Double Dribble

Publisher: Konami
Year: 1987
Genre: Sports

“The thing about video game basketball is that the computer decides whether or not the ball goes in when you shoot. So say you’re playing against the computer team, you’re down by one and let’s say you take a last-second shot to win the game. It’s the same program you’re playing against that decides whether or not the digital ball goes through the digital hoop on that final shot. So it can arbitrarily make you lose or arbitrarily let you win.” – John Dies at the End

A sports game named after a rules violation. That's promising.
A sports game named after a rules violation. That’s promising.

While the above is obviously applicable to a wide variety of video games (essentially any game with a random element), it is especially true of basketball video games in a peculiarly infuriating way. Yes, there is a significant element of skill involved – you do, after all, have to control your little basketball player man as he runs down the court and make sure you don’t accidentally commit offensive charging or some other foul. At the end of that court, though, you leap up to shoot a basket or make a dunk and the game decides, completely on its whims, whether your shot is successful or not. That isn’t to say that some shots aren’t more or less likely to go in the basket, which, of course, gives you the illusion of control. In the end, though, I’ve had a series of seven or more dunks fail in a row while a single half-court shot sinks instantly.

(Although, if you enjoy exploiting coding errors, you can take a shot jumping out of bounds in the upper corner next to the basket, and the shot will go in every time. Every. Single. Time.)

The exception appears to be free throws – when you shoot a free throw, there’s an indicator that shows you when you should hit the button to successfully take the shot. Why isn’t there a timing based element to every shot? Hell if I know.

If your sportsball team gets more goal-ins than the other one, a winnar is you!
If your sportsball team gets more goal-ins than the other one, a winnar is you!

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5. It’s not an unplayable game, it just doesn’t have any enduring element of fun. Once you’re proficient at moving on the court, the game has one of two outcomes – you beat the computer consistently, thoroughly and viciously, or you lose completely on the computer’s whims. Why? Because it gets to decide.