Do you believe in miracles?

Yes! Starz was showing Miracle for the bazillionth time today (not that I mind – the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team’s victory over the seemingly invincible Soviets is great stuff, and Disney’s film nails it), and it occurred to me that this sort of concept would make a fantastic video game.

Long time readers know that I’m a big fan of Hockey video games (despite the fact that most readers aren’t, heh), and I think this idea has legs (or would have, if launched around the same time as the movie). Back in the halcyon days of NHL 94 for the Sega Genesis, all you needed for a good hockey game was some good gameplay, decent graphics, and reasonable statistics. As time has gone on, hockey games have improved along all axis, until the main area of innovation at this point are minutiae like player-specific dekes, and (more importantly) franchise or dynasty modes where you play a general manager and shepherd a team through 20 or so seasons, dealing with contracts, ticket and concession prices, drafting and developing rookies &c. This meta-game has become my favorite part of the experience, and this is where the Miracle video game would excel because it is essentially a story.

As a player, you’d be tasked with defeating the Soviet national team and you’d be given 4 years to do so. Those 4 years could be filled with any number of sub-plot like tasks. Perhaps you have to play a season in a college league, scouting out the players you want for your team U.S.A. The process of scouting players could be done through a tryout camp where players compete in scrimmages but also in the typical hockey drills (speed skating, hardest shot, accuracy, &c.) Take as long as you want to scout (and perhaps allow players to sim the scouting competitions) and cut players until you have your Olympic team. Once you build your team, you’ll be able to scrimmage teams from all over the world. And so on. There’s a lot of potential there for varied and interesting play, along with a significant portion of administrative tasks. All along, you’d get updates on how the Soviets are crushing their opponents. (Except, of course, for that fateful day on January 11, 1976 when the Flyers beat the crap out of the Soviets (and played some hockey too).) Getting into the social-political mood of the times might be a little much for a video game like this, but it could also lend some gravity to the proceedings.

The mechanics of gameplay are well established, and a developer like EA would simply need to leverage their already developed gameplay code (perhaps with minor alterations). Also, since we’re talking about amateur players, licensing fees would be minimal. There would probably be a fair amount of visual design work needed to simulate the vintage uniforms and equipment (however, vintage uniforms are a common feature in newer video games, so that’s perhaps not a big deal). The biggest challenge would be setting up the administrative challenges and making sure they’re not tedious (and if they are, allowing a way to bypass certain features if you want). If done right, you could end up with a series of very fun and playable sub-games along with the traditional gameplay.

Indeed, you could extend the game to continue on past the 1980 Olympics or even apply the model to other scenarios. In the original version of SimCity, you could start a city from scratch, or you could start with an existing city that had been beset by some disaster (my favorite being the Monster Attack on Tokyo) and rebuilding it. I’m sure there are all sorts of spin-offs that could result from this sort of game. Alas, despite what looks like a compelling concept and low production cost, it was not to be. Yet!

2 thoughts on “Do you believe in miracles?”

  1. There are already many games like the one you describe, except they deal with building cities, farms, dino parks, etc. So why not make the same type of game with hockey? Even though I’m no big fan of hockey, plenty of other people are.

    So why hasn’t a sim game based on “Miracle” been created yet?

    We played Harvest Moon last month or so, and it was fun but could be too repetitive. I think it needed more disaster…and I feel evil saying that. But a swarm of locusts can really spice things up!

    I had not known about this legendary Olympic hockey game until now. I do enjoy hockey (Central Texas had a hockey team once), but I don’t follow it and never have. I may actually watch “Miracle” though because you say it’s good.

  2. Well, like I said, most of the innovation in new hockey games comes from this area – you essentially build a team from the ground up. But it’s based on the standard NHL season, etc… The Miracle game would be more of a creative opportunity, and a refreshing change of pace from your standard “Build your team up to win the Stanley Cup” scenario.

    I doubt there will ever be a sim game created for Miracle though. After all, it’s been a year and a half since the movie came out… I suppose it’s more of a missed opportunity than a genuine idea (though I suppose there’s still hope).

    Miracle is definitely worth the watch, especially if you like hockey (though I don’t think you really need to to enjoy the movie)…

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