In the NY Times, Rory Smith writes about how video games like FIFA and Football Manager have changed professional soccer.
As Iwobi suggests, however, they increasingly do more than that: They are not merely representations of the game, but influencers of it. Iwobi is not the only player who believes that what he does on the field has been influenced by what he has seen rendered on a screen.
Ibrahimovic said that he would “often spot solutions in the games that I then parlayed into real life” as a young player. Mats Hummels, the Bayern Munich and Germany defender, has suggested that “maybe some people use what they learn in FIFA when they find themselves on a pitch.”
As a teen, Matt Neil went from a player of Football Manager to researcher for the game to working as a analyst for a League Two club.
I’m now an analyst at Plymouth. We’ve just signed the goalkeeper Marc McCallum, who some FM players will remember was an incredible prospect at Dundee United as a kid. I used to sign him all the time. When he came for a trial this summer, he walked in and it was one of the strangest moments in my life. I’ve never met him in person — I’d only ever seen his face on a computer game — but straight away I knew it was him.
I spoke to him at a pre-season game the next day. We got around to the subject of Football Manager and he’d been in charge of Argyle on the last game, getting them to the Premier League and signing himself. I asked him what he did when he first took over, and he said he got rid of all the staff. So I said: “Did you sack me?” And it turned out he’d actually sacked me as well. It was a strange opening conversation to have with someone.
American football and the Madden franchise have a similar relationship. The game is so realistic that prospective players can learn NFL-style offenses and established players like Drew Brees use the game to prep for the games ahead.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback told Yahoo! Sports in an interview this week that modern football simulation games such as Madden NFL have become so realistic that playing them during downtime can actually have a positive impact on the athlete’s on-field performance.
“Down the road it is going to be even more so,” Brees said. “The games are getting more lifelike every year, and everything in Madden is based on what really happens on the field.
“The plays are the same, it is updated all the time and you can go through a lot of stuff without having to get hit. I can definitely see a time when these things are used a lot more to help players.”
Any of the video games that you might play on a console are sitting on a mountain of annually released, highly popular, reliably profitable sports games. The internet, too, and Twitter and newspapers and radio and broadcast and cable television all sit on a mountain of sports chatter and sports programming. (The internet, in turn, sits on a mountain of porn.)
This makes it surprising you don’t see more examples of thoughtful, detailed sports + culture + tech + gaming long-form writing like Patrick Hruby’s article “The Franchise,” on the history of the Madden NFL series for ESPN’s Outside the Lines..
You can measure the impact of “Madden” through its sales: as many as 2 million copies in a single week, 85 million copies since the game’s inception and more than $3 billion in total revenue. You can chart the game’s ascent, shoulder to shoulder, alongside the $20 billion-a-year video game industry.
The Madden games had to overcome technological breakthroughs — remember how the original Tecmo Bowl only gave you nine players on each side, so the screen wouldn’t slow down with too many moving objects? And both offense and defense chose from the same four plays, turning the whole thing into a slightly expanded simulation of Prisoner’s Dilemma? Yeah. Madden didn’t do any of that. And that’s because Madden himself insisted on it, the console processing improved (especially moving to 16-bit), and the programming guys figured out a way to do it.
The essay also argues that Madden was a cultural breakthrough in the way games were perceived. At the same time that games were moving from a freewheeling arcade style to a more rigidly statistical, differentiated, and realistic simulation approach — in other words, when they way games were made became less artsy and more nerdly — they moved from a hardcore audience that was perceived to be composed of loser nerds and became the casual gaming of jocks, teenagers, college kids, even professional athletes.
In 1990, EA had a market cap of about $60 million; three years later, that number swelled to $2 billion.
More crucially, video games were suddenly cool, the province of older teens and college kids, young men who loved competition and talking smack. Escaping the geek world, gaming set course for the center of the pop culture sun.
“Before ‘Madden,’ jocks did not play video games,” Hilleman said. “Somebody playing games was more likely to get made fun of on ESPN than get featured on there.”
I don’t know whether the perceived demographic shift is true. Let’s just say that this generation of sports games helped jocks embrace their inner, statistical/strategic nerds and helped nerds and losers posture with one another and channel their inner jocks.
You know how I was just hating on linear, narrative storytelling? This is the opposite, the color negative of that position, that shows a different kind of value. Here, Hruby tracks how the innovative Madden franchise became slower under the weight of its own legend. Seasoned players didn’t like new interfaces. The NFL used its licensing agreement to dictate and prohibit content. The attention to detail on the minutiae of player apparel grew and grew, as fans and NFL players paid attention and complained about omissions.
If you want to know how gaming, tech, sports, and geek culture, particularly for men — there’s no discussion at all of female gamers, or even a single woman who appears in the narrative in any way — came to be the way it is today, a field guide to Madden history is a worthy beginning.
Following the examples set by PacManhattan and Nintendo Amusement Park, another popular video game is moving beyond the screen and into the real world. Enthusiasts of EA Sports’ Madden NFL 06 have been spotted in various locations around the United States playing a physical game based on the bestselling title.
DeWayne Coleman of Grand Rapids, Michigan said, “it looked so fun on the screen and we thought, ‘why can’t we go find a flat grassy area to run around, throw the ball, and punt on fourth down?’” Other “football” groups (as they like to be called) have uploaded candid photos of their activity to the Flickr photo-sharing site.
These early amateur efforts bare a crude resemblance to the gameplay in Madden, but a professional league set to begin play this fall in several major US cities will follow Madden NFL 06 much more closely. The National Football League (NFL) will employ athletes that resemble their in-game counterparts that will play for teams named after those in Madden. The teams will go through a full 16-game season, followed by a playoff and a “Super” bowl game to determine the champion. League officials plan to bring in revenue by charging for admission, selling foodstuffs during the games, and memorabilia inspired by the virtual uniforms worn by players in the game. The video game’s namesake, TV personality John Madden, will even colorfully describe the action of the games for simultaneous broadcast on network television.
Madden NFL 06 purists have criticized the NFL’s ambitious efforts, saying that ticket prices are too high and the games aren’t interactive enough. One Madden fan from Phoenix, Arizona summed up the frustrations: “I’m supposed to pay twice as much as I paid for the video game for one lousy live game, not including beer and hot dog costs, and I can’t even control what’s going on in the game? What the hell is so fun about that?”