For years, Brian and I had little to say to each other due to the icy chasm of our eight years difference in age. We had few common interests, after all. Not until I reached adolescence did our cold war start to thaw, a more or less civil diplomacy emerging in the unlikeliest of venues: on the virtual football fields, baseball diamonds and tennis courts of pioneering Intellivision video games. It was my older brother, who followed sports and occasionally actually played them, versus his nonathletic and sports-illiterate sibling in highly competitive contests of manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Countless battles unfolded on the color screen of our wood-paneled console television as we stretched out on the living room floor and blindly manipulated the controllers, keeping our wide eyes locked on the action.
Sometimes we were woefully mismatched, as when we faced off in football. Clearly Brian had the far better grasp of strategy. I had only one effective weapon in my pitiful strategic arsenal, a potentially devastating play that I called The 9929 Twenty-Yard Fadeback. Named for the four-digit code one entered into the controller to call a play that included a receiver going long, the scheme exploited a curious anomaly of Intellivision Football: its quarterbacks never threw too short nor tossed the ball out of bounds, instead firing off passes that would spiral all the way off the scrolling screen if they were not caught. By some strange compromise of gameplay design, those golden arms could accurately throw the length of the football field. Read More