Living in South Central Wisconsin as I now do, what I’ve grown to appreciate that for many in the United States are likely to remember something hockey video game related than something from the National Hockey League. While some may use that to tease NHL fans over the relative lack of popularity of their favorite sport, it is also a bit of a feather in the cap to video game designers who have managed to get people with no connection to the game itself to enjoy playing it so much. While I wouldn’t necessarily say the NHL should use hockey video games as its main tool to get more sports fans to learn to love hockey, I have found that sometimes its not a bad hook. I’ll hear a student say they are having a blast playing the latest Electronic Arts NHL game and I’ll suggest they go to a real game. More often than not, if they take me up on that challenge they find the sport to be equally exciting and they start to follow a team.
Last year I had a Twitter poll on the best hockey video game of all time. I had 8 entries covering most of video game history’s most notable hockey titles beyond the ones to have been released in the last 10 years and the results were interesting. I wrote an article about my results and I think the whole experience was a great trip down memory lane. SPOILER ALERT: My poll found that NHL ’94 narrowly edged Blades of Steel as the best hockey video game of all time. I couldn’t really disagree with either game, both are absolute classics and they have their own loyal factions of gamers that will attest their favorite is the best. I even suggested to those that disagreed with the results that there really is no winner or loser in such a subjective contest. If you enjoy NHL Hitz 2003 better, that’s awesome. Enjoy it! Enjoy whatever video game you find the best and do not feel a need to have any poll justify your opinion because its just that, an opinion.
In the year that has passed since, I’ve done some more research and have found myself diving deeper into video games and their development. In my research I came across Classic Gaming Quarterly which also has a YouTube channel with 62,000 subscribers. Hosted and produced by Chris Alaimo (follow him on Twitter @CGQuarterly) he does an outstanding job of providing a very complete report about the history and development of various video games and gaming consoles but also the players experience (both past and present) as well. Fortunate for me he had produced a video on Electronic Arts‘ NHL ’94 where he covers the game’s 3 basic versions on Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and Sega CD.
I must admit I learned a ton from the video and I think even for people who only have a passing interest in the game can appreciate the skill and details they put into it in order to make it the gold standard of sports games in North America. I had no clue that the Super Nintendo version I played was basically a conversion of the Sega Genesis version of NHL ’93 and I certainly gained an appreciation for the differences of each of the versions. He also interviewed the Electronic Arts’ producer for the Super Nintendo version of the game Amory Wong in this article here and provides even further insight into NHL ’94s development including some great commentary about how much the industry has changed since this game was developed.
I will admit, I’ve purchased just about any EA hockey game made since 2001 for my Playstation 2 as the game has moved onto the Playstation 3 and now PS4. Yes, the differences between NHL ’14 and NHL ’17 are pretty minimal the thing I’ve grown to appreciate are the consistent attempts to make the experience replicate what we NHL fans see on a nightly basis throughout the season. The game physics have improved considerably, the goal celebration songs are now team specific and they’ve even added the ‘between the benches’ reports from Ray Ferraro but some things haven’t changed. No matter how ‘realistic’ Electronic Arts continues to make its latest NHL games, fans and gamers alike keep coming back to NHL ’94 and that is perhaps the greatest compliment you can give to any video game. The loyalty to NHL ’94 is so great it even has its own website.
Crease and Assist would like to thank Chris Alaimo for allowing us to share his video here, and we’d also like to announce that in the future we’re also kind of stealing another idea of his. He also has another YouTube Channel called GGQ+ where he gives kind of contextual history of his experience with video gaming as a whole from the very beginning during his childhood. The videos he has there are great trips down memory lane. Another feature Chris regularly posts videos about on YouTube are his “Let’s Read” segments where he goes page by page through old video gaming magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly for example. Like his CGQ+ Channel they are a great window to the past. So in that spirit we are going to open our own YouTube Channel CreaseAndAssist hosted by my partner in crime Theresa Ferries with our own series of “Let’s Read” segments where we may page through an old issue of the Hockey News or perhaps some old Minnesota Wild game programs.