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By Paul Meekin
If you’re a nerd of a certain age, you’ve pirated a game. Be it using an SNES or Sega Genesis Emulator to play classics you couldn’t afford as a kid, downloading all of the Leisure Suit Larry Games to see some pixelated wabos, or, in my case, trying most everything you could get your grubby little hands on.
One of these games was “Tom Landry: Strategy Football.”
Released in 1993 for the PC – it was not what you’d think of a typical football game. You did not control the Quarterback. You did not hit a button to sling passes. Instead you were essentially Tom Landry. Calling plays, using a 4-3 Defense against a pro-set. Switching to the dime or the nickel based on a four-or-five wide receiver set, blitzing, dropping LBs into coverage, line shifts, and other football nerd stuff.
It was, in a word, intense. In another word, it was educational. This was a foundational game. Teaching the nuances of football in a way games like “Madden Football,” or even a standard ESPN broadcast, glaze over.
I’m unsure how successful the release was. Probably not very as it never got a sequel. It was not ‘accessible’. It was a Football Encyclopedia when most of the fans were hooked on phonics.
I downloaded it from the legendary Abandonware site Home Of The Underdogs, played it, loved it, and moved on.
Until a curious day, more than a decade later. Pro Strategy Football on the iOS app store caught my fancy. I downloaded it. It felt…dated and in a way, needlessly complicated – but I loved it. I loved it because it was the best football game on the platform, because it *was* a complicated football game on a platform synonymous with streamlining, and because it reminded me of Tom Landry Strategy Football.
Because I’m a nerd and think I know everything, I e-mailed feedback to the developer – what I loved, what the game could use, and how it reminded me of “Tom Landry: Football.” Turns out Pro Strategy Football was by the same guy. Mr. Batts.
What a small world. We hit it off and became Facebook friends, but it turned out he was possibly the worst thing imaginable to liberal ole me: a conservative.
A…religious conservative. Ick.
But in between religious posts, anti-Barack Obama memes, and Fox News stories – there was a human being. A man who took evening walks, a man obsessed (and I mean obsessed) with grilling.
A guy who made a game that supercharged my love of Football and made me ‘that’ guy who talked about the zen of a team and formations and who told my friends to watch the offensive line, not the quarterback, if you want to know how a given play is going to go.
Clearly this person couldn’t be all bad. As the 2016 election raged on, occasionally one of those evil Fox News stories would make a point. Occasionally something religious touched me in an soulful way.
Thanks in part to insane partisan politics, a raging ‘left’ and a raging ‘right’ I found myself desperate to understand as much as possible, and this dude’s Facebook wall was my cipher.
Of course he didn’t speak or all conservatives, but he was my barometer for what the ‘average’ well meaning conservative thought and believed and shared and cared about.
Mostly grilling… but also politics. A woman’s right to choose, and about his personal, negative, experience with healthcare premiums in the wake of Obamacare.
Then Donald Trump won. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said reach across the aisle; try to understand ‘how this happened’. The left. My left. My side. My tolerant ideology ignored that advice wholesale. Instead they resorted to the same tactics and vitriol and anger they accused ‘the right’ of.
Now, all of a sudden, Mr. Batts wasn’t a ‘not that bad guy’. He was a good guy. A good guy who saw his world changing rapidly without particularly caring about him or his concerns because he was white and in Texas.
In fact, you could argue a lot of people on ‘the left’ would read “White Texan” and immediately assume enemy.
I’m glad I didn’t.
Games have an overwhelming ability to educate and entertain and connect us. Everyone plays games – it’s a community and niche unto itself. Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Women, Men, Transgendered people are all a part of it and care so passionately about it because Mainstream Media got it so wrong for so long and still does.
The Sports Gaming community is even more galvanized because *gaming* media routinely disregards the genre because they’re not ‘core’ titles.
But somehow, a silly little football game where you don’t even technically play football, put me on a path to a cultural enlightenment of sorts. The notion we’re all people and we’re all connected and if we let petty things like labels separate us or insulate us, we’re doomed.
I’m not religious, but Christ that’s a hell of a thing to be coincidence alone.
(Curious note: The first article I wrote for this website was about Abortion – an article the 34th most popular Libertarian website refused to run. It was the lefts and rights of the argument, the confusion and frustration regarding the laws surrounding it, and the nuclear radiation associated with anyone trying to make any sort of nuanced point on the subject.)
Of everyone to offer feedback, pro-lifer Mr. Batts said I made some very good points. Keep in mind the article advocated a pro-choice mentality.
Well shit. I might just move to Texas. It could possibly be the most tolerant place on earth.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The views expressed are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic or its sponsors.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t add a postscript here – Abandonware is important. Preserving old games and allowing folks, especially poor folks, the ability to play them – for free – is so foundational to kids curious about computing, engineering, electronic history, and fun – that I suggest everyone go play an old game immediately.
I am of the mind if we ever wanted to reform IP Patent Law, that there should be some sort of caveat for those who download and play old games for obsolete systems on their new hardware. Maybe give it a 13 year half-life, or something like that – Commercial rights remain with the developer, but a commons license exists after a certain number of years. Who knows.
In fact, Archive.Org is swimming in classics. Sega Genesis. Arcade. PC-DOS. Windows. You can play them all there, for free, in your web browser. It is a video-gaming museum – and publicly funded by people like you. No tax payers.