I’ve always wondered why sports games are looked down upon by most “hardcore” gamers. They borrow elements from different genres and somehow figure out a way to mesh all of them together. Sports games are an excellent stepping stone for more casual gamers to get into more diverse gaming. I will admit that there are certain negatives about sports games but, for the most part, the same complaints can be lobbied against other, more “serious” games.
I’ve enjoyed sports games since pitching in with my cousins to buy Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside for my N64. Since then I’ve gone through and played every single Madden since ’98. This love of sports games may be hard to understand but it boils down to this: I can make my own story without having to rely on cutscenes or dialogue. If I want to take perennial cellar-dwellers and wheel and deal my way to a championship or take a powerhouse on another decade-long run of dominance, I can. I’m able to create myself in the game and put a level of detail into my avatar that would put most RPGs to shame. At the end of the day, whatever you want that game to be will craft the experience you have playing it.
Most people will avoid sports games since there are some negatives associated with the genre. Frequent complaints include the yearly release schedule, the $60 annual price tag per game, and the fact that the biggest differences being the yearly roster update. If sports devs want to increase their fan base they will definitely have to address these issues. In particular, with the upcoming transition to next-gen consoles, each dev team has to create multiple versions of the same game which can be a real challenge.
While these are all valid reasons, there appears to be a double standard. Isn’t the Call of Duty franchise a yearly release? I’m pretty sure the story mostly has something to do with an Eastern villain being fought by American troops joined by a mustachioed British veteran soldier. I’m also pretty sure the multiplayer has different modes but is mainly a player and his/her teammates fighting another team for points. I don’t want this to seem like I hate Call of Duty. I enjoy the single player campaigns and love spending time with my Twinfinite coworkers and friends blasting people away in multiplayer.
This arbitrary higher standard that sports games are held to is ridiculous, and even more so when the yearly sports releases are of equal quality, if not better, than their shooter/action/adventure/RPG cousins. The FIFA series consistently has one of the most enjoyable soundtracks in all of gaming; drawing from different cultures and countries all around the world. The NBA 2K series in particular has hit its stride within the past three to four years. Every year brings either completely new gameplay variations or rehauled production values. Jay-Z even executive produced the 2K13 entry in the series and brought his immense creative mind to bear when collaborating on the game and its soundtrack. It has gotten to the point where the line between the game and real life gets thinner every year.
While each game is obviously representative of their respective sports, underneath that superficial level there resides features from a myriad of different game types. Calling plays and substituting players in and out is straight from turn-based strategy games. Managing your coaches’ and players’ progression can be equated to RPGs boiled down to their simplest forms. Losing your star player to an undisclosed injury can be as frightening as any Slenderman encounter. You can name any gaming genre and sports games will have a small sample of that gameplay included in them. All these elements shouldn’t be coexisting in the same game, but they do and very well at that. If anything, by mixing them all together players are given little tastes of all the genres at the same time without consciously realizing it.
This meshing together of the genres that happens under the hood of sports games leads to my next point; people who start off playing only sports games can use them as a stepping stone and have the potential to expand into other games. I’ve had multiple friends start off hooked on the Madden or FIFA series and now are building their own high-end gaming PCs since console gaming is getting “too casual” for them. Obviously, these cases aren’t the norm but that transition from sports into other genres is something that can and does happen.
I don’t quite know where the disdain for sports games comes from. There’s something about hitting a game-winning shot or coming back from a huge deficit that doesn’t translate into other genres. Sports games do have their positives and negatives but so do all the other games “hardcore gamers” prefer to play instead. I just wish more “hardcore gamers” gave sports games a chance. This elitist double standard is infuriating since it’s perfectly acceptable for groups of gamers to exclusively play RPGs, shooters, or action games but for a person to stick to sports games must mean they’re a lesser gamer. If sports games aren’t your cup of tea, that’s fine; but if even the mention of a sports game makes you respond with some nonsense about “Roster Update 2013″, go kick a can. If you want to bury your head in the dirt and not even give these amazing games a chance, you don’t have any right to criticize the game or the gamers that play them.