One of the first genres that I have ever played in the realm of video games are sports games. To this day, I’ve remained a big fan of sports games, and it’s one genre that garners a fair amount of ire from other video game players. Today’s blog isn’t necessarily to convince you to play video games, or to describe why they are better or worse than other genres. Instead, the goal of this blog is to simply state why I enjoy playing this genre.  So, please enjoy this list of reasons why I enjoy sports games!

1: The ability to gain new music to listen to:
        One of the key aspects, and first things that you notice when playing a sports game is the soundtrack. Many soundtracks are licensed, and feature an array of songs that both are different, yet still manage to combine around a general mood of the game. For example, Madden is often more rock-focused, FIFA more world music and alternative focused, and NBA 2K more hip-hop focused. Some games have better soundtracks than others, but I’ve enjoyed most, if not all of the soundtracks in sports games that I have played. One of the first things I do when I receive a new sports game is go into the menu and listen to the entire soundtrack and judge how good it is. It’s akin to the feeling of unboxing a new present on Christmas. Another thing that is pretty great about the soundtracks in sports games is finding a song that you really enjoy, and then finding a new song or artist to add to your musical repertoire. For example, I would estimate that I’ve found about 10% of the artists that I listen to through a sports game. Franz Ferdinand, Ozomatli, K’naan, and Fort Minor are just a few of the musicians that I have found due to playing sports games.

2: The ability to experience an arena that you might not be able to visit otherwise:
        One aspect of sports games that I really enjoy, yet I feel is really underrated is the ability to experience an arena, field, or stadium that you might not be able to visit otherwise. This might range from a stadium far away (Wembley Stadium in London), to the non-existent (Pipeline Stadium in Mario Super Strikers). This ability to see a stadium, and feel a part of the action even though you might be miles upon miles away is something that I am really appreciative of. In addition, you can learn about how a stadium looks like, before you even step foot in it or watch it on T.V. This is especially handy when you turn on a channel on T.V., a sports game is playing, and you can recognize where the team is playing due to the look of the stadium.  It’s not an important skill to have, but it’s fun to have nonetheless. In addition, it’s also surprisingly handy when you are able to visit the place. For example, I recently visited the Xcel Energy Center for the first time in my life last week, and yet I knew the way around most of it simply by playing the NHL series. One final thing that I enjoy about the arenas in sports games is that the arenas often times show a decent amount of a stadium, but not too much. For example, one hobby of mine is cartography. I enjoy drawing maps of anything. One thing that helps when it comes to this is that you can see the inside of a stadium usually, but not the outside, or the neighborhood around it, leaving a lot to be interpreted by the artist. I recognize that it’s something that probably isn’t in the thoughts of many developers as they make these games, but it’s a fun side-hobby anyways.

3: The customization options:
       Another aspect that I enjoy in sports games is how customizable they are. The length of time in the game, the number of players both human and AI, where you play, the weather during the game, the music during a game, the rosters of the teams, if you want to make your own team, these are just some of the aspects that go into a sports game that are customizable. Being able to take control of so many different aspects of your experience is something that I enjoy. In addition, it opens up so many different game modes and ways to play, and it greatly adds to the replay-ability of sports games. The game that I have spent the most time playing is Madden 08’, and I would be willing to bet that a large majority of my time playing that game is attributed to the fact that I’ve attempted a 5-year franchise mode with every single team in the league. Another one of my favorite accomplishments in that game is the rendition of my school team that I have incorporated in the game. The logo is the exact same as the one at school, and the roster is almost entirely comprised of people that play on the team.

4: The ability to learn a new aspect of a sport:
       One of the things that sports games provide that I’m appreciative of is the ability to sharpen and practice a new aspect of a sport that you might not have known of, or been able to practice otherwise. For example, when Madden 06’ created the vision passing cone, it allowed me to better learn and see how where I look as a quarterback has an impact on where the defender is on the field. It was a visual representation of a real life concept, and helped me learn much faster than I would have otherwise.
5: The ability to take control of a franchise:
       Probably my favorite and most played feature in a sports game, but the ability to take control of a franchise is amazing. Whenever I take control of a franchise, I enjoy being able to micromanage the different aspects of a team, and I really feel it being a unique entity all its own. In any sports game, it’s fun to be able to set the prices of food and concessions, tickets and merchandise. You try to make your roster as interesting or good as you want it to be, and you can relocate your team and make a new identity if you want. I remember playing the franchise mode in the Madden series, and taking control of the worst teams after 5 or so years, only to move them and turn them around. So while the Anchorage Cougars aren’t likely to be formed, being able to make such a team was pretty great.

6: The fact that the games can be exaggerated a little bit, but still fun:
       Another aspect of sports video games that I really enjoy is that they often take into account the fact that they can be exaggerated. Being able to score 100 points in football, being able to get 50 rebounds in basketball, or hitting 7 homeruns in a baseball game, all of these things are just one part of sports games that I enjoy. Spin-off games definitely take this into account, but even main series like the Nascar Thunder series allow you to break free of the real-life-rules in a sport. For example, being able to drive a little bit more recklessly than in real life makes a win that much more satisfying when your half-destroyed car comes rumbling across the finish line.

7: Being able to learn the names of players, and other little tidbits about the sport:
       One of the smaller aspects of sports games that I enjoy in sports games is simply being able to learn about new players, and to find out more info about a sport. I’ll be playing a sports game from 5-6 years ago, and remember a player’s name who might be a new rookie, or a backup. It’s satisfying to watch a game now and see how much they’ve either progressed or regressed if you see them on the field.

8: Being able to make replays:
       Another reason why I play sports games is for the ability to replay moments. While having replays on T.V. is nice, being able to control them on demand is really great in my opinion. Being able to save them is also a nice little feature, especially when you make a great play and your friends might not believe you. In addition to just showing off, replays allow you to notice aspects of the game that you can improve upon. Where your pitching might be off, where an open man off a rotation screen might be, if a blocker is doing a good job vs. the run, etc… Replays help a ton in this regard. It’s a way to evaluate talent on the field, even if you are in the action as well. It’s especially crucial when making rosters in the offseason.

9: The competitive aspect of sports games:
       Another thing that I enjoy about sports games is simply the competitive aspect of them. Being able to play head-to-head vs. a friend for bragging rights is always a fun thing to do. In this generation, the implementation of online leaderboards further fuel a competitive drive, and it is fun to see practice in a sports game pay off, just like practice in a real-life sport can pay off in a game.

10: Learning the history of a sport:
       In addition to the other aspects listed, another reason why I play sports games is because of the rich history of a sport they can play. “Road to Glory” type simulator modes can provide insight on a key player in the sport. Also, player bios can provide nicknames, show where someone went to college, and show previous teams that the player was on. While it’s not the most important aspect of a sports game, it’s fun to learn more about the players, and they are cool pieces of general trivia to know.

11: The wacky spin-off games:
       One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to sports games is that they are all very serious, real life simulators. While the most popular games in the genre tend to fall under that category, there are many spin-offs as well that are a blast to play. Mutant League Football, NBA Jam, and the Mario Sports series are all games that I have a great time playing, since they provide a fun, yet highly unrealistic experience to the table. This lack of realism in the games keep them lighthearted, and allow for a good change-of-pace from time to time. 
       Those are some of the reasons why I play sports games. Hopefully this blog has provided a new way to look at the genre, or just gives you a different perspective to look at it. Either way, that’s all for today’s blog. What are your favorite sports games? Do you play sports games? Why or why not? As always, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!