In the contemporary world, there is a great deal of interest among many people or companies in having the first of some kind. Cell phone providers brag about having the first new generation phone or next generation data network, and so on and so forth. Often, though, this initial advantage can be chimerical because other people can simply copy and improve what an innovator has done and quickly destroy any advantage that a first mover has. Once an innovation has proven itself to be worthwhile, there is only a little bit of time for one to profit off of it, assuming one cannot patent an advantage like in medical research and development, before someone else copies what is worthwhile and negates the advantage and therefore evening the score. Perhaps this search for a reputation as an innovator comes because of the reputation one gains as a creative and innovative person, even if advantages in technological innovation are often ephemeral rather than lasting and permanent.
Far more interesting, at least to me, are those companies or products that gain a reputation for being the last one of their kind. Admittedly, I am a bit of a plodder myself, rather than being someone who is quick to adopt new trends, and so I feel somewhat honor bound to defend those things which appear to be hopelessly declassè and out of date . Today I would like to talk about one of those things, something that I spend a great deal of time with but have not written about at any particular length, and that is NCAA Football 2014, a video game that I have never owned and never played. Now, it should be somewhat clear that I am very fond of reading and writing about and viewing college football, and my love for the game came about because as a child my great-grandfather and I would often spend time drinking root beer and watching games on television while he would smoke Cuban cigars and engage in mildly humorous but deeply offensive anti-Catholic rants about Notre Dame. From early in life, therefore, I paid a great deal of attention to bowl matchups and conference strengths and the vagaries of college football rankings.
It so happens that NCAA Football 2014 was the last of a series of games created by EA Sports that marketed to the audience that was fond of playing college football. For whatever reason, and there are likely to be a lot of reasons, no sequel or follow-up to this game has ever been released. It can only be played on the PS3 and not any of the current “next-gen” video game systems. By virtue of having been released more than five years ago at this point the game has to be updated to current rosters with painfully slow manual roster updates that fans of the game engage in, and several times recently there have been threats by the game’s designer to no longer support player versus player online gaming for this venerable title. To be sure, the game lacks some of the new bells and whistles that later games in, for example, the Madden NFL Football series have shown, and the graphics of the game are a bit staid as well. This is a game that looks its age, but it should be noted that the game is still played by a loyal and very active community of YouTubers whom I happen to regularly watch, who both create new colleges and bring them to glory (the University of Alaska, University of Georgia-Fairburn, and Ozark State among the ones I watch) and also bring sometimes obscure colleges like Florida Atlantic and Army-West Point to glory by showing how they can become national title contenders through able recruiting, training, and play.
There are many ways in which I find the gameplay of this title to be appealing. The various YouTubers show a great deal of their own personality by simply playing the game and making sometimes humorous commentary over the gameplay. We can hear them curse and complain about forced passes that turn into interceptions or drops by their defensive backs or wide receivers. Some video creators use humorous filters to show some personality and add sound affects to make big hits seem even bigger. At times one can even see behind the game to the real life unimportance of what is going on, as the gamer behind the UGF Pandas took a visit to mundane and rather ordinary Fairburn, Georgia and showed the real-life counterparts to the skilled imaginary video game football players that regularly appeared on his videos. As someone who likes sports and humorous commentary as well as imagination that allows unheralded and unknown schools to become national powerhouses–something that I wish would be the case for my beloved USF Bulls or Norwich Cadets–there is lot to enjoy about this game, even if I have never owned it nor ever even played it myself.
Even if one is not a fan of college football or video games, there is much of interest here. There can be a great deal of worth in being the last one of your kind. Videos about imaginary football powerhouses by people who are obscure regularly get tens or even hundreds of thousands of views. Clearly an audience this large is something that could be catered to, as at least a large portion of those who loyally watch these imaginary college football games would buy a game and play dynasties for themselves. Is it licensing with the NCAA itself that has proven to be so problematic that neither EA nor the NCAA has been able to find a way for both sides to make a great deal of money in a game that has lasting appeal? NCAA Football 14 would not be nearly the sort of nostalgic game it is in the absence of future updates, but even in the absence of this, there are people who consider this game itself to be worth buying a PS3 in order to play, and that is loyalty that deserves to be rewarded, especially since the game is not backwards compatible with the PS4. The fact that all of the players I have been familiar with in the series are men is something of interest as well for the gender studies writer in me, who wonders why it is that no women have made Wellesley or Smith College football powerhouses yet, something that would be absolutely hilarious to see. Who said that video games were completely devoid of depth or poignancy, for all of the way that they are frequently abused in contemporary discourse? There is something deeply poignant about a video game being the last one of its kind yet still soldiering on with loyal players and compelling content.
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