In real life, the athletes we call 'bad athletes' are actually the just the least skilled of an elite group. But in the world of video games, bad athletes were irredeemable joyless lumps. Here, we take a look at some of the very worst.
In today's installment of Video Games Of Old, we examine a handful of the worst video game athletes I could find. And believe me, I don't want to take a mean-spirited tack on this. The real-life versions of these players, while probably the least skilled in the league, were exceptional enough to even make it to the league. For that, they should be commended.
Their video game selves, on the other hand, are embarrassing, miserable, unplayable facsimiles. We visit a few of them here. Now of course, having not played every single sports video game, this is not an exhaustive list. If you have a horrible video game athlete, please share in the comments below.
Before reading what I have to say about these poor souls, why not watch me talk about them:
NHLPA '93, Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo, 1993
NHLPA '93 still stands as one of the most fun video games I've ever played. I always played as the Blackhawks, because Jeremy Roenick was lightning-quick and completely unstoppable. The exact opposite, in other words, of Tampa Bay's Shawn Chambers.
Years ago, Grantland's Bill Barnwell wrote an absolutely terrific piece on Video Game Shawn Chambers at IGN. Seriously, it's worth reading. You see, through most of its history, EA Sports has assigned ratings to each athlete on a scale of 1 to 100. These days, it's rare to see anyone below 40 or 50. Steve Chambers was a 1.
I spent a few minutes playing as the Lightning and giving Chambers a few chances with the puck. He is absolutely as awful as his rating would have you believe, and there is absolutely no way he was nearly this bad in real life. Basically, he's the tank from Atari's Combat:
Like this tank, he is unbearably slow and shoots 300 times before ever hitting anything. Unlike this tank, he has absolutely zero fighting ability, and he falls down every single time he bumps into anything or anyone. Let's take a look at Shawn Chambers' stats:
AGILITY: 0. Shawn Chambers' body lacks movable joints. Hockey is the only sport he can play, because at least a teammate can give him a shove and he can coast on inertia.
SPEED: 0. It may appear as though Shawn Chambers is moving, but it's actually just the Earth that is rotating. In the universal sense, he remains in absolute stasis.
OFFENSIVE AWARENESS: 0. Shawn Chambers does not celebrate Offensive Awareness Month.
DEFENSIVE AWARENESS: 0. A Defensive Awareness advocate gave him a pamphlet at the mall, but he just stuck it in his pocket and forgot about it. It has now been through the laundry 17 times.
SHOT POWER: 0. Shawn Chambers cannot hit the puck. He is Charlie Brown with the football. He is also Lucy in this analogy. And the football. And Charles M. Schulz. He is a complete, meta-transcendent system of nested failures.
SHOT ACCURACY: 0. Quantum theory holds that a photon wave moves in all directions at once. Shawn Chambers' puck moves in all directions except the one in which it is supposed to go, a phenomenon quantum physicists point to as evidence for the existence of Satan.
PASS ACCURACY: 0. ahaha just noticed the guy named Joe Reekie
STICK HANDLING: 0. Shawn Chambers actually does not even use a hockey stick. Throughout his journey between youth leagues, the semipro circuit, and the NHL, nobody has noticed because nobody has ever actually looked directly at him. There's just never been a reason to, really.
ENDURANCE: 13. We've finally found a quality in which he's better than zero. But since everything else has been a zero, it's unclear exactly what he's enduring. Maybe he doesn't endure anything. He just endures.
CHECKING: 13. Shawn Chambers has accrued over $500 in overdraft charges, so he just cashes his paychecks at the Circle-K.
AGGRESSIVENESS: 66. Oh sweet! Maybe this guy's just an enforcer! Maybe he's really good at fighting!
NBA Jam, Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo, 1993
The NBA Jam incarnation of Derrick McKey wasn't really good at anything.
He could dunk, but so could Al Gore and Stacey Augmon and everyone else in the game. Outside of that, he was kind of slow, not good at defense, and couldn't shoot threes. (Neither, for some reason, could Reggie Miller, who in real life was the most prolific three-point scorer in the history of the game.)
On top of this, McKey was the No. 2 player, and here's the thing about No. 2 players: unless you remembered to toggle "Tag Mode," you could not take control of him while he had the ball. Instead, you had to rely on a 16-bit artificial intelligence for a teammate.
This was bad news, because whenever Artificial Intelligence Derrick McKey was forced to pick up his dribble, he would totally shit the bed.
Here he is in the middle of a 15-second refusal to do anything but stand still until Horace Grant finally gets fed up and knocks the ball away from him. Until then he's just gonna stand there and stare right at you, like he's in a King's Quest game or something. Like he's waiting for you to type ENTER WIZARD'S CHAMBERS or KICK THE CAT or whatever. Derrick McKey, of course, was not the only one with this problem, but I'm singling him out because he was the worst No. 2 on the worst team.
The entire Qatar team
FIFA International Soccer, Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo, 1993
RBI Baseball, 1987
RBI Baseball, like most sports games, is mostly about speed. That's what set NHLPA '93's Jeremy Roenick and Tecmo Super Bowl's Bo Jackson apart. That's also what made the St. Louis Cardinals the best non-All-Star team in this game -- Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith were capable of inside-the-park home runs on the regular, and almost every player on the roster could steal a base.
On the other end of the Plump Faceless Baseball Player spectrum was Harry Spilman of the San Francisco Giants. In real life, Spilman enjoyed a long career as an off-the-bench corner infielder and pinch hitter. In this game, he was the slowest player imaginable. It was the slowness of legend, really. In fact, Dee-Nee.com, a frankly amazing RBI Baseball fan site, has an entire page dedicated to him.
When I was a kid, I held the suspicion that pinch-hitters were granted a huge advantage in their first at-bat -- a suspicion that ultimately proved accurate. So, yes, Spilman could hit a home run if you dragged him off the bench. But after that? It was this, over and over and over and over:
Using Spilman to get on base was sort of like using your villagers to attack a base in a real-time strategy game. It's ... it's not what he's for. If you had to harvest crops or mine gold in RBI Baseball, I just would have had him do that. Someone make this game, please.
Which of these was the worst video game athlete?
Shawn Chambers, NHLPA '93 (282 votes)
Derrick McKey, NBA Jam (22 votes)
The entire Qatar team, FIFA International Soccer (68 votes)
Harry Spilman, RBI Baseball (13 votes)
385 total votes