Why Aren’t Sports Games More Popular… - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Why Aren’t Sports Games More Popular…

True story. About 4 or maybe 6 hours ago (maybe longer depending on when I actually get to publishing this) I was at the gym, running on a treadmill. I don't know that I would actually go to the gym if I wasn't in the military and didn't have a semi-annual physical readiness test breathing down my neck, but I'd like to think I would. I don't mind exercise. I kinda like jogging and biking. I used to play football with the neighborhood kids and always liked basketball even though I wasn't all that good at it. Anyway, the treadmills at the Navy gym I go to are pretty nice. Big and sturdy so you don't wobble around. They're also equipped little television screens and audio jacks so you can watch cartoons or other programming on TV in an effort to make you forget about all the pain you're in come mile 4 or 5. I recalled this weekend being the NFL season opener, so I had ESPN on to watch the highlights. Seemed kind of stereotypical and even a little fake...some guy working out at the gym watching ESPN, but I still chuckled at the thought (well, in my defense I was wearing my Commodore Amiga t-shirt, so I was representing my roots). Trust me, if they had cool cartoons on or maybe G4TV available, I would have certainly tuned that in. But I was pretty much limited to daytime talk shows...no; daytime soap operas...no; Dora the Explorer...um, no; or every news agency talking about politics...not only no but...ahem, you get the point. So ESPN it was.

What the casual observer didn't see was I was listening to the latest Game Informer podcast while I was sweating my tail off...Episode 123 that included an interview with Corey May from Ubisoft, who was there promoting Assassin's Creed III. You'll have to forgive my inability to recollect the specific details about the conversation as I was focused more on breathing than who asked the question, but somebody asked Corey if he was playing the latest Madden game or maybe it was the newest NBA title. I dunno - it was definitely one of the stick and ball sports games from EA Sports I think. Corey chuckled and replied no, that he didn't really engage in sports, video game or real.

Then it occurred to me, neither do I. Not only do I not play any sports video games, I don't even really watch them on TV (well except for maybe NASCAR, but some would argue that's not a real sport). I don't have a favorite team; I can't tell you any stats about a particular player; and couldn't tell you who was in the Superbowl last year. I don't know how many Madden games there have been (although I do remember getting NFL Gameday when I bought the Playstation at its release only because it was one of a handful of titles that were still on the shelf). To illustrate how horrible I am, I recall playing one of the NBA games (NBA Live 96 maybe?) with a friend and I was the Orlando Magic  and was trying to use Shaquille O'Neal to shoot three pointers (if that tells you how long ago this was). Apparently the chances of him hitting that shot are next to nothing? Forwards, Guards? I don't even know what that means? The positions have titles? I didn't know, but I did get lots of laughs from some onlookers watching us play. I've tried to play the football games too, and it never fails. I think I'm picking a running play and end up throwing the ball, usually an interception. My opponent will look at me with a puzzled expression and I simply reply, "What? I was trying to run the ball."

So yeah, suffice it to say when it comes to sports games, I know nothing about them and admittedly suck at them. This is true whether we're talking about video games or real life. But that doesn't explain how I can jog and watch ESPN, or go to Buffalo Wild Wings and sit captivated with all the screens displaying various sports events, or go to a place like Dave & Buster's and play the "Shoot To Win" Basketball arcade game. And yes, from time to time, I'll even give them a go in video game fashion. Maybe it's genetic or somehow engrained in our minds that despite not being interested in the subject matter, if it is in our view we must watch it or play it.

So if I'm not a sports guy why in the world would I blog about them? I suppose because despite not being a gamer that partakes in sports games, I am and have always been kind of surprised there isn't a bigger audience for them. If ever there was a game that was perfectly aligned to be a video game it's the sports genre.

Sports games are all about competition. There is typically a winner and a loser. I almost didn't write this blog, but I saw this billboard with a cool quote, ironically enough promoting the NFL season, and it read...

If winning was easy then losers would do it.

So I told myself, "Okay, fine! I'll write the blog, but only if I can use that quote in it."

That's not entirely accurate, but the point is most of our online games instill a certain amount of competition. And sometimes when a team is involved and you're trying to eliminate the other team, the competition is even fiercer. Don't think gamers can be competitive? Go to a video game tournament and sit in the back. Most gamers I know that play online can be every bit as competitive as professional athletes playing real sports. Imagine how competitive it must be to combine the two...competitive gamers playing competitive sports games.

I'll never forget when NASCAR driver Mike Skinner was interviewed about trying to win and he said he would wreck his mom to win his first race. I don't know about you, but when I play a racing game against somebody else, and it comes down to the final lap and I'm either winning or have a shot at winning, I'll do whatever I can to win. I'll sling turtles or bananas, draft off of them and try and sling shot around them or bump them and get 'em loose.

You'd think developing a sports game would be easy money. Gone are the challenges of creating a compelling story, interesting characters and basic fundamentals. A sports game already has all of that created for you - players and bios, stadiums and arenas around the world, all of the rules and mechanics of game play. All the developer has to do is generate the content and stitch it together - the hard part has already been done.

Now, I'm not suggesting nobody likes them, I know there are plenty of gamers out there who do enjoy them. But the general attitude (right or wrong) seems to be these games are not all that popular. And it just seems like sports video games would be perfect - think about how many sports fans out there. Enough to fill entire stadiums...yet you never really seem to hear the industry get excited when the next Madden comes out, and glancing at Game Informer's cover gallery...nope, I don't see any sports games gracing the coveted cover in the past year or so.

OMG, what's happening to me? I just blogged about sports games. I think viewing the blogs every day and seeing so many spam blogs advertising "Watch & Enjoy live San Diego vs Oakland" is finally affecting me.

Seriously though...I really don't know why sports games aren't more popular...I've played Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Killer Instinct for hours on end, but Fight Night or UFC Undisputed do nothing for me. I'll play the floor models at Best Buy if it's loaded, but that's about the extent of my playtime. I'll play Capture the Flag (CTF) in all sorts of different games from Team Fortress 2 to Halo, which is essentially the same things as football, but a new release of Madden doesn't even cause me to raise a brow. Baseball you say? I play baseball...well sort of. The Scout class in Team Fortress 2 is equipped with the Sandman...a ball and bat that can be used to stun your opponent with a successful hit to the noggin.  I couldn't tell you anything about the latest installment of MLB, assuming that's even the title of the game.

I guess the reason I don't play sports games is because the similarities between them and the games I do play are a lot closer than what I might realize. Player versus player or team versus team...battling it out to achieve a goal. When you break it down to its simplest form, sports games are not all that different than other genres and given the choice I'd much rather shoot my adversary than tackle them.

Cheers.               

 

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