So... what’s your favourite videogame, Dura?
Players from the Wellington Phoenix FC made an appearance at the Wellington Sony Store this week, to promote both the Sony PlayStation range of products and their upcoming finals series matches. Sony - a major Phoenix supporter - were giving away electronic goodies, players were signing autographs, and lots of media were on hand to talk to the boys about their form going into the first A-League finals match.
Not sure who the Phoenix are? New Zealand's only club in the otherwise Australian A-League football competition (a bit like the Breakers in the NBL or the Warriors in the NRL), the team was voted most likely to come dead last in the league this year. Now, as the finals phase of the season is about to kick off, they've earned a home final by way of their fourth-place finish in the regular season.
And it turns out some of the communication skills displayed by the core of the ‘Nix defensive unit was earned playing Call of Duty together...
Of the players present, only two were not keen gamers... Alex Smith and Dani Sanchez. Sanchez modestly stated that he was not as good at playing videogames as some of the other players, before showing off his real-world skills with a football outside on the Willis Street footpath.
The rest were very keen to talk about their favourite titles. Call of Duty was a very popular favourite with most; in fact, captain Andrew Durante and defender Manny Muscat said they used to play together online with headsets. "I played...a couple of hours a day...I was quite hooked on videogames to be honest!" laughed Muscat. However both have recently become first-time fathers, so gaming time has taken a bit of a back seat for them now. (Muscat even said that his PlayStation was packed away at the moment.)
Of course, being professional athletes, all the players spoke about how they had to be disciplined when it comes to late nights of gaming versus the demands of hard physical training. "Games are good for down time after training or whatever, but we’ve got to get our rest when we need it," said Niko Tsattalios. "If you’ve been up playing FIFA 'til the early hours... you’ll suffer at training..."
Andrew Durante said that he used to play a lot of PlayStation, and listed his two favourite console games as being Call of Duty (“I was a big fan of that!”), and Pro Evolution Football. He said he now plays a few games on his iPhone.
When asked what their favourite classic games were, Brent Griffiths pleaded "someone out there needs to make a new Crash Bandicoot...that’s a big one!", as well as Spyro the Dragon. Tony Hawk was another favourite, and he, Cameron Lindsay, and Niko Tsattalios were all keen to check out Tony Hawk HD later this year, which they had heard good things about.
Cameron Lindsay said that in his day GoldenEye was the biggest hit with his Nintendo playing friends. Nowadays he likes to play Tiger Woods golf on PlayStation Move, which was a popular series with the other players too.
Paul Ifill, Barbados international and the top goal scorer in Phoenix history, revealed the previously unknown fact that he is a retro game aficionado and collector. He went so far as to describe himself as a Retro Gamer, in fact.
He listed his favourite games as Pro Evolution Soccer, FIFA, and Virtua Tennis, as well as Grand Theft Auto. He said that he likes to collect old consoles more than newer systems, listing classics like the Master System, Super Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as "the old handheld retro game systems", which he likes to "get out every now and again".
Leo Bertos confessed that he, too, loves videogames, but hasn’t had much of a chance to play them in the last couple of years. He grew up playing games, particularly Street Fighter in the arcades. He loves sports games "because you can play them anytime you want, and never get sick of them. Formula 1 used to be my favourite...I can’t drive like that on the road, so I enjoy it in games."
He also got a PlayStation for his birthday last year, and will get on to getting some games for it... after the A-League season is over.
When asked, none of the players had yet seen themselves in the new FIFA 12, which does of course now include the Hyundai A-League. And to a man they all seemed quite nervous about the idea of controlling themselves in-game.
All the lads were, unsurprisingly perhaps, long-time fans of the FIFA series. Niko Tsattalios liked to play as his favourite team (Manchester United). Leo Bertos liked AC Milan, "because they’re one of the better teams in the game, which is pretty good, but my brother and my mates still spank me all the time."
Cameron Lindsay liked to play Chelsea and Inter Milan, but he suggested that "Barcelona is the best team to play with". Whereas Brent Griffiths explained that, when he played FIFA with his friends, "we had rules that no-one was allowed to play Manchester United or Barcelona, because they were the two best teams."
As well as being great footballers, and nice guys, the Phoenix boys on hand were definitely real gaming fans. It was really great to get a chance to talk to them about things they do off the field to unwind, and learn that the football games NZGamers like do actually hold some appeal, even for professionals!
Thanks to Sony and to the Wellington Phoenix for giving us the chance to chat with the team, and best of luck for the finals from everyone here at NZGamer.com. If you're keen to head along, the 'nix kick off their finals campaign against the Sydney FC at the Westpac Stadium on Friday night at 8pm. Tickets are available from Ticketek.