I am a pretty big NHL fan, and as good as I am at playing hockey in real life I am never going to play through the Stanley Cup playoffs and hoist that Cup above my head. So in turn I play NHL because a) I love hockey and b) it lets me live out my fantasy. I would garner a guess that people that enjoy Tiger Woods because a) they love the sport and b) it enables them to live out their fantasy of winning The Masters or some other major tournament that they are never going to do. Now what makes the second part doable? Well it is a variety of things but it generally boils down to a handful of talking points.
1)Realistic representation of the game on your screen – In a game like NHL, Madden, Tiger, or a number of other sports games we want to see the most realistic representation that the technology available can provide. Personally I remember playing Soccer on my Atari 2600, looking back the game is about as close to real soccer as Pluto is to the Sun but at the time it was a high point. We have progressed far beyond the simple graphical representation of Soccer though. I remember the first time my Dad watched me and my brother play NHL 2K on the Dreamcast, he thought we were watching a real game. In the nine years since that game came out the representation of sports on our screens has approached near broadcast like quality. This realism helps to immerse us in the game but doesn’t detract from our enjoyment of it.
2)Challenging yet fun presentation of the actual gameplay – Everyone likes to win. Some people (like me) more than others (like my wife) but I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who prefers to lose. The reason for this is because it is fun. Having fun makes people happy and happiness is one of the secrets to a long life (honestly I didn’t just make that up…). In regards to sports titles people want to win but most people don’t want to feel like the game just let the win, they want a challenge so that they feel like they have accomplished something, even if it just as simple as beating the computer in an imaginary basketball game.
3)Allow for an escape from reality to live out our dreams – This is probably the reason most people play games, at least in one part or the other, but its still a very valid point. How many people are going to get a chance to pitch in Game 7 of the World Series, play in the NBA All-Star game or start their engines on race day on Daytona International Speedway? Not many, even those that are professionals in those sports may never get to do those things. These games are an escape from reality and the opportunity to do something that they would probably never get to do otherwise and it is all done with a few simple (relatively speaking) button presses.
And this is where my argument against realism comes in. Recently a lot of hoopla has been made about Tiger Woods 10 on the Wii taking advantage of Wii Motion Plus and how it will make Tiger Woods the most realistic golf game yet. I for one can’t speak on how well it does this because I have yet, like most people due to the fact that it doesn’t release for nearly a month, to get my hands on either Tiger or Wii Motion Plus but I can say that I don’t see how a realistic golf game (or any game) is going to appeal to a mass audience.
To me the closer you get to realism the closer you come to losing your audience for two reasons. The first is that if I can beat Tiger Woods in a realistic sim of golf, I should probably just hit the real greens because there is money out there to be made. The second is that if I can’t beat Tiger in the realistic sim because realistically I suck at golf, I am going to look for a game where I can win at, so that I can once again have fun playing my game.
There is a really fine line when it comes to realism in sports games and I hope EA knows what they are doing with the Wii Motion Plus because I see huge potential for it to backfire. After all don’t we play games for fun? Sometimes when us gamers keep begging for more realism the developer has to come in like the parent and tell us that we don’t need more realism because in the end it may just hurt our overall experience. More real doesn’t always equal more fun, hopefully EA has found a way to strafe the fine line between real and fun. But until then its always fun to debate.
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