There still are plenty of great games that I played as a kid that would be great candidates for the Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club, but I keep looking for ones that I’ve never played before.
It’s not that playing tried-and-true games isn’t fun, as evidenced when I played Ice Hockey, Double Dribble, and Tecmo Bowl. And my plan when starting this was to revisit some of the games of my childhood to see how they held up. It’s just that something I didn’t realize two months ago is just how much longing there would be for the feeling of something fresh and new, especially when it comes to sports.
So, this week, I set out to find a game I hadn’t played before, in a sport I hadn’t written about in this series. I found it with 1983’s Tennis.
Sometimes, though, the feeling of something fresh and new is also the feeling of disappointment and agony. And that’s not to say that Tennis isn’t fun, or cute in its own way. It’s a game that’s charming for its simplicity — move around with arrows, swing with the A button — and Mario is there as the chair umpire.
He’s a good chair umpire, too, helpfully announcing what happened every time play stops.
The problem is that the simplicity doesn’t lead to an enjoyable game experience. The rallies are hardly ever more than three shots, and there’s no variety to it. In a baseball game, there are balls hit to the infield or to the outfield. You have chances to pitch and to hit, and alternate doing those things. This is just the same thing over and over again.
Serving is hardly different than returning serve, because both require timing your swing for when the ball is going to be where you want it. And it does take a little bit of practice to get serves right. The first game of the match has four deuces because of my double faults. Sometimes the serve is too long, sometimes it’s into the net, sometimes I just swing and miss, which is painfully embarrassing.
Finally, I hold serve. The computer does, too, after one deuce. I’m already pretty bored, but this is when my daughter comes into the room to ask why I’m playing this game. It’s because I’m writing about it for work. She sits down next to me and starts asking why the screen says “IN!” and “OUT!” and “FAULT!” and what the tennis scores mean.
I go up 2-1, holding at love and feeling like I’ve figured it out a bit, but the computer holds for 2-2. I go up 40-love and my daughter says, “Ah, you’re going to win.” At which point I double fault for 40-15. Then I hit one out for 40-30. Into the net for deuce. A whiff for ad-out. And another wide one for the break.
Then my son comes in, and he has all the same questions about tennis scoring, questions that I not only just went through answering, but have answered every time tennis has ever been on television in our apartment, and will continue to answer whenever tennis finally returns to television in our apartment.
While I answer all of these questions, I fall behind, 4-2. But I hold serve, and manage to break back for 4-all. But I’m also constantly mis-timing shots, or having my player run to not quite the right spot, and swinging and missing. This game is repetitive, and so is my son’s play-by-play, as he announces the new score each time there’s a point.
“You should just write that this game is frustrating,” my daughter announces as she gets tired of both watching it and hearing her brother, and leaves the room.
I biff three straight points to get broken for 6-5. I save one set point on the computer’s serve, but not the second one.
I do not play the second set. This game is frustrating.
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