time, there is more information on-screen than F-22 fighter pilots have in their 21st-century HUDs, which is kind of appropriate, as this "game" is more flight-simulator than sports recreation.

If you, like me, haven't at this point in life mastered Madden, the game insinuates, you don't know shit about football. Which is demonstrated in the game's only 2 levels of difficulty: Rookie, which is about as much like real football as a rousing game of Duck, Duck, Goose, and What-The-Fuck-Do-You-Think-You're-Doing-Noob? The learning curve is so steep that "imminent-failure cliff" is a better term to describe it.

So I guess if I don't know it by now, I never will. Oh, well. I just wanted to play an intuitive football game with my favorite teams and players. If Madden's too difficult for me, I guess I'll just go play... oh, that's right. Thank you, EA and NFL for your exclusive contracts. Nevermind.

I should note that the game isn't all bad. My favorite part of the game is the list of Hall of Famer players. Not that you can play them. It's just a list. Embedded in a video game. Taking up space. It's not even a complete list. Among those missing from the list of HoF members is none other thanJohn Madden, the man known for introducing the fun and excitement of the NFL to generations fo fans. And that really about sums this whole game up.

Welcome to Batman and Football Month, everybody!

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After completely schooling me at NCAA Football 2006 on the PS2, my brother made the horrible mistake of trying to teach me to play his favorite card game, Cribbage. (Note, please, that my brother was playing the mighty Georgia Bulldogs, a team boasting two recent Heisman Trophy candidates and a National Championship, and he had given me the lowly Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, a team that couldn't find its ass with three hands and a sliderule. In the first quarter, I tried 4 passes: 3 went to receivers that I DID NOT throw to -- seriously, pressing triangle and watching the ball sail to the R1 or circle receiver gets really, really old very, very fast. Apparently the computer decided that my pressing the triangle button only constituted a suggestion -- and were not caught. The 4th pass was intercepted. I did not attempt another pass until the 4th quarter, when I went an entire drive calling ONLY Hail Marys, 4 of 5 of which were completed, resulting in my only touchdown of the game. In a fit of pique, I ran my linebacker into the offensive line before every future attempted play, preventing my brother from ever running a play again because the game was not programmed to prevent me from repeating the gambit as a real referee would do by ejecting players or ultimately declaring my team forfeit. So, to summarize, NCAA Football 2006, like all the Madden games on which its physics and rules are based, sucks balls.)

Now where was I? Oh, yes. The so-called "game" of Cribbage.

Cribbage, it should be noted, was apparently the invention of a seventeenth century poet named Sir John Suckling. After making up a shitload of completely inane and nonsensical rules, he reportedly passed marked decks out to the English nobility and traveled the country ripping them off for a small fortune. Though at first hearing, that anecdote may seem ridiculously implausible, once you realize that only a truly foolish individual would appreciate a completely random game such as Cribbage, you will recognize the likelihood of such a misadventure.

In case you can't tell, I think Cribbage sucks. But what else should I expect as the offspring of a poet named Suckling?

If you've never played Cribbage, I can sum it up thusly:

  1. The Deal: The dealer deals everyone 6 cards and then everyone throws 2 of those 6 away.
  2. The Play: Take turns turning over the 4 cards that you kept. Every time you turn over a card, yell out a number and then score yourself anywhere between 0 and 12 points.
  3. The Show: Once you all have turned over all 4 of your cards, reveal how many ways you can combine the cards that you turned over plus the top card revealed from the remaining deck to total 15 points or just create some pattern that you find pleasing to your eye. Then give yourself anywhere between 0 and 29 points.
  4. The Crib: Now the dealer gets to look at all the cards that were thrown away and repeat step 3.

I'd like to say that there is some sense to the game, but there simply isn't. A player is rewarded for reaching an odd-numbered 15 points or having pairs which can never add to an odd number. Triples are scored as multiple pairs but runs of cards are scored by the number of cards in a run, thereby rewarding a player holding a three-of-a-kind but comparatively punishing a player for having a much rarer Royal Flush. Playing a run is worth more points than having a run in your hand. You get a point for playing a card that prevents other people from playing, unless the added total of the cards played equals 31, in which case you get 2 points instead. Rhyme? Reason? No, not with Cribbage.

When my brother revealed a Jack of Clubs and with a chuckle said, "I get a point because this card is the same suit as the card that is on top of the deck," I was done playing.

There is a Star Trek episode titled "A Piece of the Action" in which Kirk tries to trick aliens who look and act like Al Capone's gang by luring them into a card game called Fizzbin. As one of my favorite episodes, I've seen Fizzbin played many, many times. Since Kirk's rules for Fizzbin change based on times of the day or days of the week, I always chuckled at the gullibility of the gangster trying to learn the game. Now the poor gangster seems that much more the sap to me; Fizzbin probably sounded like a likely game to him because he was probably a Cribbage player.

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To be continued...

 

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