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.
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.
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.