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The Greatest Retro Gaming Moment In Movie History

  • PRG

Arguments often ensue when the category of greatest sports movie is raised. On the baseball front, Bull Durham always gets plenty of love, as does Field Of Dreams. Football fans lean toward The Longest Yard, while boxing aficionados will cast their lot with Raging Bull. The Basketball brigade will be beating their chests over the wonder of Hoosiers. Hockey fans just utter the words Slap Shot, followed by the phrase case closed.

It’s certainly a debate that can turn into a diatribe and really, there’s no 100% correct answer. However, if you were to put forth a category for the best film featuring a retro gaming scene, this argument won’t last long. No one in Hollywood would be needing the state to legalize California betting apps in order to set odds on this outcome, because there’s one clear and obvious answer.

It’s the scene in the movie Swingers in which the characters are playing NHL ‘93. It’s so money and you know it. And if you don’t think that this is the correct answer, then you are thinking incorrectly. The movie is a classic and the retro gaming scene is pure film perfection. It’s absolutely iconic.

Setting the Scene

If you’ve seen Swingers, then you’re already nodding in agreement with this assessment. If you’re among the few who haven’t seen the 1996 Jon Favreau written and produced flick starring both Favreau and Vince Vaughn, rectify that situation ASAP.

Or you can follow along as we explain the utter magic of the NHL ‘93 scene. But spoiler alert – you might want to watch the film first before continuing to read, if you want the scene to be a surprise, because we’re about to go into great detail on this epic movie moment.

In the scene, a bunch of friends are getting together at one of their apartments prior to going out on the town. Vaughn’s character Trent is playing NHL ‘93 on Sega Genesis against Patrick Van Horn’s character Sue. Trent is the Chicago Blackhawks, while Sue, who is wearing a Wayne Gretzky Los Angeles Kings jersey, is the Kings. Favreau’s character Bobby is watching, awaiting his turn to play the game.

Naturally, as is generally the case whenever friends get together for a little video game action, there are plenty of good natured barbs aimed in everyone’s direction.

“The Kings suck in this game,” Bobby points out. “You should play another team.”

“I took the Kings to the Cup,” counters Sue.

“Yeah, against the computer with the offsides off,” notes Trent.

“They’re a finesse team,” Sue responds, as he’s clearly growing annoyed with his buddies and their opinion of his favorite team.

As the action heats up, Trent begins to talk up the skill level of his Blackhawks.

“It’s not so much me as it’s (Jeremy) Roenick,” he says. “He’s good.”

Then Trent delivers the denouement. After discussing their mutual disappointment about fighting being removed from the game, he raises the notion that there are other forms of violence that are accessible when the right combination of buttons are pushed.

“You know you can make guys’ heads bleed on this one,” he says. “I’m gonna make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed for super fan number 99 over here.

“There it is Mikey, his head’s bleeding. Check it out. His legs, little Wayne’s legs are shaking all over.”

The Magic Of Hollywood

Of course, the entire Gretzky bleeding scene is all part of the aura of movie magic. During the filming of the scene, Vaughn and Van Horn aren’t actually playing NHL ‘93. The hockey scenes from NHL ‘93 were all added during post production. The scene about drawing the Great One’s blood was added into the script after Vaughn’s continued insistence that he could make it happen.

“We’re a little low-budget movie; we need to knock over Wayne Gretzky and draw blood,” Swingers director Doug Liman explained to The Ringer. “The actors are acting like that’s happening on screen, and in the editing room I needed to get a closeup shot of the video game where that actually happened. Because while we’re shooting this scene, they’re just acting like that happened.”

Could it actually happen, though? That was an entirely different question and one that wasn’t easily answered.

“I had never actually seen Wayne Gretzky draw blood, but Vince [Vaughn] claimed he could do it repeatedly, so we put it in the script,” Liman explained. “The actors are reacting to that. And then we’re editing the movie and I bring the [game console] into the editing room and we start playing it and we’re recording it onto a videotape so that when we get the one piece we need we’ll play that back on the TV and shoot it.

“[We do this] for, like, weeks. Nobody can draw blood. And I’m like [to] Nintendo, ‘Hey, can you give us the backdoor key to doing this?’ It wasn’t like we were having fun playing the game, because all we would do was pass the puck down and set it up for Gretzky to get the puck and then we would, you know, try to slam him into the boards.”

Like NHL checkers who were consistently thwarted in their bids to shut down Gretzky on the ice, finding a way to make him bleed on a video game was proving to be an equally daunting task. Eventually, though, they managed to make it happen – just once.

“What was the trick? It was not replicable,” Liman said. “It wasn’t like once we did it once we could do it again three more times. It was infuriatingly fleeting. We happened to get it on video and then we were able to play it back — but it almost derailed the whole movie.

“I mean, I don’t know what would have happened. It’s such a key thing they’re talking about in Swingers. It would have been really cheap if we couldn’t have shown it.”

Interestingly, one of the key elements to the scene – Gretzky – insisted to Sports Illustrated that he hasn’t seen Swingers.

“I never saw the movie,” Gretzky said. “I was told by teammates that I had to see the scene in the movie, that it was very funny.

“That was the goal of hundreds of players who played against me. Knock me down.”


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