Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pelé's Soccer, 1980

At what point does the human brain reject the hopelessly inadequate images of our youth and demand something with more detail and clarity?

This question is most apposite when discussing classic video games. Take Pelé's Soccer, for example. Here was an arcade football game created for the Atari 2600 which should have proved that technology had moved on from the days of ‘pong football’. The reality, however, saw you moving players around on your screen that looked like pixelated blobs. Quite honestly, they could have been anything.

Yet back in 1980 when this game was released, your brain would have probably overlayed a thick veneer of imagination to make your three outfield players look like a top-down version of the real thing. It would have also ignored the fact that your players were locked in an invisible triangular force field, never able to break free of their 1-3-0 formation. Wherever the ball was kicked, you could be sure there was someone from your team nearby to pick it up.

And what about that ball? It was a rectangle, for heaven’s sake, but did anyone ever question it?  No, because if Pelé played with a ball that wasn't round, it was good enough for us too.

How easily impressed we must have been back then, but here’s the rub. Those blocky players actually appeared to move as they ran. Their feet poked out with every stride, and when one kicked the ball, a big rectangular foot protruded to make contact with it. These players were ANIMATED. We weren't deluded - we were ENTHRALLED.

Oh sure, the teams could only play in orange or blue, but think of the plus points. There was no need to waste time when the ball went out of play, because it couldn't go out of play. You were effectively playing on a walled five-a-side pitch. And when you scored a goal, an impromptu firework display went off. You don't get that in FIFA 13.

By now, the cynics amongst you might be asking whether Pelé actually appeared in the game in any way. The short and rather disappointing answer is 'No', but he did at least make an appearance on a Brazilian TV advert for the game. If you're not impressed by that, the UK TV equivalent featured Morecambe and Wise partnering Trevor Brooking. You wouldn't get Ant and Dec advertising a video game system.

All in all, then, Pelé's Soccer did that thing that all classic computer games do, namely use very limited resources and simple execution to create the sort of addictive gameplay that would occupy you for hours. Add a little of your own imagination, and you had the perfect video football game.

Shame about that ball, though.