Has the line between sports and gaming begun to blur?
I remember the day vividly. Down the stairs I went to my friends TV room. On the left a big tv, and on the right, two couches, one directly in front of the other, both facing the screen. They were playing 2K, I think 2K11, but I just assumed a real game was on. I never watched a basketball game consciously at that point, and wasn’t into sports at all. But I was into video games, I knew that.
Not long after that day, I went out and bought 2K for myself, and began to learn. I learned about the the teams, the players, and the game of basketball as I progressed through the game. But it began to branch out my interest. I’d check the stats of each player in 2K, then learn about them on the internet, and watch youtube videos from their playing careers. I dropped into the NBA and as a result needed to learn all about it.
Now it’s my life. Going to school to major in sport management. Writing for Barbers Chair Digital. Watching basketball and listening to related podcasts daily. But most importantly, actually playing the game in real life. And though I can’t remember whether 2K is what started my love for the game, or merely influenced it, it was pivotal to the process.
But I doubt my experience with 2K is out of the ordinary. In fact I think it may become the norm. I know a bit about millennials though, with my brother being one of them. It boggles my mind the amount of time one can spend gaming, or watching others game, but I know that it’s entirely due to circumstance. When I was about 10, I’d be using CD roms on a 30-pound Mac desktop, or a Nintendo 64 when I was allowed to use the TV.
These days, kids can do just as much on their smartphones. But I wonder if games like 2K and even FIFA could bring the gaming generation an interest in the playing the physical games too. The same level of competitiveness in a Call of Duty, or a Fortnite match is just as prevalent in team sports. Hell, the gaming community has even created the world of “e-sports”, where video games are played and watched like traditional sports.
There are also big benefits from experiencing sports through a video game. The games are basically on demand. If you want to see how a certain team plays against another team, you won’t have to wait for the real thing. That leads to the next point, experiencing a game digitally doesn’t require cable, league pass, or the internet, and is probably more cost effective for young prospective fans.
Another thing that’s often overlooked is that real games are long. An NFL game is maybe 3 hours long, NBA 2.5 hours, and baseball can even take up to 5 hours (having worked for the San Francisco Giants, I know this all too well). Playing sport games speeds up this process. You can change how long the games is, and skip to the action once you begin playing, but for the diminishing attention spans of today’s youth, this is simply ideal.
It has to get out of the house at some point though. The challenge we’ll face is finding the rewards for real world sport that is so prevalent in gaming. In just about every sport game, playing yields virtual currency (VC) which can be used to purchase just about anything in the game. In the real world it’s just not as immediate. Often the benefits are emotional, social, or long term when considering ones health.
However, I think that sports games can work on the other end of the spectrum as well. For athletes and gym rats that don’t delve into video games, the computer simulations could provide a platform to gain experience on off time. One athlete that is open about gaming, is Lebron James, who can be seen on his Instagram or Snapchat playing with his own team, most likely to keep his competitive juices flowing.
Although pressing buttons and toggling a joystick doesn’t translate the same skills in the field, it’s still provides a level of experience. And while not every gamer has interest in physical activity, at the core, there is a flame instilling competition. I’ll gladly accept the trend of e-gaming, because I do consider it a sport, but shouldn’t go unnoted the importance of staying active and healthy. My hope though, is that the two can live in synchronicity, because they are not going anywhere anytime soon.