austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Well, the whistle blew and they turned the screws

It was election night. 7 pm, moment when the first states were closing voting. I had just started a game of Terminator 3, and the game answered, as it normally, does, ``Judgement Day''. I wondered if that were a bad omen.

I was getting in some last-minute practice before the Lansing League finals. I'd had a mediocre season, but was in the top eight anyway. I usually flop in tournament play, but I'm just good enough on average to do well in leagues. I wanted to get at least a little practice on the weirder, less-popular games. My best hope for staying alive would be picking games that other folks were weak on. In the best-of-three format the higher-seed picks the first game. The second and third games are picked by the loser of the previous. And I practice on the less popular games, because ... well, I'm that kind of person is why. I think of it as eating my spinach, but, having a little skill on a lousy game like Austin Powers will give me an edge on people who don't spend their free time playing lousy games like Austin Powers.

I got off to a great start, beating J M, one of those people who's not top-ranked in the state only because he doesn't play in enough events. This caused some trouble at home as J M went on, in the losers^W second chance bracket to beat bunny_hugger, ending her attempt at coming back from the underdog spot. Saving me, though, is that I did beat ADM, the superstar player who'd first sent bunny_hugger into the losers^W second chance bracket. So, you know, honor of the house was upheld and all that.

Meanwhile election returns were coming in and everybody was starting to get nervous. I'd supposed that a lot of the states that were close were, yes, too close, but that, for example, Michigan would break for Clinton. By the end of the night it still wasn't called, and it would be a couple weeks before that was actually settled, remember. But as brave a face as I was putting on, it was hard not feeling more and more unsettled.

My next opponent was CST, the so-far undefeated-in-Lansing-League champion. He cleaned my clock, as he cleaned everyone else's, and I had to go waiting in the losers^W second chance bracket to see who I'd play. And that took an unnervingly long time. I had to play whoever won in a match between the winners of J M versus WVL, and that versus the winner of MWS versus ADM. Any one of those are outstanding players. Put them in head-to-head best-of-three matchups and I had a lot of time to wait and ponder how this would all turn out. Also to realize that ... I was now assured of at least third place, however things turned out. I kept looking over the bracket chart to see and it kept coming back the same result.

My competitor for the second-chance bracket turned out to be WVL, league president and organizer. I forget what we played the first two games, but I must've lost the second because I had the pick for the tiebreaker game and chose Austin Powers. WVL was disappointed, but agreed, you have to do what you need to do in competition like that.

Austin Powers is a game from 2001, among the first games that the modern Stern company made, and it's just ... ugh. The game's got problems. The game feels cheap, like it might break in your hands. It looks cheap, like the playfield was printed on someone's inkjet. The gameplay's not much better; the scoring system is set so there's one really good shot, one fair shot, and the rest is garbage, for completists only. The underlying license is ... well, now everybody's tired of it, but back then, there were only the first two movies to be tired of. It makes a lot of tiresome, repetitive callouts. There's a lot of Mini-Me screeching.

So it starts from a lousy baseline. The table we have in our hipster bar is in rough shape, too. It's often off-balance. The wood around the center scoop is worn down, so the ball may pop out in unpredictable directions, often right down the center between the flippers. It's bad form to have making a shot like the main scoop lose you the ball. Nobody in league plays it if they don't have to, except for two people. I'm one, since I play even the unloved games, though not so much as the good ones. WVL isn't the other. He congratulated me, and consoled himself with the third place trophy.

Trivia: In 1609 Galileo sent to the senators at Padua a gift telescope, made in red and brown leather with gold filigree. Source: The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, Edward Dolnick.

Currently Reading: City On A Grid: How New York Became New York, Gerard Koeppel.

Tags: lansing, pinball

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