Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Chapter XXIV: The Manager

While I was always a good student during my formative years, there were two classes that spoiled my grade sheet like a dog taking a shit can spoil a good day at the beach. Those were the art and workshop classes. When I was in sixth grade, I and my friend Earl Piranha had a plan that could help us with our grades in art class. And that plan included a particular videogame.

But first let me give you some background. I wasn’t that bad in arts, in fact I was decent enough when it came for more technical drawings, but like a teacher once said to me “Ricky, I don’t know what’s up with you, but your drawings always come all dirty and full of smudges”. I guess that was reason enough for rarely having a grade above 3, on a 1-5 scale.

Workshop was a whole different matter, and it was the only class that I ever had a 2, due to having my clay sculpture exploding in the oven. Still, I’m not entirely convinced that it was my sculpture who suffered that dreadful fate, but who was I to argue against the biggest guy in class when I suspected that he claimed mine?

But still, I was done with trying harder to have better grades at workshop, but the art class could still be salvaged. In sixth grade we were supposed to draw an emblem for our school, and the best drawing among all classes would be chosen as the official emblem of our institution. When the teacher said that, I immediately looked to my right at Earl Piranha’s eyes, while he did the same to me. We knew what had to be done.

Earl Piranha loved football, so most of our videogame playing time together was done with sports game, either manager or arcade variations of the theme. While our most played manager game was Premier Manager, there was a short time where we were really into The Manager. This game had a pleasant presentation, as far as football manager simulations go, and the most striking aspect of it were the great graphical representations of many of England’s football teams.

Yes, that was our plan. Just blatantly copy some English football team emblem and wait for it to be adopted as out school’s emblem. I supposed intellectual property wasn’t a concept that existed for us, as we were more proud of our cunning of having such an infallible plan.

The emblem I chose was the Blackburn Rover’s one, which is just a rose inside a circle, but in my defence, it was a damn pretty rose. I wasn’t really bothered with the context of it. Why would a rose even make a good emblem for our school?

I’m almost sure that Earl Piranha chose Barnsley’s for his, and that one had a pig in it! Seriously, he thought, and I thought, that drawing an emblem with a pig in the middle would be a good idea. I just googled it now and apparently the emblem had a bulldog, and they even don’t use it anymore, but I’m sure it looked like a pig in the game. I have to check that later.

Besides this being a terrible plan, I wasn’t even good at that terribleness. I could have copied an emblem that was fit for my rigid drawings, and a rose would be at the bottom of my preferences. Well, I did draw the rose, and I’m sure it looked like an old man’s balls, and it’s needless to say that the teacher wasn’t too impressed with it. Neither with Earl’s pig, for that matter.

In the end, the emblem that won the contest and it’s still being used by the school to this day is pretty shit. I’m not being a bad loser, and sure hell my poor excuse for a rose shouldn’t be there, but the emblem they chose is terrible.

As for myself, at that time I didn’t cared anymore about art class, and luckily neither my parents. I think my mom never thought of art and physical education as real and important classes, so she just skipped those when checking my grades. Thankfully.

Probably the only motivation I had for revisiting this game was to check on the aforementioned emblems. I don’t see much point in playing manager games nowadays, especially old ones. The problem with this kind of games is that they basically consist in picking the players with higher numbers, and buying players with even higher numbers. As old manager games rarely showed the full match, it was pointless to evaluate our use of tactics just by the highlights or results. There was no way to know if we made the right or wrong choices. Eventually, newer versions of Championship Manager and eventually Football Manager solved this problem with some very intricate and complex match engines, but by that time I didn’t cared much anymore with the genre.

But first things first. There’s no pig in sight. While the Amiga graphics are very low-res for today’s standards, it’s pretty evident that Barnsley emblem features a bulldog, which is as awesome as a pig. Too bad they don’t feature that emblem anymore. I blame post-modernism. Well, I had to choose Barnsley for one last ride, even though that was Earl Piranha team. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.

The Manager is indeed a game that shows all the flaws that I’ve just mentioned. It’s a never-ending treadmill of getting higher numbers, which kind of makes me wonder why didn’t manager games had more success in the smartphone mobile market. But to be fair, the game has a decent presentation, with simple but pleasant menus. The interface is indeed solid, which isn’t something that can be said of many games of this generation. There’s even the use of the right mouse button to deselect! What a luxury!

The match highlights are quite decent as well, even if they get boring eventually when the same plays are showed over and over again. I do remember what we used to call the “rare-play” that consisted in something similar to a music concert wall of death, where only one player was left standing to score the goal. I didn’t get this rare occurrence today, but I’m sure it’s there. I have good memory, at least yet.

In terms of sounds, it’s all very sparse. There are some crowd noises during the matches but that’s it. I know it’s not the kind of game where I should be asking for a Chris Huelsbeck beat, but something to uplift the sombre mood would be welcome.

I didn’t played much, but like I said before, there’s no point. I’m over these games. This one, together with Premier Manager and Championship Manager have played a big part in my youth, when I was much more into football and had always a bunch of friends in my home which were also very much into sports.

The Manager, thanks for all the good times, but we have to part ways. It’s not me, it’s you.

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