As I initiated some breathing techniques I learned from anger management I stared in disbelief at my television. I just finished the main quest in Kingdom Come: Deliverance after 200 hours of thieving and whoring. If you have not played the game let me tell you the ending leaves a lot to be desired such as…an ending!?!?!
As I ejected the disc from my PS4 I wondered what rpg I’d play next. As I was thinking my muscle memory kicked in and without realizing it I grabbed my copy of MLB The Show 19 and popped it in the PS4. Then it hit me, sports games are the best games. Then something hit me again, maybe this would make a good blog topic.
Gamers are identified by a lot of labels. You got the Call of Duty meathead, the RPG loners, the casual gamer, the e-sports gamer, the Minecraft gamer, the battle royale “hey we should make a YouTube channel” gamer and it goes on and on and on. I like to think of myself as a genre whore. I love all genres of gaming from strategy games to survival horror. But there is one genre that has stuck with me ever since I was a wee lad smashing buttons on my SNES controller. Sports!
I decided to do a little math and figure out how much time I put into a full season of NHL 19. Every game is an average of 25 mins depending on the amount of stupid tripping penalties. It comes out to 34 hours and I usually play 3 seasons and that comes out to 102 hours from September 2018 to September 2019. Throw in MLB The Show (45mins per game) and Madden (20 mins per game) and now it’s a no brainer. I am more obsessed with winning at fictional sports ball featuring the likeness of real athletes instead of spaceships or dragons or cowboys.
Here’s a question: is that because I’m a huge sports fan? I don’t think so and here’s why. I’m Canadian and I am bound by Canadian law to be hockey fan lest I be shipped off to a rubber factory to make hockey pucks in the Yukon for the rest of my natural life. When it comes to baseball, football, and basketball I’m a very casual fan. I know some of the famous athletes but I don’t know jack about what some of the stats mean or the proper strategy on how to maximize talent.
Sports games provide the best value of gameplay for your dollars.
Whether you are obsessed with soccer, american football or basketball all sports games offer a franchise mode which puts you the player in charge of your favorite team.
You will be tasked with releasing and acquiring players from around the league to create the next best dynasty. First you must evaluate your strengths and weaknesses then try your hand at wheeling and dealing with the other AI general managers and try to pull the trigger on a trade. Depending on the game/sport you may have to deal with a salary cap which adds another element of strategy.
Todays sports games also task you with drafting and developing the next superstar. Depending on where you are in the standings you may have to trade your aging superstars to get high value draft picks and start the re-build. Or screw it, trade your frist round draft pick and sell out your future for a shot at making the playoffs. Thankfully the AI fans within the game don’t have twitter accounts.
Then when it’s time to take the field, court, or ice it’s time to wear your coaches hat or fedora and dictate how your players execute your plays. It goes without saying that you choose this before every play in the NFL Madden series. When it comes to the other sports you can choose how offensive or defensive you want the players to act. Will you choose a southpaw starter against a baseball club that has a lower batting average against lefties? Will you play the trap in hockey even though you’re stacked with offensive players? Where will your defenders be without the ball in soccer? So many questions and so many hours of fun.
Sports games were the pioneer in couch mulitplayer games. The first home console was pong back when our parents or grandparents got high listening to Jimmy Hendrix on 8 track. Today’s gamers can get high listening to Hendrix from their bluetooth speakers playing pong with rocket cars!
Whether it’s arcade-like games such as Rocket League or realistic games like FIFA it’s hard to deny the communities that have grown over the years thanks to sports games. Yes there is an argument to be made that they have fallen to the dark side with micro-transactions, loot boxes, and pay to win models but that is a topic for another blog entry.
For the multiplayer focused gamer there can be a lot of satisfaction when it comes to online sports. The thrill of competition against a human player who’s not running around and getting a lucky shot like in COD can’t be overlooked. Unlike games like Fortnite or COD the single player mode is more useful in sharpening your skills and strategy before you enter the jungle of online gaming.
Once you’ve won your 4th Stanley Cup on the hall of famer difficulty maybe it’s time to see if you really are the legend you think you are. Rocket League has a wonderful progression system in which your experience is matched with other players with similar time put into the game. Even if you are climbing the ranks over a fortnight (ha!) and you stop playing for a few months it will actually knock you down to a lower ranking so you don’t get creamed once you jump back in.
Rage quitting is also a big no no for sporting games online. If you are losing badly and decide to yank the power cord out of the wall in a glorious fit of rage (we do not recommend doing this but we’ve been there) it will affect your DNF score which means “Did Not Finish”. Having a high DNF percentage will affect your match-ups and you’ll end up matching with other players with a high DNF and the honorable ones will be in a league of their own. I must admit I have not dabbled too much online sports matches recently but I sure hope this is still a thing.
So you don’t give two you know whats about expiring contracts, draft prospects, or free agents. You can still pick up a controller and kill half an hour by playing a match then go live your life and be a responsible grown up.
Maybe your best pal comes over who really isn’t a gamer or a huge sports fan. It’s still a blast to give him your worst controller and try out some FOOOOTBAWL before watching the big game. In my experience it’s always been easier to get one of my non-gamer friends to try out a sports game then COD split screen because for some reason they seem less intimidated by it. That’s just me and my jackass friends though it could be different for you.
Even if the sports sim genre is a little intimidating there are still alternatives out there for the casual gamer. I’m going to bring up Rocket League again because it is by far one of the best multiplayer games out there.
A recent trend in sports games is a “Be a Pro” game mode where you get to start a career as a professional athlete. First you get drafted, play in the minors then try to crack the pro club line up.
As a fan of RPGs I admit this is still a weak game mode today but I believe it’s grown and will eventually become a very in depth experience. At the forefront of the RPG mode is MLB The Show franchise on the PS4. In between games you are tasked with some mini games to pad your stats (they’re ok but not great), make friends or rivals and negotiate your contract.
MLB The Show is so far the most in depth sports RPG and I am hoping that the other (*cough* EA *cough) franchises follow suit. Not only do you play little games to pad your stats but you can demand a trade and call your agent to become a greedy douche-bag athlete (*cough* A-Rod *cough).
Madden has a story game mode but it’s not as in depth as The Show but it’s nice that it’s in there. The NHL franchise has had a “Be A Pro” mode for a few years now but it really hasn’t changed that much. You play a game and after you get interviewed by the media and it’s a multiple choice question. I always liked throwing my team under the bus and saying I was the best player on a garbage team (paraphrasing). All that happens is the team and fans start hating you but it doesn’t stop you from scoring over 120pts in a season. Then demanding a trade. Good stuff.
Sports games are geared towards sports fans obviously. There is a lot of debate these days in what constitute value vs the price of the game. You can have a huge open world game that will advertise 100 hours of gameplay and that is supposed to add value to the game. But lets be honest a lot of sandbox games are filler. You are always doing the same thing in these action/rpgs which is walking, fighting, and talking. Some of them have multiplayer but not couch co-op/vs. Some of them have a lot of action but no strategy. Some of them are all strategy but no action. The point is as far as value goes you can’t go wrong with sports. It is based on real leagues so some gamers could be turned off because they don’t watch sports. Which is a shame cause they’re missing out.
No one has a gun to your head saying you HAVE to buy a sports game every year. This is all my idiot opinion. I’m just making the case that there is always an alternative.
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