From The Ref’s Office: October 18th, 2016

Just a quick update as I am teaching in the morning:

I am thrilled to share that I did indeed purchase a Dreamcast while at RetroWorld Expo this past weekend. It was my main goal– I sold off some non-sports games from my collection and most of my NES manuals to get there, but I’m glad I did it. It was important for this project that I have a Dreamcast, because of its significance in the sports video game genre. It’s one thing to watch YouTube videos and go by memory, but it’s another to actually play the games myself and react to them with direct experience.

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A visit to Game Depot in Holyoke, MA landed me this treasure trove of Dreamcast goodies.

Once this month (Icetober) is completed– and, yes, the After Further Review piece on NHL Hitz Pro is still on target for this week– November will be a less of a themed month and more varied. Dreamcast-related content will be part of the plan. I don’t want to get into too much detail just yet, but I have a fair number of options in my head that I’ll be looking to flesh out. I’m still trying to track down a handful of games (most notably NBA Showtime and Virtua Tennis), but I have a couple of weeks to keep looking.

The above video shows what I got at Retroworld Expo over the weekend, as well as some thoughts on the show in general. There’s more than just sports games here, for what it’s worth.

That’s it from The Ref’s Office for now, but check back in here later this week for a look at NHL Hitz Pro— a game that deserves a lot more attention than it got during its heyday.

From the Ref’s Office: October 14th, 2016

The weekend is finally here– and this is no ordinary weekend. It’s time for RetroWorld Expo, and I’m looking forward to being there. I’ve been looking forward to seeing my friends from Retroware, as well as getting the chance to meet some of my favorite video creators (including Pat The NES Punk, The Game Chasers, The Gaming Historian, Gamester81, Pixel Dan, and more).

I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be coming home from RetroWorld Expo with a Dreamcast. The console has a lot of great sports games, both arcade and sim, and I’d really like to cover them. I have put together a bunch of games from my collection to sell with the hope of getting enough cash to get a Dreamcast on site. I’ll also have my eyes open for other sports games at the event, as well as a few other things. From what I understand, I may also be doing a special video game challenge with Retroware at the show. Stay tuned to my personal Twitter feed for news on that.

“So, what’s up with the site?” Well…

Later on this morning, at about 11am EDT, a new After Further Review piece (on NHL Rock the Rink) will be going up before I do last-minute prep for my trip. I have one more After Further Review that I have on the schedule for next week (for NHL Hitz Pro), and I have one more In The Booth piece on NHL ’98 that I’d like to get done before the month is out. Hockey games will likely be on the agenda for the rest of October, followed by a focus on basketball for November… but this is subject to change and tinkering as I go, as always.

I had planned to write the Rock the Rink piece last week, but I started substitute teaching and free time was limited. It’s a bit of an adjustment going from playing games by day and writing by night to teaching by day and going to bed at a decent hour at night. I’m in the process of changing up my routine, and hope to be acclimated in another week or two.

Retro Referee content has begun expanding outside of this website. My first review for Sega Does went up a few weeks ago, and I’ll be submitting reviews of Genesis sports games there every so often when they come up on the chronological list. I think my next review there will be, and I’m looking forward to that. I have one other site that I’m looking to post retro sports game-related content to, but that’s still in the works.

As for Film Room videos, reaction was pretty positive to the NHL Open Ice video I filmed earlier this month. I’m still trying to decide whether I want to talk about the game a bit and then play a bit on camera, or just talk about the game and leave gameplay out. I definitely want to do more videos, so they’ll be coming… especially after I hammer out my daily and weekly routines a bit better. I’m strongly considering doing one for NBA HangTime next month.

That’s it from The Ref’s Office for now. I’m off to get some sleep before a day of packing and last-minute prep for this weekend’s big show. I hope you enjoy the NHL Rock the Rink review, and look for the NHL Hitz Pro review sometime next week. Icetober is in full effect!

 

From The Ref’s Office: August 13, 2016

From The Ref’s Office: August 13, 2016

It’s been a busy week here on the site! I just wrapped up the fourth new piece this week, and it’s been a blast having some time to get some content posted.

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Three of the four pieces are football-related, including the first In The Booth article. I’m really excited about this series, because I’m one of the few people who considers presentation in sports video games to be an important thing. Commentary, stat lines, instant replays, and other bells and whistles that borrow from television broadcasts have always caught my eye, going all the way back to the EASN days. For the next article in the series, I’m looking to talk about ESPN NFL Primetime 2002 from Konami— a game that I believe laid the groundwork for Visual Concepts to perfect in its ESPN sports titles for SEGA in 2003 and 2004. (I’ll be covering the 2K games down the line, as well.)

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Two other pieces that went up this week are new installments of After Further Review, covering John Madden Football and Super High Impact for the Super NES. With the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Super NES in North America being celebrated later this month, I wanted to cover a few sports games for the console. If time allows, I’m hoping to do more of these by month’s end. There’s plenty of Super NES sports games to cover, including some non-Madden football games which would be perfect for discussing as we’re now into NFL Preseason mode. Tecmo Super Bowl, NFL Quarterback Club, Pro Quarterback, Super NES Play Action Football, Konami NFL Football, Capcom’s MVP Football… and the list goes on. If there’s a football game for the Super NES that you’d like me to consider for After Further Review, feel free to drop a comment below. I can’t guarantee that I’ll cover it, but suggestions are always welcome– and I’ll credit you in the piece, if you like, for recommending it!

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The last of the four pieces that went up this week was a new installment of Coin Toss, talking about Track & Field. I know that it’s rather trite to bring up Track & Field during the Olympics, but it was nice to break up the flurry of football-related content… and Track & Field has a special place in my heart. If you haven’t read the piece yet, I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll find out why the game meant a lot to me as a kid with few tokens to spend. The next Coin Toss piece will revolve around a Midway arcade sports game. You might be able to guess what it is!

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In other news, my summer classes are complete and I’ll have a bit more time to work on content for the site– at least for the next 2-3 weeks, as I’ll also be working on getting back into the workforce for September. I do have new content ideas lined up, starting with what I mentioned earlier, along with other things floating around in my creative mind. I can’t guarantee that the rest of August will have 4-5 new things a week, but I definitely have the material to fill at least the next few weeks. Videos, unfortunately, are still on hiatus due to the tropical heat and humidity that Mother Nature has been pumping into Southern New England most of this month. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get back in front of the camera more in September.

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I mentioned the 25th anniversary of the Super NES earlier, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve written a piece celebrating the occasion for my friends at Retroware. It will hopefully be going up soon. I may do something similar here, though I’m not sure how I’ll approach it just yet. The Super NES and I have a lot of history; I got my console in late 1991 at age 19, and it was a big part of my early adult life. I really wanted to shoot a video and share some personal memories of the console, but heat and humidity have made that quite difficult. Maybe it’ll be sports game-related, maybe not… but it’s a significant anniversary and one that I’d like to honor here, as well.

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And, finally, speaking of Retroware– I want to remind everyone about RetroWorld Expo. October 15th isn’t that far away, and the event is shaping up to be even more amazing than last year’s debut. The guest list is stacked, including appearances by Pat the NES Punk, Gamester81, The Gaming Historian, The Game Chasers, Pixel Dan, a host of awesome people from the Retroware family (Eric Lappe, Banjo Guy Ollie, site founders John D & Lance, and who knows who else), and more to be announced. Tickets for the two-day event are on sale now, with two-day admissions or single-day admissions for Saturday or Sunday. There’s also going to be musical guests, an assortment of vendors selling games and consoles, arcade games, console games, and a whole lot more. I’ll be with the Retroware crew, and I sincerely hope to see many of you there.

Look for more new content in the coming days. For now, I’m taking the rest of the weekend off to relax and recharge. As always, thanks so much for checking out the site. Take care!

From The Ref’s Office: July 31, 2016

From The Ref’s Office: July 31, 2016

Greetings, everybody!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have checked out the site in the latter half of July. It’s been good to have some time (and some content ideas) to get some writing in, and I’m hoping to have a bit more time in August. Over the last couple of days, I wrote and published this piece about EASN— the Electronic Arts Sports Network– over the weekend, and put the finishing touches on another piece, which is scheduled to publish on Monday afternoon (August 1st).

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The EASN piece is the first in a series that I’m calling In The Booth, and the series will focus largely on presentation values in sports video games. While most people (understandably) are most concerned with how a game looks and plays, I’ve had a fascination with how the game is presented. I am interested in stat overlays, commentary, graphics packages, and a presentation style that’s close to what I watch on television. I have some ideas lined up already for the next two or three installments of In The Booth, and I hope that at least some of you will enjoy reading them.

The piece that’s going up on August 1st will launch another new series, called 1st and 10. These are lists– in random order– of my favorite games that are bound by a certain theme or topic. The first 1st and 10 will be on arcade sports games, which are easily my favorite games. I had a lot of potential games to choose from, and I could only pick 10. (Hence the “10” in “1st and 10”.) Lists are fun to do, and there are plenty of potential topics. I already have the next three topics in my head, so I am pretty confident that this series will pick up steam.

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Another piece that I’m working on is a Scouting Report on Frank Thomas Big Hurt Pinball, which recently released within the Pinball Arcade application for iOS, Android, and Steam. I’m a huge pinball fan, so it’s pretty much a dream scenario to play a pinball table that revolves around sports. I’ve been capturing some photos from my iPad which are pretty clean, and after a few more playing sessions, I should have enough experience to get some words typed out about it.

Aside from that, I do have some things that I’d like to cover if time allows in August. The NFL Preseason will be underway, and with Madden NFL 17 coming out on August 23rd… I’m hoping to do some Scouting Reports or After Further Review pieces on some of the pigskin games in the Retro Library. Football will probably be a pretty consistent theme for August and into early September, leading up to the NFL’s opening weekend.

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Some have been asking about my YouTube channel, and where the new videos are. While I want to do some more videos, the weather has not been cooperating. More than half of the month of July saw temperatures in the 90s, including 8 of the last 10 days, as of this writing. It’s impossible to film with my air conditioner and fan making a racket. That said, I did power down the cooling equipment for a special thing that I shot for a friend of mine– and, yes, I’ll link you to it when it goes live. When things cool down, I will be back in front of the iPad to shoot some new stuff. I miss doing it.

Finally, I want to start talking about RetroWorld Expo 2016, which is going to be happening on October 15th and 16th in Wallingford, Connecticut. Last year was the first RetroWorld Expo show, and I had an absolute blast. That was only one day, though– this year is a two-day extravaganza. The guest list for this year is already filling up nicely (I’m psyched to finally meet Pat the NES Punk!), and there’s going to be a nice selection of exhibitors selling great retro games and consoles. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you’ve still got time… but it’s always nice to buy early and start saving money to take with you on the trip. I’ll be at the Retroware booth once again this year, so I really hope to meet some of you.

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That’s all I’ve got for now. Be sure to check back on August 1st for the premiere of 1st and 10!

 

From The Ref’s Office: July 13, 2016

Yes. It’s been quite some time. Three months, in fact. I want to address three questions:

First: So, what happened with the Retro Referee?

When I started this site back in March, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted it to work. Talking about old sports video games was a pretty niche thing, and it’s something that I enjoy doing. The problem was that I was launching the project in the middle of a semester of college– and that was poor timing. A full course load left me with little free time and I was unable to update the site often after the first couple of weeks. Moreover, I jumped from the throes of the spring semester into a trio of summer classes… so I’ve been buried under schoolwork ever since, including writing 10-page papers every week since the first week of June. It’s been a challenge.

Simply put: I haven’t had the time that I thought I would have had to add new stuff here. If I could go back in time and do things differently, I probably would have held off until after school was done– but it is what it is. Lesson learned.

Second: What about your other projects? Why did you abandon them?

I’ve received complaints (and harsh words) about past projects of mine that I failed to continue after a certain point. While I understand the criticism, my decisions to move on and try new things are mine to make. I’ve had my reasons, ranging from analytics on YouTube to brand consolidation to time availability. Could I have done better at following through with those past projects? Sure. Should I have stayed with them and made them work? Perhaps.

If people are unhappy because of my failings with past projects, or don’t feel that they see enough effort, that’s their prerogative and they can move on from my work– no big deal. I get that there’s going to be some unhappiness and/or disappointment.

That said, I’ve heard enough and talked enough about it. Future comments or complaints about this issue on this site will be discarded without response, harsh as that sounds. This is the last time that I will address this topic.

Third: So what happens now?

At this time, I can’t promise a timetable for updates. I will be expanding the spectrum of content updates here beyond just sports video games, however; recent game pickups, links to and comments about content from other sites, random impressions of games that I’ve been playing, and, yes– retro sports video games– are all in play. I will stick with the Retro Referee character, because I think it’s a pretty good one.