Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hatin' the Sports Games

Kotaku's Luke Plunkett recently put up an article examining why we gamers get so cranky over sports games. Quite an interesting read.

I recall feeling some indignation over sports games in years past, but I can't really remember why. I've actually enjoyed plenty of sports games throughout my gaming "career." Tecmo Super Bowl and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on the SNES. Madden on the N64. Since then, I've drifted away from the licensed "simulation" sports games and stuck with the "video game-y" type. You know, the kind that abandon realism to ramp up the fun: NBA Street, the SSX games, Mario Tennis, etc.

I've been wondering exactly why so many of us get riled up over the sports genre. I've come up with a few guesses.

1. Electronic Arts.
Until recently, EA could be counted on for two things: making piles of money and making gamers angry. They've been working hard since 2008 to make up for past transgressions, and I forgave them completely when I heard they were picking up Tim Schafer's Brutal Legend after Activision abandoned it. But for years, you could always rely on EA to bring gamers' blood to a boil. And a lot of the time, it seemed like their sports game franchises were at the center of it. Like when EA got exclusive licenses to NFL teams, eliminating competitor franchises. Or the fact that each annual full-priced release of a franchise felt almost exactly like the last with a new roster.

For better or worse, when you think "sports games", chances are that your first thought involved an EA sports franchise. And that connection probably didn't help sports games gain favor with the gamer crowd.

2. Not "For Us."
I'm not sure what causes it, but we gamers tend to act openly hostile towards game genres and franchises that don't cater to our tastes. I don't know why we do it, but it happens all the time. We hate on sports games. We mock "kiddie" games. We scoff at fishing games, hunting games, movie tie-ins, Hannah Montana karaoke games. We seethe with anger when we see a developer "dumb down" a franchise to appeal to people besides ourselves, the hardest of the core. Maybe it ties into the same part of us the drives fanboyism. I don' t know.

We get especially indignant when we see games cater to the "frat" demographic, the "bros". It almost feels like a personal insult or being cheated on, in some weird way. "Games are our thing! We're your dedicated audience!" Our resentment of the audience causes us to resent the games that target them. And sports games tend to fall in that category.

Is this reasonable of us? Hardly. But it still happens.

These are just a couple of possible explanations for the sports game hate, and I'm sure there are many others. What about you guys? Why do you think we whine about these games so much?