Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A-head of the Game[r], Part I: The Sports Genre

I've been a gamer since the age of three. I might also do something related to that as a real-life job. This might mean that I have a way cooler life than you. Then again, there are way cooler things I want to do aside from this. Oh heck, let's just get on with the posts.

The media has an awkward stigma against video games. Whenever you hear about a shooting massacre, there's always some assumption that the accused is a fan of video games. However, we're all familiar with the "correlation does not imply causation" idea. Plus, there's also this thing that exists called "morality" and such. Because this is a sports blog, I'm not going to be bringing up anything that had to do with Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook. Besides, they never said anything about Madden being a bad influence.

I'm getting off-topic, so I'm going to flat out say it: Today, we're going to talk about sports video games and how it makes the realm of sports so much better in interaction and fan participation.
There. That was easy enough.

Ever since the beginning of arcade cabinets and video gaming systems, the sports genre has existed. Games such as Ice Hockey were all the rage, and it fed the needs of casual gamers and sports fans alike. While all they saw were blocky pixels, it was as real as it could get. As technology got more and more advanced, we saw cleaner graphics, off-the-wall additives like NBA Jam (BOOMSHAKALAKA) and NFL Blitz, and accurate mechanics that were true-to-life. You could pretty much say this is exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to not only promoting your brand, but promoting teams that gamers and fans alike have never heard of or looked into.

Although I've been playing video games since I was a super tiny thing, I am absolutely terrible at sports games. The only games I have played that are in the sports genre are the Backyard Sports series (Pablo Sanchez ftw), the older FIFA games, Punch-Out!, Super Mario Strikers, and Tecmo Super Bowl--which is still one of the greatest games ever made. Admittedly, I have tried Madden twice and I felt like I was on an alien planet both times. With that said, just because you can play the sport physically doesn't always mean that you are going to be good at it in virtual form. There are a myriad of things you can do with a game controller, for one, in the NCAA Football series, you can actually get one of your players to move their arms and amp up the sound level of the crowd. That seems easy enough, right? There's more. For example, in those games, as well as the Madden series, you can call audibles, draw penalties, and do pump fakes. With the XBox [360 and One] Kinect, you can literally call plays that the system can pull off. Plus, with the Kinect (for the One), you need to be careful what you say during the game, as it could get you in trouble with your opponents and even the referees. Scary. The things I've mentioned above can be a lot to swallow if you have never played one of these games in your life. It really wouldn't be your fault if you can't catch onto the whole thing, since there is technology out there that can almost outperform a human brain.

On the other hand, there are some athletes that are actually avid gamers and they take advantage of the power of the console gaming revolution.

I once read a statistic that stated the reaction time and decision-making skills are much higher in those of a person who plays video games. There are NFL players who have openly admitted to playing Madden in the offseason or even in the current season to help with play-making and routes. The same also applies to hitting mechanics in baseball or routes in basketball. Game producers such as Electronic Arts (EA) have separate studios that put a lot of work into the physics and overall realism of the game. Current and next-generation systems aren't all about graphics and processing speed--it's about fluidity and real-life application. If someone gets bumped on the court, they need to get bumped for a reason. If you need that free kick to have a tight bend on it, you have to watch your approach to the ball. These games will make you think; they'll make you create a strategy. Oh, and heaven help you if you're playing against an opponent online. Those guys (or girls) can think on the same level as you as opposed to playing an AI. That's where the real challenge comes in. This isn't something where you stare at your television screen for six straight hours doing mindless tasks while your brain turns to mush; this is something that keeps you fresh in the mind even though your bottom may start to get numb after a while.

The biggest counterargument that will come from this is simply: "It is keeping people from going outside and playing the actual sport [and it's causing obesity and the lack of a social life]."
Response: I'm a gamer and I find the time to be active. Your argument is invalid.

No, really, it all comes down to will, upbringing, and lifestyle for sports and gaming. Sure, you're probably not going to see someone who is a huge fan of Madden or FIFA popping in World of Warcraft on the PC, but it's different strokes for different folks.  Also, playing video games doesn't necessarily make you a mentally ill person or someone who plays in the basement and only sees sunlight when their PC add-on gets shipped through FedEx. They're a hobby, and everyone gets different benefits from them. Yes, considering the prices of consoles and the games themselves--brand new games with sales tax come roughly around $65--it is a luxury for some people to indulge on their favorite sports in the virtual world. However, there's always the option of buying the earlier games instead. While graphical quality and some of the physics may not be as clear-cut as current games, the magic and purpose still exist. On a bright note, a perk of buying the older games could be seeing the rosters and going: "Hey! I forgot he played for them," or "Wow, why is he terrible in this game? I thought he was supposed to be good." Ah, nostalgia. As far as activity, I highly doubt there are some people that want to play football in a blizzard. Plus, they might not have as many friends that would play said sport with them outside. In this sense, it is a good alternative for them. In turn, they just need to find other ways to be active, that's all.

Games, whether physical or virtual, are a testament to our appreciation of sports. It helps us to learn more about it, and it brings everyone together in a awkward, yet loving way. While there are "dark sides" to video gaming, the real-life feel of each gaming series gets better and better every time, and gaming companies do everything in their power to make sure that you are in the action as much as possible. I'd say it's a win on both the gamer and the company's ends.

Heck, video gaming outside of the sports genre may be a skill all its own. We'll get more into that in our next installment.


What? I'm actually making this a two-part series? Blasphemy! Hush. I'm attempting to do something daring for a change. This should give you all the more reason to actually come back and read a Part II. Great games came from their sequel: Street Fighter 2, Portal 2, Kingdom Hearts 2. Okay, I'm rambling. Just come back for the next one, OK?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should try to get on ign, and write for them. Good read, keep it up!