Give sports games a chance!Posted 9:30 am on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 by Eric Escaravage
Out of all the video games out there today, one genre receives a lot of flak from so called ‘gamers’.
Yes, I am in fact talking about sports games. A common complaint one hears about sports games is
that there is little to no learning curve. Whereas other games ease you into the difficulty of the game,
learning one ability at a time so you can master more and more as you go along, sports games drive you
to the middle of the forest and leave you to fend for yourself with nothing but the clothes on your back.
Another common complaint is the lack of a traditional difficulty setting other than a harder AI setting
which increases the stats of the opposing team as well as their situational awareness so that fun little
play you could pull off in beginner mode is easily intercepted in All-Star mode. There’s also those who
simply don’t like these titles “just because” even though sports games and other genres have shared
features and have many similarities to one another.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that many gamers don’t like sports games. Popular opinion
on many gaming websites shows that many gamers either dislike sports games or demonstrate a high
level of apathy when they are brought up. This is strange considering that sports games were the third
highest selling video game genre in the U.S in 2011 taking a 14.08% market share right behind action
titles(19%) and shooters(18.4%). Maybe the people playing these games don’t frequent the same
forums or even identify themselves as gamers. Then again, maybe it’s more of a North American issue
as FIFA 12 is only second to Diablo 3 in 2012 European sales, beating out titles such as Mass Effect 3
and Battlefield 3. The FIFA series alone has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. One apparent
reason for this level of disdain is that many gamers find sports games confusing and difficult, that you
have to know all the controls at once and are left to figure everything out on your own. While without
a general understanding of the rules anything can be confusing, take FIFA 12 as an example. When the
game starts you are given a basic ‘1 star’ player to mess around with in what’s called arena mode. Arena
mode allows the player to play with the controls and learn the basics of the game. As you play the game
more and more, and spend more time in the arena mode, you can increase your player’s stats and learn
moves that compliment your playing style on your way to becoming a ‘5 star’ player. Yes, some of these
moves are complicated to perform, but could the same not be said about a Street Fighter 4 combo?
The more effective or fancy the move the harder it is to pull off, same as any game in any genre. There
are comparable practice modes in both the NBA and Madden franchises as well, allowing the player to
practice the rules and different moves of the game in a practice arena against a computer opponent.
These tools are indispensable for any player wishing to take their game online or try the next level of
difficulty. You are no longer given a baptism by fire; sports games now include comprehensive practice
modes for players to get comfortable before immersing themselves in more traditional game play.
Another complaint heard about sports video games is the lack of difficulty settings, minus a tweaking
of the opponents AI. Let’s address this by taking into account what makes a game more difficult. In
some cases it’s restricting the player’s abilities, adding more enemies or making the opponent stronger
(something done in sports games). One of the facets of making a more challenging opponent, minus
boosting their stats, is making that enemy unpredictable. If the computer does the same thing and
shows up in the same place every time the game quickly becomes repetitive and boring. This ties in very
well with sports games as the very nature of sport is unpredictable; no two games are alike. By playing
on harder modes (usually nicknamed something corny such as ‘All Star’ or ‘Legend’) the opponent not
only becomes stronger stats wise, but the artificial intelligence is drastically improved. Many new sports
titles pride themselves on features that allow players to create their own custom plays. With smarter
AI the opponents will eventually ‘learn’ more about your playing style, rendering it more difficult to pull
off the same plays over and over. This challenges the player to learn new moves to get the leg up on the
opponent. More advanced AI is what makes any genre interesting, it’s what challenges us to not only get
better but it is a valid way to make a game tougher.
There is not much to be said for people who do not like sports games “just because”. Disliking
something for the sake of disliking something is not only invalid as an argument, it makes the person
sound like a 4 year old who won’t try their vegetables. While everyone is entitled to their opinions and
preferences, bashing sports games for the sake of bashing is pure idiocy. A more common complaint
is that people believe that sports games aren’t very well developed, seeing as a new title is released
every year. However, this hasn’t stopped developers from improving their games year after year.
Because the games come out every year, and to remain competitive in the gaming business, one would
think developers have no choice but to continue to push the best product if they want their games to
sell year after year. There’s also technology in sports games that would be amazing if ported to other
genre. EA Sports has developed a tool called “Game Face” where a user uploads photo’s to EA’s website
and is able to download a 3D likeness of themselves in game. This would be a useful feature to have
in any game, let alone an RPG. Even game play has been blended together from more arcade style
games with titles such as NBA JAM and NFL BLITZ. Everyone’s favourite plumber has his own series of
sports games “Mario *Insert sport*” (which I’m told is the video game equivalent to the “Ernst goes to”
movies, but more entertaining). Sports games are accessible to everyone; they shouldn’t be discounted
just for the sake of argument.
Although I’m certain I won’t change everyone’s opinion, I hope I’ve still given you all something to
consider. Sports games are coming up with new game play features which let us to practice more and
more, allowing us to truly be comfortable in game play. AI is evolving, and it’s keeping the titles we love
interesting and making us want to keep playing them over and over again. So instead of just discounting
them for the sake of it, give a sports game a chance, you might just find yourself hooked.
Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. A flight attendant for pay, geek and sports fan all day.