It’s No Fun Playing Cowboys For Pretend

by Ryan

I was thinking about the All Star Game yesterday and I think I figured out why there’s always something missing in it. Have you ever watched someone else play video games? Maybe even a hockey video game. When you watch someone else play it can be fun. At times. Kind of. Well, it’s fun when exciting things happen, I guess.

So what’s missing when you watch someone play video games? Well, it’s just not yours. Let’s take a hockey game where two people play as the East and West All Stars. In theory this is the best game you can play, with two really talented teams that should be evenly matched. Still, when you watch it play out something just isn’t right. Maybe you want to change the lines a little bit, or make a certain goalie play the entire game. Oh, and what the heck is Eric Staal doing on the East squad?

The problem is that no matter what you see, you’ll be hyper-critical of it because it’s not you playing. Everyone plays hockey games differently, and that means you are never really satisfied when you are merely a spectator. One person’s perfection is another’s blown chances, and even the very team they use could be completely “wrong” in someone else’s eyes. It’s just not your game, and because you can’t control everything in it you get antsy.

The problem with the All Star Game is this: at it’s heart it is for the players, but the league is trying to customize it for everyone watching. What is supposed to be a reward for a good half season has become each fan’s personal video game. Fan voting has gone from picking a few players to setting the starting roster, and shootout mini game to boot.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Getting more people interested in the game is the whole point of an event like this, and in some cases it works. However, what brings about so much tension between fans is the simple fact that you can’t satisfy everyone. People will never agree with fans stuffing a ballot box, or setting a proper starting line up, or any aspect of the event, really. Someone else should be starting, someone else has a faster shot, and someone else should get to pick who plays. And on and on. Giving fans the illusion that their individual vote is meaningful brings the opportunity for them to get upset when things don’t turn out their own special way.

It seems to me that if you took away the illusion that fans can customize this game there would be less problems with how it works. Let the league and players decide who’s been good enough to go; and at the very least minimize how great an impact the ordinary fan has in making these decisions. I know I’m never going to be satisfied with how things turn out on weekends like these, so I’m just not going to care. Sure I’ll watch, but there’s no point in worrying about this kind of thing. Complete satisfaction is impossible.

This weekend the NHL is hoping you get to use the controller yourself, but we all know that’s the furthest thing from the truth.