It’s In The Game

How today’s sports video games translate into real-life advantage.

By Andrew Childs

It has become kind of a commonplace in our society for parents and teachers to complain about kids playing video games too much, making their kid spend 30 minutes outside, or making their 40 year old son spend 10 minutes looking at the classifieds and have him say for the 168th time that he’s going to get a job and stop eating pizza bagels.  Now, I know it seems as if your kid may have a deep seeded issue, but I offer you a glimmer of hope.  No, it’s probably not going to get him a job, but it’s more important than that, it’s a shot at sports glory.

Last Tuesday marked the arrival of the long anticipated soccer video game FIFA 2012, and the follow up to the massively successful FIFA 2011which sold 4.5 million units worldwide, (which is more than any individual Madden game ever).  Needless to say, myself and my roommates have all been excited, as FIFA 11 has become a huge factor in our apartment dynamics.  It’s become the drive behind victory dances, ridiculous player nicknames, broken controllers, and talking in Martin Tyler’s accent.  But the most interesting thing about this video game is that it’s allowed me to gain a decent understanding about the sport.

The last time I played soccer I was 10 and it never really clicked with me.  I was more into slide tackling and drinking Gatorade, because no one really cared about soccer, because a huge precedence is put on football and basketball in the U.S. so soccer kind of falls by the wayside.  I basically retained zero percent of any little knowledge of the sport I was told at that time, so before I started playing FIFA I had relatively no inkling of how to play.  However, as we started to get hooked on the game I was finding a newfound respect for soccer and a certain kind of understanding of how to legitimately play the sport, and the different physical tools you can use to gain an advantage.

Now, I’m not saying that all you need to do to learn how to play soccer is to play FIFA, but it allows you to gain a general understanding on what you need to do in order to score goals as well as to stop goals from being scored (the objects of the game).  For example, in the past two weeks I’ve played my first two indoor soccer games, ever, and I am able to play at a decent level.  Of course there are many different ways to approach this, indoor soccer is much different than actual soccer and we’re not exactly playing against any MLS teams, but as we have already established; prior to playing FIFA my soccer knowledge was non-existent.  Sure, I’m not anywhere near to being a good soccer player, but the key here is that I was able to play competently having gained my knowledge solely from a video game.

The crazy thing is that it’s not only FIFA that imparts this kind of sports knowledge, it’s Madden, NHL, etc. etc.  In Madden you’re able to select plays that show you graphics of what each player is going to do over the course of that play, allowing you to understand what kind of offensive play will work against a given defensive play and vise versa.  Boom.  You know what a cover 2 defense is and how you can beat it.  It’s really something to be said about today’s video games when you’re able to gain an understanding of a sport by moving around a joystick.

It makes sense to say that a person could be interested in playing a sport if he/she is not so involved in video games, or didn’t play them at all, and it’s practically the way interest in a sport has always been sparked: by seeing it and physically trying it out.  So, in today’s sports video games we are, in a sense, seeing and physically trying the sport out without even moving an arm or a leg.  If I hadn’t played FIFA, I would have little to no interest in playing the sport, let alone the knowledge of how to play.

Again, just to reiterate, I don’t expect someone to be able to physically dice up a zone defense right off the couch, but it does allow people to get interested in something new, to gain a competent knowledge of the given sport, and to encourage people to actually play it.  It’s far from a guarantee that sports games will drag our unemployed friend from his dungeon, but if they manage to, you can expect some big time things on the indoor soccer pitch.

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2 Comments on “It’s In The Game”

  1. sockela says:

    this is absolutely true. I never played real soccer but Ive played fifa since fifa 08… and I feel comfortable on a pitch with my friends during indoor matches. I also have a full understanding of strategy in real games. crazy how video games make this happen

  2. Rooooooooooooney says:

    I could not agree more that the fundamentals and overall strategy of sports video games translates to real life sport game play. This coming from a person who spent most of his childhood indoors gripping his greasy N64 controller in one hand and a fistful of Doritos in the other, only to come out of the dark cave I called a room years later to become highly involved in club sports.
    I can only wonder how this translates to other video games such as Call of Duty and the strategies we rely on in those games. One could technically see it as sport, but have we become a nation of “campers” waiting to strike rather than the go getters that stormed the beaches of Normandy?


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