Armaddengeddon Part III

Part I | Part II

The regular season is over. Some stats for you:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 2,244 yards, breaking the record previously set by Houston Oilers running back Eric Dickerson in the 1984 season. Dickerson had 2,150. Jamal Lewis surpassed that mark as well, but just barely, rushing for 2,158 yards.
  • Ty Law finished with 18 interceptions, besting Night Train Lane’s mark by four. Samari Rolle (Titans) and Aeneas Williams broke it as well, finishing with 15. Andre Woolfolk ended up with 14, tying the mark.
  • Olindo Mare of the Dolphins made 46 field goals. Martin Gramatica made 45. Joe Nedney and Morten Anderson made 44. Billy Cundiff had 42 and Brett Conway had 41. All of these broke then then-record of 40. 1)The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.
  • Our boy Jeff Smoker finished with four passing touchdowns, being the only player in the entire NFL to hit that mark. On the other hand, our other boy Ricky Ray finished with 61 interceptions, breaking Blanda’s mark by 19. Ten other QBs threw 42 or more picks, including Smoker.
  • Only five quarterbacks broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Kurt Warner led them all with 1,127 yards, which would have ranked 39th had it happened during the 2014-15 NFL season. The other four were Peyton Manning, Aaron Brooks, Smoker, and Tom Brady. Ricky Ray missed the cut with 935 yards.
  • The highest completion percentage was 31%, which belonged to several QBs. The lowest mark on ESPN’s scale for the 2014-15 season was 55%, which ranked 33rd out of 33 qualifying players.
  • On a team-wide scale, four teams (Broncos, Cardinals, Texans, Lions) finished with a points-per-game mark of less than 8.75, the record for fewest points scored per game in a 16-game season. 2)1992 Seahawks. The Broncos were worst of all with 8.1. Defensively, three teams finished with points-allowed-per-game totals of less than 10, which all break the current NFL record. The WPFT finished with 8.9, bested only by the Ravens with 8.4.

In all, the entire NFL threw 50 touchdowns to 1,568 interceptions. For a comparison, the 2014-15 NFL season had 807 passing touchdowns to 450 interceptions. Truly this is the Dark Era. But at least the Dark Era’s in the playoffs! Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part III

Notes   [ + ]

1. The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.
2. 1992 Seahawks.

Armaddengeddon Part II

Part I

Week 1 results were consistent with that Colts/Pats game. Only one quarterback at all surpassed a hundred passing yards: A.J. Feeley. But his interception habit carried over from the preseason, too: he had the most with six. Two others (Chris Weinke for the Panthers, Craig Krenzel for the Bears) had five. Here’s the most worrying stat of all, though: only two quarterbacks threw a touchdown. One touchdown each for Jeff Smoker of the Rams and Joey Harrington of the Lions. That’s actually one touchdown more than Jeff Smoker threw for in his actual, real life career, so good for him! 1)He was a rookie at the time Madden 2005 came out. Smoker never saw any actual NFL action. It just goes to show you when there’s an equal(ly terrible) playing field, you never know what might happen.

The highest completion percentage anyone could muster came from then-rookie Matt Schaub of the Falcons, who went 10 for 25. 40%. Are the computer-controlled coaches and players of Madden NFL 2005 smart enough to bark up another tree when it turns out their QBs have turned to dust? Actually, kind of. There were actually a couple of high scores this week, owing to some teams with strong rushing attacks. We had an NFL record, actually. Jamal Lewis of the Ravens rushed 46 times for 204 yards, scoring 3 touchdowns and breaking the previous record of 45 rushing attempts. 2)Set in 1988 by Jamie Morris for the WPFT. Notably, it was an OT game.

As a whole, the entire NFL—all 32 teams—threw for two touchdowns and seventy-one interceptions. That’s bad. That’s horrendous. But it’s just one week. Surely things won’t stay this bad, right? Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part II

Notes   [ + ]

1. He was a rookie at the time Madden 2005 came out. Smoker never saw any actual NFL action.
2. Set in 1988 by Jamie Morris for the WPFT. Notably, it was an OT game.

Armaddengeddon Part I

Training camp.

The quarterback took the snap and dropped back to pass. Suddenly, something clicked—rather, unclicked—in his mind. He suddenly had no idea where he was, or what he was doing. The weird object he was holding seemed to him like an alien artifact. Before he realized what was happening it was out of his grasp, escaping from his hands like a bar of soap escaping a man taking a shower. It tumbled to the ground. Feeling some hint of a need to chase after it, the quarterback did so, though his movements were more laborious than he could ever remember them being. Rather than bending down to pick it up he managed to step on it and fall backwards, landing squarely on his rear.

This all unfolded in about five seconds. All the players and coaches had a good laugh. But the quarterback didn’t get up for a while. The laughter dissipated and eventually was replaced by a grim silence. The quarterback had fractured his tailbone after what looked like an innocuous fall any NFL player could get right back up from. It was the first hint of something far more sinister.

Continue reading Armaddengeddon Part I

Leagues of Their Own, II

Around this time last year I wrote a little primer on the fascinating annual phenomenon of play-offs, promotion, and relegation. Guess what?


It’s that time of year again. Feel free to read the earlier piece again, but everything past a certain point is outdated. It’s a new season, a new year, and so on and so forth. This time around we’re going to narrow the focus a bit: let’s take a look at the top two divisions in England, the Barclays Premier League and the Sky Bet Championship.

Why England?

It’s far and away the most accessible foreign football league for Americans, most of whom probably make up the Game Losers readership. Matches are relatively easy to find on television, coverage is often in the English language, and it’s easy to arbitrarily latch yourself to a club and go along for the ride, which I should mention a lot of actual English people hate. You’re born into the fandom of a club over there. They take it quite seriously. But they will also probably never know of your arbitrary selections, so feel free to choose anyone!


Okay, you might get a few side-eyes even in America if you go with a perennially successful club like Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, or even Arsenal. Get creative with it. If possible, trace your ancestry back to a certain place. Pick the one whose crest you like best. Or, if you’re like me, start up a game of Football Manager and see which one offers you a job first.

You’re getting a little bit off track.

Oh, yeah. Do you need some help remembering what promotion and relegation are?

It’d be nice.

Most foreign football leagues employ a divisional system with promotion and relegation on an annual basis. As an example, let’s use England. The top division is the BPL, made up of 20 clubs. The second division is the Championship, made up of 24 clubs. It keeps going for a long, long, long way down. The numbers vary, but think 24 levels, 140 leagues, 480 divisions, 7,000 clubs. Here’s the premise: theoretically, a club mired in that 24th level can work its way up to the BPL via promotion.

But … that would never actually happen, right?

Oh, heavens, no! But it’s nice to think about. Meteoric rises like that aren’t too common. When they do happen, an owner with deep pockets is often involved. Anyway, back to those top two divisions. The BPL relegates three clubs per year: the clubs that finish 18th, 19th, and 20th. The Championship, likewise, promotes three clubs per year: the champion, runner-up, and the winner of a four-team play-off between the teams 3rd through 6th. 1)The Championship also relegates the bottom three clubs to the third division, League One (it’s all terribly confusing), and on and on.

So it’s bad to get relegated, right? And it’s really good to get promoted?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. The BPL has some pretty wild television deals going on. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but if you slip up and fall down to the Championship you lose out on maybe a hundred million dollars.

Holy shit.

Yep. And if you win promotion, that money goes from their pockets to yours. It’s pretty lucrative.

It sounds like it’s impossible to recover from getting relegated.

It’s hard, alright. Wigan Athletic were in the BPL last season. They spent this season in the Championship, imploded, and will be spending next season in League One. It’s like quicksand; if you fall in, it’s rather hard to get out without some help and a little luck. You lose money used to pay the players, your best players leave because you can’t afford them, you do poorly the following season, you lose money … you understand.

That makes the stakes in any season pretty high. And this is true for most foreign leagues?

Yep. The rules for promotion and relegation are never the same from country to country, but just about 99% of all countries employ it for most of their professional sports leagues, including stuff like basketball.

America falls in that 1%, huh.

We’re pretty stubborn. The top American soccer league, MLS, is still relatively young. Though there are tiered divisions of American soccer leagues, there are no promotion and relegation rules between them. The reasons for that get into some touchy stuff with owners, contracts, and whatnot. Basically, if you pay three hundred mil to buy a team and it gets relegated, that lowers the cost of your investment. Which is bad, of course!


Capitalism! It’s the same reason we’ll never ever ever see pro/reg in, say, the NBA. It’s a drastic change that would certainly prevent teams from tanking. If they know that finishing 30th got them sent to the D-League, no team in their right mind would tank. But the precedent of the Draft and the selection of former college athletes … it’s a whole ‘nother thing, believe me.

All right, I feel pretty good about how promotion and relegation works. High stakes! Gotta love it. What’s the current status in the BPL?

Most clubs still have two games to play. 2)Arsenal and Sunderland have three. The champion has already been clinched: Chelsea. A pair of clubs have also clinched relegation, though clinch is a bit of an unfitting word for something so horrible.

Who got relegated?

Queens Park Rangers, or QPR for short. They actually won the promotion play-off last year.

Dang, and they’re going right back?

They’re what we call a yo-yo club. Sort of the antithesis of a team that plummets after getting relegated. They won the Champions hip in 2010-11, finished one point clear of the drop zone in 2011-12, finished dead last in 2012-13, won the play-off in 2013-14, and are going right back down. But their chairman is worth over five hundred million dollars, so they’ll be in contention to come right back up.

Must be nice. Who’s the other club?

Burnley. They were only up for one season after finishing runners-up in 2013-14. They’ll be fine.

So that leaves one relegation spot open.

And a whopping five teams in danger of falling into it! The current occupant of the dreaded 18th spot is Hull City, with 34 points. 3)Quick reminder: clubs are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss. This is only their second season in a row up. Above them is Newcastle United, who finished 5th in the BPL in 2011-12, two season after winning the Championship (and promotion) in 2009-10. They’ve got 36 points. They’re level on points with Sunderland, but Sunderland not only have a game in hand, they also enjoy a higher goal difference.

Game in hand? Goal difference?

Right. Sunderland have only played 35 matches to Newcastle’s 36. That constitutes a game in hand. Goal difference is the main tiebreaker used in the BPL, used to sort the rankings of teams otherwise level on points. It’s a simple formula: goals scored minus goals allowed. Sunderland’s is -20, and Newcastle’s is -24. Thus, the tiebreaker.

So what you’re saying is that it’s not a bad thing to run up the score?

Pretty much. Anyway, there are two more teams that haven’t secured safety yet. Leicester City have 37 points and Aston Villa have 38. Leicester City won the Championship last year. Aston Villa haven’t been relegated since the 1986-87 season. Luckily, they’re definitely in the safest spot out of any of the five clubs just described. They should be fine.

Who do you think is going to go down?

The safe money is always on the club that’s already in the drop zone. That’s Hull City.

So do we know what three teams are going to be new to the BPL next year?

We know two of them. AFC Bournemouth are the champions of the, well, Championship. This is one of those meteoric rises that’s so rare but so fun to see happen. They won promotion from the fourth division to the third in the 2009-10 season. They moved up to the Championship for the 2013-14 season and wouldn’t you know it, they’ll be experiencing their first-ever season in the top flight of English football after nearly a century of history.


Wow is right! Sports is pretty cool sometimes. Given that the Championship season has actually concluded already, we also know the runner-up: Watford. They’ll be back in the BPL after an 8-year stay in the swamps and quicksands. Quick facts about them: their crest has a moose (I think) on it, their nickname is the Hornets, and their Honorary Life President is Elton John.


I know, I know. It’s a lot to take in. But here’s the real meat of the stuff. The play-off for the final promotion spot is going on right now!

Right now?

Right now!!!

Right now right now?

Well, no, not right now. But the first legs of the semifinals have already been completed. 3rd place Norwich City and 6th place Ipswich Town drew 1-1 at Ipswich on May 9th. 4th place Middlesbrough defeated 5th place Brentford 2-1 at Brentford on May 8th. The winners of those two ties will play each other at Wembley in a winner-take-all match on May 25th.

So, they already played, but it’s not over yet?

They do this a lot in European football. It’s a two-legged tie. They play one match at each of the two teams’ home stadiums. The victor is whoever has the most aggregate goals. If the aggregate goals are tied, typically whoever scored more goals when they were the away side will advance. If that still doesn’t break the tie … penalty shootout!

By that logic, Brentford are in pretty bad shape, huh.

Especially considering Boro scored one of those goals at the very tail end of the match, during stoppage time. Ouch. So yeah, they could win the second leg 1-0 for an aggregate score of 2-2 but still fail to advance seeing as Boro scored more away goals. 4)Spoilers: Boro won the second leg 3-0.

Who’s the favorite to advance?

If we use recent success as the judge, that’s Norwich City. They were in the BPL as recently as two years ago. Middlesbrough’s last season in the top tier was 2008-2009. Ipswich Town’s last season was 2001-02. Brentford’s last season was …

That’s a pretty dusty tome you’re flipping through there.

Yeah, give me a minute. Okay, they were last in the top tier in … 1946-47. They were pretty successful in the late 30s but that whole World War II thing kind of threw a wrench into it all. That sucks.

That does suck.

In fact, they were just promoted from League One last season! That’s another rather meteoric rise, but they’re going to need to score at least two goals in Middlesbrough to have any hope of even getting to the Final.

So the Final is just one match?

Just one match.

And the prize is promotion to the Premier League?

Yep. It’s often called the most lucrative prize in all of sports, what with the hundreds of millions of dollars in television money and such. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of pressure those players must face.

It’s probably super intense.

Isn’t sports great?

It’s all right. Can we stop referring to sports as if it’s a singular verb?

Hmm. Nah.

Fine. Well, in any case, I know a bit more about the drama of foreign soccer. Pretty intense.

Yeah. Glad I could help.

Thank you, Roger. You are a handsome man.

Aw, shucks. You flatter me.

You are handsome, and cool, and nice. You are great.

Heh heh heh.

You—you. God damn it, Burton, stop putting words in my mouth.


Notes   [ + ]

1. The Championship also relegates the bottom three clubs to the third division, League One (it’s all terribly confusing), and on and on.
2. Arsenal and Sunderland have three.
3. Quick reminder: clubs are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss.
4. Spoilers: Boro won the second leg 3-0.

The Galaxy Is At Peace: Checking in on Metroid

There are three video game series that are currently MIA. You probably know them. F-Zero hasn’t had a new installment since 2004. Star Fox hasn’t had a new installment since 2006. 1)A remake of Star Fox 64 was released for Nintendo 3DS in 2011 and a new title is currently in development for Wii U. And Metroid hasn’t has a new installment since 2010—2007 if we choose to discount Metroid: Other M. We’re here to talk about Metroid today.

Of those three series I mentioned, Metroid has the longest history, dating back to the original Metroid on the NES in 1986. If you’d like to keep track, the series will turn 30 on August 6, 2016. That game made some significant waves by revealing at the end that Samus Aran, the player character, is a woman. 2)The ending only revealed Samus’s identity if the game was completed quickly enough. It was one of the first games to feature a female protagonist and definitely one of the first where the female protagonist’s gender is irrelevant to the story.

Hold that thought for a bit. I’ll also say that the material I’m talking about here is limited to the games alone—there are comics that supposedly expand on Samus’s backstory, but do so while conflicting with some pretty important plot points in the actual games. Furthermore, I’m choosing to discount Other M for a pair of reasons: I haven’t played it, and, from what I’ve read, it seems like an anomaly in the grander scale of Metroid games.

The two games I’m focusing on are Super Metroid, released in 1994 for the Super NES, and Metroid Prime, developed by Retro Studios and released in 2002 for the GameCube. Though it’s a bit hard to believe now, there were precisely zero Metroid games released between those two games. 3)Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance was released on the same day as Prime. Samus Aran made two appearances in Super Smash Bros. titles during that gap.

I recently finished a replay of Metroid Prime via the Prime Trilogy that was released as a downloadable title for Wii U, but for simplicity’s sake I’m working with the GCN edition. I’m currently in the middle of my first-ever playthrough of Super Metroid using the Wii U’s Virtual Console service. It’s fascinating how similar these two titles are, especially considering Prime was handled by a different developer entirely.

What both games absolutely nail is the balance between the feeling of isolation and an enjoyable gaming experience. The glut of zombie and/or post-apocalyptic games that have been flooding the market for years often go all-in on the former at the expense of the latter. In all honesty, it’s a pretty simple task to create a sense of isolation for the player. It’s a significant part of any survival horror game and even a few action games. You can go for hours without even seeing an NPC to talk to in games like Fallout 3, though you do have the option of recruiting a traveling companion.

That’s something a lot of those games do to, in a way, subvert the isolation. Two examples that come to mind are Resident Evil 4 (Ashley) and The Last of Us (Ellie). It’s executed pretty well in the latter title, as the banter between protagonist Joel and Ellie served to lighten the mood in times where riding solo would have been nervewracking. It made the game fun and easy to play for long periods. But trekking through the Bethesda Fallout titles can get real boring real fast with no one to talk to, even if they accurately portray that feeling of loneliness.

And then you have these two Metroid games, in which you are Samus and only Samus for the entire duration of both. Super Metroid has a bit of a monologue from Samus at the start of the game to set the scene, but Metroid Prime doesn’t contain a single word of dialogue at all. None! You’re the only human you ever see. The Space Pirates you encounter care too much about killing you to bother with stopping to talk. There’s never a Shakespearean moment where Samus feels the need to recap whatever may have just happened for the benefit of the player. There’s never a need to speak–so she doesn’t.

You are isolated. But the games themselves are still exciting, not only because of the ability to explore, but what you’re exploring. This is particularly true in Prime, where the environments squeeze every last bit of processing power and graphical prowess out of that tiny little Cube. 2002 wasn’t exactly a time where HD was the norm, but exploring the crumbling Chozo Ruins and the icy Phendrana Drifts sure made it feel like it.

Prime had a lot of small graphical touches that made it clear Retro Studios was handling the franchise with respect. Once you emerge from the water, the leftover droplets take a few seconds to roll off your visor. Walking through steamy areas fogs your vision. Energetic explosions offer you brief glimpses of Samus’s reflection in her own visor. You can even see Samus’s own bones whenever you peer through her X-Ray Visor.

That’s not to say Super Metroid wasn’t equally impressive for 1994. The X-Ray Visor obtainable in that game functions differently—it’s used to determine whether walls are breakable (by displaying the weapon icon that can be used to break them) or transparent. But there’s so much attention to detail in that game where running into a dead end is just an excuse to use the scanner so you can see that small hole the Morph Ball can fit into.

Elements like that give these two games the sense of exploration that makes them so enticing to come back to. I was barely able to put Metroid Prime down despite having played through it long ago and I’m feeling the same way about Super Metroid right now. People don’t often find criticisms with Metroid games, but a common one is a perceived overreliance on “backtracking.” What is backtracking?

I know what backtracking is; rather, I know what people see it as. Badly-designed games suffer from it in many ways. As a means of arbitrarily lengthening gameplay, sequences are inserted into the game where you have to return to a previously reached point in order to advance the story. A few of the later Zelda games are victims of this, but on a smaller scale since at least (in most cases) they’re still entertaining.

It never feels tedious in the world of Metroid. I’m always excited to keep exploring, because each time I get something new I want to try it out. The game rewards you for it, too. Shortcuts, upgrades, expansions, all of these are often only found upon very close examination with something you may not have had earlier in the game. Metroid Prime adds a further dimension to it with the scanning system, a mechanic not present in any of the prior Metroid games.

Available from the start of the game, you can enable Samus’s Scan Visor, which will highlight things you may scan in your immediate radius with an orange or red (signifying something important) icon. Orange icons often provide minor context, such as computer screens. The red icons can unlock doors and signify that something is a breakable material (like the X-Ray Visor in Super Metroid), but their main function is to fill out Samus’s Logbook.

The Logbook is split into five parts:

  • Many of the game mechanics fall into this category, such as the health/ammunition pickups Samus can collect as well as save stations, Samus’s gunship, and so on.
  • Every enemy you face falls into this category, including bosses.
  • Chozo Lore. Messages on the walls of the Chozo Ruins region fall into this category. The entires flesh out what happened on Tallon IV before Samus’s arrival and even contain a few prophetic references to her.
  • Pirate Data. Computer terminals across Tallon IV fill this category. They detail the circumstances of the Pirates’ arrival/research and, later, their consternation with Samus Aran, including one hilarious log where they try to duplicate Morph Ball tech.
  • The twelve Chozo Artifacts necessary to complete the game fall into this category–sort of. What actually fills the log are the hints for each one which can all be scanned at the same place.

The Logbook is, essentially, the source of the story for the game. With no dialogue, it’s up to the player to piece together the bits and parts in order to determine the whats, whens, and whys. Of course, it’s entirely optional. But it’s all there for the taking. You’re free to blaze through the game, shoot everything in sight, and not give one hoot about why you need to do it. You’re just as free to walk through the game, scan everything in sight, and figure out just what the hell happened to Tallon IV. Any option in between is just as possible—a level of freedom not achievable were you to just select Story On or Story Off at the start of the game.

Everything, really, is up to the player. That’s what keeps the isolation from being overwhelming. You are your own company, and you’re pretty good company. Exploring every nook and cranny, trying to see if there’s a new shortcut to hit, everything is your choice and your choice alone. Samus Aran is a capable bounty hunter with a wealth of tools at her disposal; it only makes sense that’s it’s fun as hell to play as her.

That brings me to that point I brought up at the very beginning about her gender being irrevelant. At no point in either Super Metroid or Metroid Prime is it ever capital-I Important that Samus Aran is a woman. The Space Pirates getting their asses unequivocally handed to them by Samus never once state in one of the Pirate Data entries how frustrating it is to get “beaten by a girl.” In fact, only one log at all refers to her gender explicitly, identifying her as a “female hominid […] heavily armed and extremely dangerous.”

It’s never unrealistic or surprising that Samus Aran is a woman. She is never obligated to prove herself to anyone. It’s the logical endgame of progressive video game writing, something I talked about in my review for Transistor. It’s not tokenism. It’s not exploitative. It’s just perfectly natural within the context of the game. Like I said, the Space Pirates don’t seethe about being beaten by a girl. They seethe about getting beaten, period. That’s realistic.

For nearly 30 years, Samus Aran has been the only female “mascot” for a flagship Nintendo series. 4)Though Zelda’s name is in the title of the games, it’s undeniable that the most recognizable character is always Link, to the point where many mistakenly refer to him as Zelda. For this reason, it’s particularly disappointing that there hasn’t been a new entry in her series since Other M. But as stated earlier, the wait between Super Metroid and Metroid Prime was eight years. So waiting can often be worth it.

The question is, though: who’s going to make the next Metroid? Retro Studios handled the Prime trilogy, moving to work on the Donkey Kong Country Returns franchise once their work with Prime wrapped up. Team Ninja (of, ahem, the Dead or Alive games) worked on Other M. It’s arguable that Retro is batting 1.000 with the critical and commercial successes of both the Prime trilogy as well as the Donkey Kong Country Returns games. As of now, they’re currently working on an undisclosed Wii U title which will likely be revealed in a month at E3. Here’s hoping we get to see the return of Samus Aran—it’s been too long already.

Notes   [ + ]

1. A remake of Star Fox 64 was released for Nintendo 3DS in 2011 and a new title is currently in development for Wii U.
2. The ending only revealed Samus’s identity if the game was completed quickly enough.
3. Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance was released on the same day as Prime.
4. Though Zelda’s name is in the title of the games, it’s undeniable that the most recognizable character is always Link, to the point where many mistakenly refer to him as Zelda.

Every Now Is Forever: Starter’s Guide To The NBA Playoffs

Perhaps a bit unfairly, many people choose to only watch and/or keep up with the NBA during the playoffs. 1)Other times to start: Christmas Day games, All-Star Break. There’s a bit of logic to that, yes, in that an 82-game season dilutes the importance of individual games. But Wednesday night, almost every game had some sort of significance. Most importantly, they were all the last games of the regular season for the teams playing them.

For fourteen teams, their attention must now turn to the draft lottery, held on May 19th, which will determine which teams will pick in the top three. For the other sixteen teams, each of them knows that only sixteen wins separates them from an NBA title. The next two months will decide what team lifts the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Those stakes result in moments like this, from last season. There’s a reason casual fans start to watch at the playoffs. It’s because the playoffs are always incredible. Continue reading Every Now Is Forever: Starter’s Guide To The NBA Playoffs

Notes   [ + ]

1. Other times to start: Christmas Day games, All-Star Break.

Together, We Ride: How Fire Emblem Went From Death’s Door to Cornerstone Franchise

Super Mario. The Legend of Zelda. Pokémon. Fire Emblem.

Wait, Fire Emblem? Yeah. It’s true. In the past several years, Fire Emblem has gone from being on the verge of an orphaned series to one of Nintendo’s flagship titles. It didn’t happen overnight, and it can’t be traced to any one thing. Rather, it gradually happened over time as both old and new FE fans came together to support one of Nintendo’s longest-running franchises. 1)It began way back in 1990. How did it happen? And just how close was Fire Emblem to ending for good? Most importantly, what does this mean for both the series and Nintendo moving forward? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome back to Game Losers. Continue reading Together, We Ride: How Fire Emblem Went From Death’s Door to Cornerstone Franchise

Notes   [ + ]

1. It began way back in 1990.

The Game Losers Guide To Gambling Jargon

With the recent news having broken that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed the legalization of sports betting with other professional sports commissioners, we appear to be inching closer to a reality in which sports betting is legalized and regulated. In most other countries, this is already the case; teams like Liverpool FC in England will use their official Twitter account to offer odds through a gambling entity affiliated with the team. The United States has resisted it for the most part, save for Las Vegas and numerous offshore gambling sites (which exist with dubious legality).

One of the most baffling things about the US’s resistance to sports betting is that the parlance is everywhere. Commentators, websites, and everyday people often talk about how well a team might be doing against the spread, what the money line for a given game is, and how well a team outperformed the over-under at the start of the season. You might be reading this piece and that last sentence might have seemed like it was in a different language. Never fear! Since you will no doubt be hearing this jargon more and more often as the conversation about sports betting increases (especially if you dive into the wide world of sports), here’s a little primer.

For ease of understanding, I will be using two teams as examples throughout this glossary of sorts. One team is the Harlem Globetrotters and the other team is the Washington Generals. You probably know the former as the team full of people who can do absurd tricks with a basketball. You might not know the latter; they’re the team the Globetrotters often play and they are destined to lose every game. A great gag from an episode of The Simpsons features the line, “You bet against the Harlem Globetrotters!?” 1)“Homie the Clown.” Anyway, let’s start with the basics.

Point spread: Commonly referred to as just the “spread,” it’s the predicted margin of victory/defeat for two teams in a game. A game between the Globetrotters and Generals may have the Globetrotters favored by 20 points. In gambling shorthand this may be represented by HGT -20. 2)I’m not sure what the official abbreviation for the Harlem Globetrotters is. The “minus 20” can be thought of this way: if you bet the Globetrotters minus 20, that means they have to win by 21 or more for the bet to be fulfilled. If the spread was even because the teams were so evenly matched, we can also call that a pick’em.

Say the final score is 100-81 and the Globetrotters win. They did not cover the spread, though—they only won by 19. In this case, the underdog Washington Generals are winning bet. If you had WSH +20, you cash out, because you took the points. If this were the first game of the season, the Generals would be 0-1 but 1-0 against the spread, or ATS. Though they lost 100-81, they win 100-101 when the spread is factored in. But what if the score had been exactly the spread? What if it had finished 100-80?

Push: If you’ve ever dabbled in blackjack, you may be familiar with this term. A push is when an outcome that is bet against is fulfilled on the dot. In this case you neither win money nor lose money, instead you simply are returned the money you used to make the bet in the first place. For this reason, many times you may see a spread like -4.5, or an over-under like 45.5. Half-points are used to lessen the likelihood of pushes.

Over-under: There are two main types of over-under bets. The total for a game might be 45.5, as stated above. Or a team may be projected to win 45.5 games in a season. That’s a futures bet. Either way, you are betting on one of two outcomes. The first outcome is that the end result is over the over-under. In a football game tied at 20, the total is 40. One team scores a touchdown with no time left on the clock to go up 27-20, putting the final total at 47. It went over.

Likewise, say you bet the under in that futures bet for, say, the Washington Generals. I’m not sure what gambling site would project them at 45.5 games, but hell, they overperform. Going into the last game of the season, they have won precisely 45 games. However, they lose in humiliating fashion, and their final total for the season is indeed 45. You cash out, but just barely.

Futures bets: These can be pretty nervewracking. They are bets on a team or player’s performance made before the season begins. As a real-world example, the Seattle Seahawks are currently the favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl, at 5-to-1 odds. That’s not necessarily saying there’s a twenty percent chance they win the Super Bowl. Anything can happen between now and then. But if you’re willing to bet one hundred dollars on them, and they do win, you will win $600. 3)The $100 you bet plus the $500 you won.

Hedging: But what if you get nervous the day before the big game? The Seahawks make their third straight Super Bowl but one of their star players got injured and it doesn’t look like they will win. You might hedge your bet here. Your profit should the Seahawks win would be $500. Your loss should they lose would be $100. The night before the game, you bet on the money line and get the other team -150, which is essentially 1-to-1.5 odds. You bet $150 on the other team, and it will pay out $250, thus you will make a profit of $100.

You have now put $250 total into these two bets, which now cover all possible outcomes. One outcome pays out $600, and the other pays out $250. You are now guaranteed not to lose money. If the Seahawks win, you will make a total profit of $350. If the other team wins, you break even. Many hedging scenarios allow a bettor to make money no matter what. The trade-off is that you guarantee yourself less money.

Money line: Betting on a team to win a given game isn’t a 50-50 proposition. That’s what the money line is for. The Harlem Globetrotters might be favorites at -140 whereas the Generals would be heavy underdogs at +200. The minus signifies that the money line is how much money you need to bet to win $100. The plus signifies that the money line is how much money you win if you bet $100. The respective profits are $100 and $200. Significantly, however, if you lose the amount of money you lose is $140 and $100 respectively. In odds these percentages are 1-to-1.4 and 2-to-1. If you like an underdog ATS to win outright, betting on the money line is a profitable endeavor.

Parlay: If you’re very confident in your ability to predict outcomes, try a parlay. A parlay is a combination of more than one bet. For instance, you might take the Generals +21 in one game and the Seahawks -7 in another. The benefit of doing this is that the payout is greater should you correctly predict both outcomes. You won’t often find anything more than a five-team parlay, but just know that if you do that, zero out of five is just as good as four out of five.

Teaser: Similar to a parlay is the teaser. In theory it is the same but you are “teasing” the outcomes to be more favorable to you. A two-team teaser might have spreads of -4 and -5 pushed up to -11 and -12. The trade-off here is that because the outcomes are more likely, the amount of money you will win by correctly teasing a setup is much lower.

So there you go! By now you are no doubt ready to go to Vegas and become the subject of the next great gambling movie based on a true story. Good luck!

Notes   [ + ]

1. “Homie the Clown.”
2. I’m not sure what the official abbreviation for the Harlem Globetrotters is.
3. The $100 you bet plus the $500 you won.

Transistor Review: We All Become One

There’s a thing I’ve been keenly paying attention to recently when I play video games. That thing is experiences that are wholly unique to the medium of video games. A video game can tell a good story, but if it fails to immerse you fully in its world then you are only watching a movie, where the controller becomes little more than a remote. The best video games immerse the player and do things that could never possibly be replicated in movies, television shows, or any other form of art. In other words, I look for things that make video games uniquely video games. Continue reading Transistor Review: We All Become One

Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

So, maybe the Official Game Losers 2014-15 NFL Playoffs Madden NFL 2001 Simulation didn’t exactly pan out. For one, the Super Bowl (one week from this Sunday) will be a contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Both were #1 seeds in this year’s playoffs—in other words, this was easily the most predictable outcome ever. Both were also left out of the 2014-15 playoffs in the Simulation. In fact, it would have been completely impossible for the Simulation to have predicted this outcome. If you’ll remember correctly, before the divisional realignment in 2002 the Seattle Seahawks were still in the AFC. In other words, one million Simulations could have been ran using the outdated Madden NFL 2001 and not a single one of them could possibly have had the AFC representative Patriots meeting the now-NFC representative Seahawks. Oops.

For what it’s worth (nothing), the Simulation did manage to hit a couple of things correctly. The Ravens went on the road and beat the Steelers both in the Simulation and in real life. The Colts made it to the AFC Championship both in the Simulation and in real life. 1)However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won. Otherwise, it was pretty much a wash. A simulation where the home team won every game would have been far more accurate and would have nailed the Super Bowl. This surprises no one but me. I would have thought the cosmic radiation of a plan so asinine would have come full circle, but nope. Turns out it’s a bad idea to try to use a video game that’s fifteen years old to predict today’s events.

Anyway, there’s still one game to be played this NFL season. 2)I do not count the Pro Bowl. Will the Seattle Seahawks ride the incredible momentum from their incredible comeback to incredibly win a second consecutive Super Bowl? Or will the New England Patriots deflate the egos of so many Seahawks fans? 3)I had to fit at least one reference in here. Personally, anything I predict myself will likely blow up in my face. So, instead, like the first Simulation, I will simply moderate a method taken completely out of my hands. What method will this be? Continue reading Super Bowl XLIX: Madden NFL 2003 Edition

Notes   [ + ]

1. However, they hosted it in the Simulation and won.
2. I do not count the Pro Bowl.
3. I had to fit at least one reference in here.