As Kotaku's chief sports writer, my most memorable gaming moments of 2010 come entirely within that genre. No spoilers here, but then, the human drama of athletic competiton follows no script.
These were just some of my favourite moments from my favourite games of 2010. We'll have favourites from the rest of the team throughout the week.
Owen Good's favourite Gaming Moments of 2010
• Going Home A Winner (NCAA Basketball 10) : In the greatest swan song in gambling and video game history, chronicled here, I simulated the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament using EA Sports' NCAA Basketball 10 - the last game in the canceled series - and took the scores to Vegas to serve as a betting guide. The first day was a disaster. Friday, we needed a comeback, and we got it, with a bullet. I and everyone in my party hit every single bet we made on NCAA 10's advice, including my five-game parlay to cap the evening and pay for dinner. "This is the happiest I've seen you in forever," said my best friend Chris.
• A Heart of Granite (NCAA Football 11): On a lark in January, I created my high schoo in NCAA Football's TeamBuilder and was astonished to hear its nickname - The Buckin' Elks - called by the game's play-by-play man, Brad Nessler. EA Sports' Adam Thompson later explained to me how the game came to include some 2,400 unique nicknames, all recorded by Nessler, supporting NCAA Football's created-team feature. Except they lacked one - Mount Airy's Granite Bears, our rival in the northern half of my home county. Thompson said. When NCAA Football 11 arrived, sure enough I heard Nessler say it: "Welcome to tonight's game between the Buckin' Elks and the Granite Bears," and I positively roared. It nearly wasn't included. "We were recording the list, and I realised that did not make the final list," Thompson said. "So I said to Brad, ‘Wait, the Granite Bears are not on here,' and I got Brad to record it."
• Soaring Like A Hawk (NBA 2K11): The 1990 Atlanta Hawks were my favourite team in this game, by far. It's hard to explain, but 2K Sports really captured the artistry of Dominique Wilkins, a truly old-school artist who performed above the rim with the smoothness of the old ABA stars, not the anger you see in today's game. But my holiest experience was taking the Hawks' 5-foot-7 guard, Spud Webb, to the basket. Running a fast break I fumbled the controls, and instead of hitting ‘Nique with a trailer for the windmill jam, decided to take this little Earl Boykins-looking dude to the rim for a layup. Up, up, straight up he rose, and Webb, the 1986 Dunk Contest champion, threw the ball through the rim one-handed, and only then did it hit me. "Oh my God, that's Spud Webb!" I said, calling out the obvious to no one.
"Yes, this game was about Michael Jordan," NBA 2K11 producer Rob Jones told me. "But I think we did justice to everybody of that era. Even though they may have lost to him, we did justice to them."
• Your First Breath of Air (NBA 2K11): And on that note, here is the greatest introduction to a sports video game, ever. It's what you see and hear the first time you pop the disc in. Listen to that crowd! There's B.J. Armstrong, there's Stacey King in the pre-game line. That's Ray Clay calling Jordan's name. I'm 17 again, it's my high school graduation night, and the Bulls are playing the Lakers for the NBA championship.
• A Dedicated Effort (MLB 10 The Show): This year, MLB 10 The Show added the chance to play as a catcher in the game's "Road to the Show" singleplayer career - which means as the backstop, you call the pitches your hurler delivers. As you go through the minors, you really must pay attention to your starting pitcher's tendencies and weaknesses if you want your team to win. One game my first year, at double-A Altoona, I was going through the motions with a two-run lead when I blithely called for my starter to try for a backdoor slider on a lefthanded batter. I favour it when I'm pitching, but this guy had missed with that pitch up in the zone all game. Sure enough, the batter blasted it to the right field gap, bringing in two to tie the score.
I prayed for him to stay in. This was entirely my fault, not his. Before the game I'd seen his line, it was something like 2 wins and 5 losses, and though my path to the major leagues was assured, for him, that kind of record in AA makes every start a fight for your job. He finished out the inning and I came to bat with one out in the bottom of the seventh, where he was sure to be relieved for a pinch hitter.
I was going to correct this mistake. I was up there, now, hitting not for myself, or my character, but for a randomly generated teammate whose name I now can't remember. As a lefthanded batter, I see things better in baseball video games. Sure enough the pitcher tried to run a 2-1 fastball on me to the inside and I hammered it to Neptune. I stood up, winging punches in the air. Not since high school have I felt such unconditional commitment to a teammate, a teammate that was a few lines of code on my PS3, and ultimately, only a shadow upon my delusional mind.
Those were my favourite video game moments of 2010. Throughout the week, we'll be publishing the favourite moments of other writers on the Kotaku team. And at week's end, we'll want you to sound off.