The yearly cycle of releases for sports video games sees them inch closer and closer to absolute realism. Titles like FIFA, Madden NFL, and Forza champion the realism charge, employing exquisite engines and detailed motion capture to bring the real world of sports to the video game entertainment audience.
While games will, and should, continue to strive towards the goal of realism and accuracy, there are some aspects of real-world sport which either just aren’t meant for games or will never be a part of them for politically correct reasons. We put our heads together and brainstormed some of the unique things that make real world sports attractive that could never have a place in a mass-marketed video game equivalent.
Swearing and Foul Language
If there’s anything more hilarious than hearing a player angrily curse so loud that a nearby camera microphone picks it up and broadcasts it to the world, we’re yet to experience it. While these instances are generally fleeting and infrequent, even seeing a player’s mouth make the easily distinguishable ‘vacuum’ movement on screen is enough to know there’s no way developers would get away with including something like that in their game. It might fall a little on the politically correct side of things, but if you’re going to market your game to a younger audience (which most sports games will want to do), it’s going to have to be family friendly.
Graphic and Gratuitous Violence
Some sports games will always feature some degree of violence. Sports like wrestling, MMA, and even some rugby and football codes feature their own form of violence as a pillar on which their sport is built. Where the line is drawn, though, is on graphic and/or gratuitous violence outside the laws of the respective game. You can’t expect parents to buy their children a game that boasts a “unique ability to king-hit your opponent in the back of the head” because that’s not going to please anyone.
One notable exception to this rule is ice hockey, where one-on-one “fair” fights are celebrated. While they are dumbed down somewhat in their video game equivalents and there’s very little physical consequence to be seen on screen, it’s still enough to push buttons.
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This one leads on a little from the last point, but injuries are, and will always be, a part of the real-world sports environment. Games have certainly incorporated player injuries into the management side of their games, which has become a very lucrative selling point, but we do not often get to see the injuries as they happen in real time - and that’s a good thing. There have been some unbelievably gruesome injuries occur on the pitch across a range of sports, some innocuous and others less so, and plenty of them have been more than enough to send fans into a frenzy of sickness. There’s no value to be added to any game by incorporating incredibly painful and gruesome injuries, and surely it’s some kind of crime to ask a developer or animator to have to sit down for hours on end to create such an abomination.
A blight on the world of sports which has been much more prominent in the wake of an era of corrupt FIFA governance. For as long as competition and gambling exists there will be entities willing to take the risk of match-fixing. This can extend to things as major as paying off a referee or player to influence the result of a game to something as seemingly minute as paying off a cricketer to bowl a certain type of delivery in a specific over. No matter how big or small, match fixing is a very real and very abhorrent part of the sporting world. It brings nothing but disrepute to any game it touches and for that reason alone it will never have a place in mainstream sports video games.
Streakers and Pitch Invaders
Okay, streakers are pretty funny. A lot of sports organisations have cracked down on pitch invasions lately, threatening big fines and life bans for those game enough to bare all. Sometimes a streaker can be just what a game teetering on the edge of boredom needs to spruce things up a bit, but the last thing a developer can include in their mass-marketable sports video game is a rotund, balding, naked man running across the middle of the screen. Pitch invasions are the darker branch of this facet, as well. Large crowds storming the playing surface, whether they do so with good intentions or not, are incredibly dangerous to all parties involved. Promotion of similar behaviour would surely draw the ire of all stakeholders.
Sport pic of the day? Has to be this! Agree? A streaker jumps into the stumps at the Sussex Sharks v Kent T20 blast. pic.twitter.com/YkP4fdSh0G
— Mirror Pictures (@Mirror_Pictures) July 7, 2015
Is It Real?
In effect, sports games can never be 100% realistic. By definition, video games are governed by uncountable lines of code and animated assets where every potential outcome is known and accounted for.
The real world of sport is made all the sweeter by its idiosyncrasies, its quirky one-off events, and also its drawbacks. Some things just are not meant to be replicated and mass marketed, but it’s okay because there’ll always be games like Ashes Cricket 2013 to remind us of how video games have come so far.
What is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in a sports video game?