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Daily Recap: April 9, 2009

April 10, 2009

This is going to be a bit of a departure from previous entries this week. Because it was an excruciatingly slow news day — and because I’m pining over my dearly departed Xbox 360 — I thought I’d take some time to just talk in brief about a genre I’m not very familiar with. And to do that, I’ve brought along a good friend.

Pulling a Moore

Hey, it’s Peter Moore! He’s that guy who did the thing at the place and now it’s kind of a gaming humor mainstay. But I’m not here to talk about Rock Band, which I’ll do for hours on end if I’m not careful; I’m here to talk about what Peter would want me to discuss: sports games.

I always hated sports games growing up for the same reasons I hated playing sports: I was painfully unaware of my surroundings and, put bluntly, I totally sucked. Despite my parents’ best efforts to instill virtues of hard work, fellowship and teamwork through various sports in my youth, I quickly realized I couldn’t kick a soccer ball without tripping over myself. I whiffed more swings than anyone else on my baseball team in second grade — even when you count the practice swings on a tee. But as I’ve grown older and arguably wiser, I’ve learned to appreciate the intricate strategy and thrill of action in a lot of popular sports. However, that doesn’t change the fact that games like Madden just aren’t made for me. Without an innate knowledge of football strategy, discerning one type of rushing play from another is like asking a chimpanzee to transcribe Mozart by ear. If you’re lucky, the specimen might pick up on a few appealing shapes and try to recreate them, but more often than not you’re basically taking a shot in the dark.

Peter Moore understands what it’s like to be an inept, awkward mess like me. Maybe he wasn’t picked last for the football team, but he’s got to be painfully aware just how undesirable a bass player he’s become. So since he left Microsoft for Electronic Arts, publishers of sports games like Madden NFL, he’s sought to expand the market for sports games to include gamers like me — you know, the sort of person who remembers exactly how to breed a gold chocobo in Final Fantasy VII but can’t remember when the hell the next Super Bowl is going to take place.

Moore laid out his scheme across five pillars, detailed here at Gamasutra. Basically, he’s hoping that EA will be able to hold onto their core audience while reaching out to atypical sports game players who — like me — might be swayed by the right feature set, or an easier entry point. It’s a great approach, and I think it’s only going to help the games industry if such a major genre can expand its player base as significantly as Moore hopes to.

I want to like sports games, but I definitely need a little extra help here and there. And I can’t be the only one, either. Moore proved he could have used a little easier starting point before performing Rock Band on-stage with the game’s developers. Similarly, I’d love to get my feet wet in a variety of sports games as well. Just don’t toss me into the fray and shut the door behind me! The sooner sports games broaden their audience appeal and begin to cater to the casual and hardcore, the better.

But hey, Peter? Please promise me one thing.

Don’t release weekly song downloads for Madden, okay? I’m already perpetually broke thanks to Rock Band.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 10, 2009 9:10 am

    It’s not like I dislike sports games for a lack of trying. I used to play football, soccer and basketball, and I was (for being a nerd even then) fairly good at being the goalie. So “back in the day” I purchased a FIFA here, a Madden there, and tried desperately to get into them to replicate my on-the-field joy. But the fun never came.

    The gameplay feels stilted and too reliant on strategy, and, though accurate, that must be the reason I gravitated toward the extreme sports titles like Tony Hawk , 1080 and so on. Without spewing blasphemy in the faces of Madden and insert-sports-game-genre-here fans, the allure of extreme sports games to non-sports fanatics like myself and Nick is probably because they allow freedom and creativity outside of picking your team, jerseys and plays. It’s all more imaginative than realistic, most of the time.

    Plus, in my case, I’ve played traditional sports. I’d rather actually do them, not digitize them. With skateboarding and BMX, fuckin’ no way can I do any of that, so the games also become an escape for my inability to shred, grind, etc. Simulation titles to me have always walked a thin line between unimaginative and, well, boring. But, considering the massive success of EA’s sports division, I’m truly glad a lot of other gamers find their titles to be just for them.

    Because we all know the gaming market doesn’t need more flaming dragon blade-related apocalypse titles to be released five times every financial quarter.

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