Sports Games Are Great, And As A Gamer, You Should Play Them! (at least once)
It's odd to me, that there still seems to be such a negative stigma attached to sports games. More then ever in fact. Perhaps I'm not remembering correctly, but in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, a sports games was still just a game.
As a kid, I wasn't a sports fan. I hated sports in school, and I never watched football, rugby or cricket. I would draw instead. I was an introvert, and I guess sport being mostly team oriented put me off a little even if it's only watching it. But this so called 'hate' was just a dismissal really, I hadn't given it a chance. I actually have some very vivid memories of Gazza crying in 1990, and Kris Akabusi running the last leg for Gold in 1991 World Championships. So I was at least taking notice.
Even before I had the realization that I actually enjoyed sport, I was playing it on consoles. I'd played Track and Field, Nintendo World Cup and Blades of Steel on the NES. On the Mega-Drive; Olympic Gold, Fifa, NHL, Madden, PGA Golf, Sensible Soccer, Brian Lara Cricket, and Mutant League and Speedball II (if those can be counted). On the SNES, NBA JAM, Super Tennis and International Super Star Soccer (which evolved and branched into Pro Evolution).
I only really started to follow football closely when I was around 12 I guess, something like that. Other sports followed. But I'd been playing virtual sports, games, for a good chunk before. And some of these games, were simply great games for the platforms. It wasn't a sports game, it was just a solid game. Good fun to play. No different than sitting playing Solstice, Super Mario World or Shinning Force. Actually, a lot of them even had the jump on some titles due to the co-op play. In this respect, I think only Micro Machines bettered them, or at least until 2+ players on consoles became a little more accessible.
Perhaps it was when the licensing started to happen, or perhaps it was with the PlayStation bringing in a whole new audience. But approaching the late 90's, the sports game had started to build around it, some certain stereotypes. People only played sports games, and some gamers started to voice their dislike of the genre simply due to them being sports. They had stopped being games, and were looked at in a different light.
Even as they evolved and became more simulation like, those early titles were never thought to be games that were looking to be simply fun. They were trying to replicate the sport. They had all of the players and the rules, the movements tactics and plays that would be associated with the sports.
The unfortunate effect of this, is that now, sports games are looked down on. Outside of those who play them, they are considered almost as problem children, as black marks on the image of the games, especially in the crusade for games as art. They are always incorrectly dismissed as 'roster updates', with it being the same content released over and over. Some of the dislike from the gamer towards this genre, is just like the dislike towards Social Games and Mobile Games, the fact that they appeal to a wider audience also leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some.
This dislike towards the genre is simply irrational. And for those that continue to shun the genre, it's a unfortunate loss because they are missing out on some really good gaming.
I decided to buy Fifa 2013 last night. I spent some time with the demo and it got me, I was more that happy to put down some cash. I'm looking forward to playing it some more right now, than any other games I have waiting for me. And I have some pretty awesome games to choose from.
The game isn't the best looking game that I have played (but by no means shabby!), but that is often the case with sports games. They are limited to facial models and textures, and the real work comes from the animations. But what is important with sports games, is the game play. Sports games have some of the most involving gameplay of any genre. No other genre on a whole offers that amount of player input and control, as well as control options and variables to the player. You can do so many things, far more than you could gameplay wise in an RPG or the run of the mill Third Person action game. There are many play and control nuances in sports games which just do not exist in other genres (yet!).
So, this genre, this genre that a lot of gamers tend to dislike, has some of the most diverse gameplay and openness to input out there. Do gamers dislike games that allow them this level of control, this level of variety and choice?
Beyond the gameplay, there is the AI. And to be honest, the AI has always been an issue. But it is one of the genres that has at least tried to improve in this field. Most games are using the same AI base as of games over the last 10 years. So far, Fifa 13 looks good. I haven't played a football game where the AI was this useful against the opposition. That isn't really saying much, but it's an improvement, it's progress. Where else is this kind of constant progress in AI present?
Sports games offer great role-playing too. Some of the best available. It's been present in sports games before, but it has progressed. As well as masses of body control during the interactive moments, there is now control over external choices, like contracts and requests. You can share your mood. My player that I created (me!), was sent on Loan at the start of the season, I didn't want to go, but I accepted the offer because I felt I could play more football at Wimbledon. It was then up to me to control how I played, not a dice roll. It had choice, and it has input. And both are far more flexible than a lot of other genres that call themselves Role-Play.
It isn't just Fifa that can offer this, the Madden series has grown something similar over the years. NHL has offered these kind of options too, just not as deep, it was more a play point as the player often had control over the entirety of the team decision wise. But being able to place yourself in the game like that, where you have so much control and can have so much influence on the game, is something that is not found in many other games. As a gamer, that level of interaction and influence is something often desired in other games, but also far from met.
The one rational dislike, or at least, an aspect of the game that can remove its appeal, is the fact that escapism can be hard without the interest in sport. It's not going to make you wield mighty weapons, or leave the world in your hands. It won't whisk you away to worlds of great fantasy and wonder. You are still very much in a relatable world, or as relatable as being a sports star can be.
Due to this, I can understand why some gamers would not be interested in the genre. But is this a justification of hating the genre? Of dismissing it completely?
If someone doesn't like a genre, then that's fine. Not many like to dabble in everything, but to dismiss a genre based on being misinformed isn't good. Especially when these games do so many things right.
If you find yourself complaining about QTE's, lack of control and linear play, jump on a sports game and take control of what you want to do. Sports games are great for letting you play.