The Top 7… Things we hate about sports games

Where are the flying cars? For years, our science fiction promised us that in the 21st century, we’d all be zipping around the country with speed and style in shiny hovering vehicles. Sadly, we all know how that turned out.

It sure seems like we were made the same kinds of promises about our “next generation” of sports games, too. We remember all sorts of breathless presentations at the start of the 360/PS3 hardware cycle, hyping up how the newest gaming technologies would transform our virtual sports experience into something resembling sensory overload. Photorealistic visual presentation! Unprecedented realism! Atmosphere so real it’ll be just like being there! Even worse, we kind of believed what we were being fed.


Truth be told, lots of today’s sports games are pretty darned good. Great, even. The problem is that the same could be said for the last generation, too. With a notable exception or two, there’s been no amazing leap forward – and certainly nothing like we were promised. Games look a little better, there’s a bit more to do, and online options are more plentiful. But that’s about it.

Yes, we know that most developers pour their hearts and souls into their games and spend countless hours trying to please their audience, all of which happens with limited budgets and resources. We get that - but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find plenty of legitimate complaints about this current generation of sports titles that grind our gears.

And we’re still waiting for the damn flying cars.

7. History? What’s that?

Nothing is more important to sports than their history. After all, most of us wouldn’t give two flits about our beloved teams if it weren’t for the euphoric victories, painful losses and memorable individuals that mark our lifetime journey together.

Paradoxically, our sports games treat history almost as if it doesn’t exist. Sure, there are some occasional real teams from the past, but most lack the real player names. Nobody gets jacked up to say “Did you see that goal by 1985 Edmonton Oiler #11?!?” or “Wow, what a great run by 1975 Ohio State RB #34!” What’s more, there’s often little to no context for these clubs from yesteryear, which is why we often find ourselves wondering just why we’d be interested in playing as the 1984 Portland Trailblazers.

What we want: The time has come to inject every sports game with a massive amount of teams from days gone by – along with the real players, names, jerseys, and stadiums. And we don’t mean a smattering of them – we’re talking loads of ‘em. We want every team, every year, every roster, every scheduled game of that sport’s modern era. Give us the ability to replay Maris and Mantle’s magical 1961 baseball season; let us relive and repeat the 1973 Dolphins’ undefeated campaign; we want to hoop it up again with Bird and Magic and Barkley and Dominique. The data is all there; put it together once, and it’s a snap to update every season. As we all know, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

6. Championship, shmampionship

It takes a lot of work to make it through a complete season and win a championship. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, hockey or football, sports fans put gobs of time and virtual sweat into leading their squad to the top of the mountain – and there’s nothing more insulting than being “rewarded” with a measly Congratulations screen and (sometimes) an Achievement or Trophy. We’re tired of this dispiriting practice, and demand changes - now.

What we want: Real, heartfelt celebrations that make us proud of all those hours we happily wasted. Give us a 10-minute highlight reel set to great music; show us the winning locker rooms with champagne and beer spraying to and fro; let’s watch the fans celebrating in the stands. We want championship parades, banner-raising ceremonies, and ring presentations. In other words, exactly what happens when real teams get to the Promised Land. Make us shed a tear or two of joy as we see the results of our long, hard slog to the top.


Top 7

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  • BaraChat - December 28, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    The main problem of Sports games is the incredible rubberbanding. If you happen to lead a game by 12 points in basketball or by two goals in hockey. Suddenly the other team can't miss a shot, the puck is GLUED to their sticks and they will tip every single pass you try to make. Some dude who usually can't shoot will hit 6 threes in a row, your post will get blocked thrice by their point guard on dunk attempts, you will get whistled for every breath you take for penalty/foul. Everything short of seeing a giant head of the AI programmer popping out of the screen screaming "YOU WON'T WIN, MWAHAHAHAHA".
  • gamer0191 - July 19, 2010 4:58 p.m.

    Does anyone even play sports games anymore? I really don't get the fascination with these type of games, they're just down right boring as hell.
  • pikachu2000 - November 11, 2009 11:54 p.m.

    As for those waiting for flying cars, go out and read "Dude, Where's My Jetpack?" There is a reason why it can never be done in realiy. And all those things that you think are supposed to happened in 2000? Those ideas are locked away by the rich thugs who are forcing us to use early 20th century ideas and concepts to live with. Until we get some fresh faces in charge of those companies, we will never see a flying car in our lifetime.
  • Spybreak8 - November 11, 2009 9:55 p.m.

    oh by the way the Repactcha I had was Disneyworld trash lol.
  • Spybreak8 - November 11, 2009 9:53 p.m.

    Well I usually just passed up sports games in the past but ever since EA's 09 titles, I've been converted lol. I love the Be a Pro mode and I love only having to control one thing instead of a whole team and coaching crap. Be a GM, nah throw that feature out. I've got Tiger09, NHL09, and Madden 09 which should last a few years of enjoyment still. Have to say I half agree with the people online are jerks, it helps to have a good friends list.
  • 0vonix0 - November 7, 2009 5:44 p.m.

    you know what I think is that you go and buy NHL 09 for $70 then about 10-11 months later they release NHL 10 for $70 with maybe a graphics touch up and adding people banging on the glass, but no major changes. I think they should make one NHL game and just release free updates/DLC of like roster changes and stuff. then once every like 3 years release a new game. or somthing like that.
  • warhammer3 - November 7, 2009 5:21 p.m.

  • dibber - November 7, 2009 1:48 p.m.

    Not sure if you call it a "sports" game, per se, but on the topic of Disconnectors and Money Plays: Mario Kart Wii totally would benefit from getting a patch that prevents the clock-wraparound cheat and invalidates impossibly low times achieved through said cheat.
  • Blinder - November 7, 2009 3:11 a.m.

    I agree with the Control Issues complaint, my biggest problem with the latest sports games is the 3 page instruction manuals. For example; MLB The Show, don't get me wrong I think the game is awesome, but a lot of the pitchers statistics when I'm batting confuse me along with other gameplay tips that aren't explained. I don't want to have to buy a strategy guide just to PLAY the game. It seems the creators just cater to Sports fans and not someone that just picks the game up to try. I'm sure that hinders new players from buying them.
  • noobeater - November 6, 2009 9:54 p.m.

    i potentially good article ruined by too much america, funny because the rest of the world have their sports. shows a bit too much ignorence to anything other then USA. I dont mean to be nasty as i love most articles and this was very goo, i'm just sayingyou could recognise their is other sports outside of your border
  • Heyexclamationpoint - November 5, 2009 11:33 p.m.

    Sports suck, especially the non-American ones.
  • IHateMakingUserIDs - November 4, 2009 5:12 p.m.

    Popnfresh, well said. Iretract any statements i may have made that could be insulting and offer an appology. The article still has merit with general annoyances about sports games. ReCAPTCHA: ATLANTA safes, a new sports team?
  • Xeacons - November 4, 2009 4:26 p.m.

    Top things I hate about sports games: 1. Sports 2. ...nah, I think that pretty much covers it.
  • ImAFantistaOfTylerWilde - November 4, 2009 12:12 a.m.

    I like the article, and i totaly agree that sports games havent raealy evolved. RIP CITY REPRESENT
  • popnfresh7000 - November 3, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    It's because there's no college player's union. Current licensing deals aren't made with individual players unless they're no longer active; they're made with player unions, which is partially why Barry Bonds wasn't named in baseball games in his later years (not part of the union = having to make an individual deal = way more money). It's a stretch to say the NCAA would love to do it. I'm sure they'd rather use the names than not, but it's a logistical impossibility with no union and the NCAA's own policy on players not receiving money/gifts. It is their rules that don't allow it, so obviously they would rather have those rules than include names. You're right about likenesses skirting the issue. They can use numbers, and they can use general likenesses, but if you load up an NCAA game and look at players on an individual level, and do the same with Madden, you'll notice that Madden has many, many, many more unique qualities for each player than NCAA. A part of this is because of the sheer number of teams and media limitations, but also getting too specific with likenesses can lead to things like this: I was an engineer in my sports game work, not that it matters. I wasn't saying that to say I was right in what I said, I was using that info to say how little research would actually be necessary for a media member to clarify this stuff. If a basic engineer at the company knows it, then a member of the media could easily contact someone in Production or PR and get a breakdown and some answers. That was my problem with the article; it's not actually trying to get information out there, it's just crying in text.
  • IHateMakingUserIDs - November 3, 2009 6:42 p.m.

    Popnfresh's comment about the how the NCAA "not allow names or likenesses to be used" couldn't BE more wrong. I consider, the same jersey number, height, weight, hometown, age, hair colour etc on all the NCAA football athletes to be likenesses. Furthermore, the NCAA would love to use the players real names to add more realism to the game but they can't because they would have to pay the players for that, just like every other sports game. EA and the NCAA don't want to spend more money, so they skirt the line with likenesses. For someone who claims to have worked in the sports game development industry you seem to be missing obvious facts that involve little research. May I assume you were in accounting for some contracted company who designed the uniforms? or perhaps a secretary?
  • idlemindkiller - November 3, 2009 2:39 p.m.

    wasnt it the 72 'phins who went undefeated? 73 'phins were 12-2. not trying to be a know it all, im just sayin.
  • lovinmyps3 - November 3, 2009 4:39 a.m.

    No. 1: they're sports games. 'Nuff said.
  • GameManiac - November 3, 2009 4:37 a.m.

    If racing games were in the sports game category, then (in my book) it's easily above and beyond Madden/NBA/NFL/FIFA/ some-other-category-I-give-crap-about. Although Richard Grisham, you could NOT be more right. When will FLYING cars come in. 8-10 years ago, for the PS1, flying MOTORCYCLES were around for only three times (Jet Moto 1, 2, and 3).
  • FlyinMX - November 3, 2009 4:26 a.m.

    I just got my first sports game since NHL 98, with NHL 10 and was floored by the changes. But there are some other complaints I still have from back then, as well as a few new ones. 1. Micro-transaction character boosts. You are given an option to earn boosts for your custom character and equipment to hold said boosts. However you can also pay real money instead. The requirements for unlocking the boosts can be absurd and take a long time to earn, like by winning the stanley cup with every german league team. So they are trying to take advantage of people who want to be best in the online leagues and quick to make more money. 2. Not realistic enough. I'm hardcore when it comes to realism in sports games. You guys mentioned a few things, namely regarding atmosphere, but I'd like to add a couple. Ads and announcers should be different in each arena and announcers should react differently based on whether the home or away team scored, got a penalty, etc. Also, the commentators frequently get things wrong regarding plays, sometimes even getting who was in the lead or the time left in the period wrong a few times. I have a few others but I figure this is enough. P.S. what's with the hostility here? Popnfresh was completely entitled to his opinion. And if you don't like sports games that's fine too. I don't like them much either, that's why it was over a decade between purchases for me, and it will probably be about 3 or 4 years before I get another.