Cowboys and Video Games

So this is mostly a sports blog for the wonderful city of Cincinnati, but every now and then I dabble in non-sports related topics. Red Dead Redemption 2 is the game of the year, hands down.

I’m no video game expert, I’ll be the first to say. In fact, I’ve realized lately that I’m at the age that, even if I was good at pwning noobs, I’m not sure too many people are lining up to pat me on the back. So I play for the mere enjoyment of the game. I don’t try to beat something quickly, I don’t try to climb the online leaderboards, I just play to have fun. Red Dead Redemption 2 (heretofore referred to as RDR2) is a heck of a lot of fun, and in a mostly laidback way.

Fans of western movies should own it yesterday. The story starts off that you are a badass named Arthur who is a member of this gang that completed a big score at the cost of topping the wanted lists of every law enforcement agency and bounty hunters in the west. In response, they’ve tucked tail and run north, into the Dakotas, and are hiding in some snow covered mountains. Your job, quickly, becomes to help rebuild the gang’s reputation, while also building your own.

Just as in the first game, you can choose to do good, do bad, or be a bit of a neutral. Something that has been added, though, that I love is the system they developed of creating a bond with your horse. The more you bond with your horse, the better it becomes and the more it helps you out.

Another thing that is vastly improved from the first game is the hunting system. There are legendary animals that you have to track, find clues as to where they are, and then, somehow, find a way to kill. When you do manage to kill the legendary animal, or any animal, for that matter, you can then use all of the things you collect from skinning that animal to craft items that improve your gameplay. You still gain food, like in the first, but RDR2 has added something to the gameplay that makes it essential.

In RDR2, you have to remember survival. It’s not like other games where you get into a gun fight, run and hide, and replenish health and stamina. In this game, you must focus on what food, drink, and “tonics” you have on you to replenish the necessary skills to go on. I really enjoy the nuances of this game, and have barely advanced in the story, for focusing on the nuances.

The antagonist of the game is actually group. The easy explanation is: any gang that isn’t your own. It’s not as if you have to do something to antagonize a rival gang member. Your character is already well established within his own gang (as the backstory says Arthur has been in the gang for more than 20 years) so when you just see a rival gang member, they’re already aggressively postured against you. This adds an interesting wrinkle when you explore the vast gameplay area that Rockstar Games created, because you don’t know exactly where you will run into baddies.

I just started playing this game, and will probably write a bit more about it, but I know it’s one of my favorite games, ever, and may rise to the top. I’ll keep you posted.

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FC Cincinnati has a Bright Future Ahead

Through the wind and the rain, the best team in the USL got knocked out of the playoffs, this past Saturday. FC Cincinnati’s magical transition to the MLS was cut short, but that doesn’t take away from what has been a stellar season for the third-year franchise.

The most playoff success the city has seen in awhile was cut down by some interesting refereeing and some rough weather. The whistle seemed to be on rapid fire in this conference semi-final, with the crowd booing, a lot. Like maybe too much? I mean some of the whistles were for legitimate fouls, but you couldn’t have told the crowd that. Anyway, I digress.

My foremost thought on the game was with the players whose futures lie outside the Queen City. There is no official decision on the whole roster, only that a few have contracts. Fanendo Adi and Emmanuel Ledesma are the only two with MLS contracts, currently, with the rest of the roster still up in the air. One such player whose future is in question is Justin Hoyte. The defender laid on the field, after the final whistle, and just sort of stared, for a minute.

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A few teammates came over to him, after a few minutes, and he got to his feet. Hoyte then walked over to the stands and handed out his jersey and his cleats to a few young fans and then started for the locker room, for what could be his last time in orange and blue. Spencer Richey, Corben Bone, Jimmy McLaughlin, you’ve got to feel for all of them, over these next few days. Especially Bone, McLaughlin, and Kenney Walker, who have all donned the orange and blue since the inception of the team.

For those of us in the stands, there were a handful of exciting moments to cut through the cold, mostly from Adi. He had a few headers that either just missed, or ended up blocked by the Red Bulls II goalie, and one shot that left us wishing for more. My wife and I had to make a break for some hot chocolate at halftime, which was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had (maybe due to the circumstances) and the concourse was packed with most of the 16,000+ trying to avoid the cool mist that never ceased, through the afternoon.IMG_4100.JPG

The promise of the forthcoming MLS journey is an exciting one, but the USL journey was seen out the door sort of unceremoniously. Now we look on to the coming years, the thought of Rooney making a trip to Cincinnati, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (maybe), and other world-renowned soccer (futbol) stars is exciting. The Reds and Bengals better take note, Cincinnatians have another professional franchise with which to invest their time and money. They drew record crowds while playing “minor league” completion, what will happen when the big dogs come to town?

Check me out on Twitter @jefffcarr

Brilliant Idea from the NBA G League

The NBA has come up with an idea to combat the “one and done” mentality of the NCAA, using the G League, and it is solid. This is an idea that, given proper implementation with its nuances, will be beneficial for players, schools, and NBA teams.

In case you haven’t seen anything about this, yet, here is an in-depth article about the new plan for the G League, courtesy of ESPN. https://es.pn/2P9n29h

In short, for prospects determined to be elite talents that would go to school for no more than one year (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, etc.) the NBA developmental league, known as the G League, will offer them a one-year contract for $125k, known as the “professional path” plan. This will free them from the bonds of amateurism as outlined by the NCAA and will open them up to focus on the one thing they want to focus on: basketball.

This is a brilliant plan for the player. Think about it. You’re a blue chip, five-star recruit sitting at home. You just got done talking to John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Mike Krzyzewski about coming to play ball at their schools. You’re star-struck by who you talked to, but then it hits you: a good portion of your time will be spentin class. Not class about basketball. Not a genuine professionally experienced basketball person teaching you the ins and outs of the euro-step. No, someone teaching art history, or ethics, or, God forbid, biology. Is a mitochondria going to help you sink a three-point jumper with a hand in your face? Probably not.

So there you are, wondering about which professor is going to fail you (nobody at North Carolina, from what I hear), when you get another call. “Hey, I know basketball is in your blood. Would you like to focus your skill for a year, concentrate only on improving your draft stock and legally make $125,000.00 bucks in the process?” How can you say no?

Oh sure, the first argument out of the gate is about the exposure. Kentucky basketball is legendary and on national television, playing marquee schools like North Carolina. There are passionate fans whose lives revolve around whether their school wins or loses. You don’t want to be a part of that? I mean, if your ultimate goal is to be a top pick in the NBA draft, then this shouldn’t be a huge factor to you. What NBA general manager says “Well, John Smith wasn’t super popular amongst the fan base of State University, so he’s falling down the draft board?” None, I hope. At least no successful GM would. They’re looking for talent and if a player can fit into their scheme. None of that is derived from whether a fan from their college likes them. It comes from their personal development through practices and games.

Sure, the G League isn’t broadcast far and wide, but that may actually be a good thing. How many kids’ abilities are compromised because they did something silly in a game and that school’s rabid fan base then blows up social media with how that kid is now a joke of a player? I would think that the lesser known exposure of the G League would have a sort of charm to it for a blue chip prospect looking to make a career out of putting the ball through the net, because he can develop his game in relative peace.

Plus, the player can hire an agent, get a shoe deal, and do all that marketing stuff outside the game, because he isn’t bound by the NCAA’s silly rules regarding amateurism. That is a huge deal, in my opinion.

In my next post, I’m going to tell you why This is terrific for NBA Teams. Stay tuned, and stay classy.