In my apartment, we have an Xbox 360; we have four games for the Xbox and by far the game we play the most is NHL 2014. It’s not that NHL 2014 is one of the stand-out hockey video games ever created, in fact it’s just okay if we’re going off of ratings, but it is a lot of fun considering the fact that more than two people can play comfortably at one time and it gets extremely competitive.
Wesley and I are the primary players in the apartment and, since moving in last August, we have progressed through the difficulty levels: first rookie, then pro, then all star and finally superstar. Wesley and I playing together can beat the computer nine times out of ten on superstar, mainly because we are now savvy to the computer’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, we know we have to try extra hard in the third period if there is a goal differential of less than two with less than 10 minutes remaining. For some reason the computer becomes near invincible at the end of the game and will score at the last minute to win the game and cause you to damage your controller by violently throwing it against the ground. Sometimes this happens. But the computer does have weaknesses as well. The late one-timer is a near guaranteed goal if performed flawlessly and the spin-o-rama is the most effective deke. Backhands are absolutely useless and should not be attempted. You can absolutely demolish players 3 seconds after the whistle. Above all you can do the most amazing goal celebration ever by pressing the left trigger button immediately after a goal and making your player do this:
It’s good luck and you need to do it after each goal. Wesley and I are convinced it gives you a competitive advantage by pissing off the computer / the other opponent in a way that is utterly savage and disrespectful.
Wesley and I usually play on a certain setting called high-impact. This increases the entertainment factor of the game exponentially because the players are much faster and hit each other much harder. An increase in hitting also increases the amount of fighting, which after you do for the first couple of times, gets really annoying and distracts from the flow of the game.
Wesley and I also play one v. one just about every other night, and we are about equal in skill. Although I have more wins that Wesley at the moment, Wesley tends to beat me by larger margins when he does win. Wesley and I often curse the “RN jesus” that sometimes strikes our goalies with a plague that involves them transforming into useless sieves. For the most part, the game randomly decides whose shots will go in more often than the other’s, but the game does a great job into fooling you that you are just amazingly talented.
Now, I totally understand that nobody reading this will give a damn about NHL 2014 or video games in general, but it’s not about the game itself. It’s about how something that started out being a stupid and frivolous activity becomes something more. Just by virtue of wanting to blow off some steam by doing nothing, you get to know the game intimately in a way that you never thought you would. Whenever I think back about my senior year in college, I’m going to think about playing NHL 2014 with Wesley until 2:30 in the morning because we vowed not to sleep until we beat the game on superstar. To some, including my girlfriend, it’s a stupid waste of time, but to me it’s a bit more meaningful than that. It’s about camaraderie, competition, laughs and simply developing a skill in something completely random. It’s amazingly fulfilling, even if I’m the only one who will ever understand why.