As an avid console gamer, I rarely if ever play sports video games. Although, I’ve had played sports video games in the past to the likes of the Madden NFL series, NBA 2K series, FIFA series, NHL series, and the NBA Jam franchise with college friends, I’m not compelled to go out and buy one. Recently, I’ve decided to give the sports video games another go as an experiment. I rented FIFA 19, Madden NFL 19, NBA 2K19, and NHL 19 all from my local public library on the PlayStation 4. And yes, most public libraries now have video games you can rent free for a week on the consoles PS4, XBox One, and Nintendo Switch. The trick is to renew them twice so you have each game rented for a maximum of three weeks.
After hours of these games having to download and taking up mass amounts of storage space, I played an average of one match per video game. I started with FIFA 19, which I never played before. Surprisingly, it was fun, but I had a huge issue with the controls. Actually, with each sports video game, the biggest issue I had was with the complexity of the gaming mechanics.
Years ago, during the age of SEGA Genesis, Super Nintendo, and PlayStation 1 & 2 it seemed like sports video games were more entertaining. They were simpler with fewer buttons that made the avid gamer intrigued of owning them. I think of classic titles like NBA Jam, NHL ’94, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (actually, I have no problem with X Games, I owned Aggressive Inline and ATV Offroad Fury back in the day), and NBA Street. Unfortunately, modern sports video games have become too pretentious for it’s own good. On the other hand, Wii Sports are a blast to play because they’re more physically interactive and do not take themselves seriously. Below I break down seven reasons why I think sports video games are a problem for the avid gamer.
Problem #1: The Controls
I understand with new sports video games the game developers want to make you feel like you’re really playing the sports game as if your the professional player. However, let’s face it, with the complexities of having to understand each different control for each different situation in a game (Offense, Defense, Passing, Blocking, Shooting, Dodging Tricks, etc.) it quickly gets overwhelming , especially if you have not played a sports video game in a long time. There are even controls where the subtleties of moving the analogue stick determines what kind of shot or what kind of maneuvering around the opponents on the field/court are. NHL 19 had a mandatory training section to show you how to play the video game with several different modules. I felt like I was going into sports camp. In one game of NBA 2K19, I was the Los Angeles Lakers and lost by 36 points to the Boston Celtics because the game never showed me where I needed to release the shooting button so that the ball could enter the basket. It seems as if playing the actual sport is much easier.
Problem #2: Unfair AI/CPU
In only two out of the four sports games I’ve recently played, I managed a close win. I felt like even though I was learning the game, I still was playing well and yet the AI/CPU system of the opposing team seemed to slink in some lucky scores and wins. The passing game on Madden NFL 19 was nearly impossible. There were times when I thought I had an opening, only to discover after that the opposing team knocked it out of the air. The AI can be very unfair because they follow a concrete algorithm that limits or deletes human error. The average difficulty was set to normal, so either the video game is naturally challenging or I’m just terrible.
Problem #3: It’s Difficult
Sports video games can be very difficult between the intricate controls, the intelligent and unforgiving CPU and if you’re not completely familiar with all of the sports rules and regulations, you will be bound for many penalties. Especially when the game gives a block command that can give you a penalty or flag if you aren’t careful. I think the only exciting challenge with this genre is by facing against a friend either on or offline.
Problem #4: Annoying Announcers
When I’m having difficulty figuring out the video game mechanics and a tough CPU, I also have to constantly be berated by loud and condescending announcers that won’t shut up. They will comment on any little thing that occurs in the match, even to trash talk the losing team, by saying things like, “I don’t know what they thought they’d accomplish with that play,” or “Seems fair that the fans would be leaving the stadium earlier than expected, Dick.” I tried looking through the video game options, but there does not seem to be any settings where you can turn them off. I guess I’d have to resort to muting my television. There were many times that I was cursing out the announcers. Too bad they could not hear me.
Problem #5: They’re Bland
I think playing a few sports games could be fun and entertaining in the short run. However, after awhile, the components of what the sports video game offers are slim. After so many matches or games, a gamer is bound to get bored. There’s no interesting story or setting to motivate players to continue playing for a long period of time. The concept of playing a sports video game is a bit ridiculous, because anyone could perform them in their waking life, if they’re athletic enough. After playing an awful game of NBA 2K19, I went to the park and shot some hoops in which I had much more of a visceral experience.
Problem #6: They’re Not Supportive Of Avid Gamers
I see sports video games for people who are casual video game players. Someone in their apartment might have a stack of sports video games to play with roommates or after playing the actual sport on a league or tournament. Someone who appreciates the beauty and experience of what certain video games can offer a player, will not like the repetitive nature of sports video games. I play video games as a way to escape into an interactive narrative, like a live action book. I’d read more books if I wasn’t so lazy. There is something to say about how an action-adventure game transports you into another world or realm. Sports games just mimic exactly what is perceived in our daily lives. It fails on creativity and imagination.
Problem #7: There’s Too Many Each Year
Since sports video games have to match the seasons of each year, they need to be pumping them out every year. The problem with this is that if you ever want to get into playing more sports video games there are too many video games to choose from. How do you know which to try and which to avoid? I think purchasing a new sports video game when it comes out for $59.99 is foolish. That’s a lot of money wasted given the massive amount of quantity in this genre. The majority of these video games are being produced by EA Sports which lowers consumer variety. Let’s not forget the fact that after a year, there cannot be many changes between video games because it’s only a year apart. Also, video game players have complained about the large surmount of bugs involved with sports video games. Only so many lagging and bug fixes can be applied per year. Then when a long sports franchise like Madden for example make big changes in the following year, they’re at risk of losing older fans of the series. It could potentially be a polarizing thing when sports video games decide to make massive control changes in order to provide a more realistic experience.
There you have it. I apologize if you’re a huge fan of sports video games, but this is how I feel. If I’m going to spend $60 I’d either focus my attention on a video game that will provide me with an experience for which I can escape this boring world and feel like I’m the survivor of the zombie apocalypse or the knights of the round table bringing balance to the violent, but magical worlds. I think if I was a huge fan of sports where I had a lifetime of playing on sports leagues or watched them religiously like binge watching my favorite TV show on Netflix or watching SportsCenter how older people watch the news and younger people go on social media, then I’d probably consider buying a dozen of these cookie cutter video games. Let me know how you feel about sports video games. Do you like them, hate them, and why?
If you enjoyed this and would like to read more from Anthony, check out his novel ‘Stay Awhile’ on Amazon amazon.com/Stay-Awhile.