The Top 7… Things we hate about sports games

5. No ‘real’ atmosphere

The difference between a regular season and a playoff game is stark. A July afternoon at the ballpark is always a lazy good time, as the crowd halfway pays attention to what’s happening on the field in between eating hot dogs and drinking beer. Contrast that with a typical October playoff game – fans are seriously into it with every pitch, reacting to each and every strike, out, and run as if it’s the end of the world. The stadiums look different, too, with red-white-and-blue bunting dotting the walls and playoff logos etched into the field. The differences are major in basketball and hockey arenas, as fans get whipped up in post-season frenzies that make regular season matches look like afterthoughts. However, these nuances are barely – if at all – perceptible in our current generation of games.


What we want: We’re tired of pre-season, regular season, and post-season games all looking and feeling the same, so this one’s easy. When the playoffs roll around, we want to sense the crowd’s anticipation, fear, and excitement. Show the fan-made Stanley Cups being held aloft at the home team’s arena; let’s get a look at the homemade signs calling for an end to a particular franchise’s futility or demanding a repeat; have fans standing up with two strikes and clapping in unison like maniacs each and every inning like they do in the playoffs. When the stakes are the highest, we wanna feel it like we do when we watch the real thing.

4. Online jerks

The best thing about a good sports game is competition against another human. It doesn’t matter what game you’re talking about, though – there’s a universal idiocy running rampant through the sports gaming community. The worst offenders are the Disconnectors, the people who feel that they’re only allowed to win games but never, ever lose them. These guys conveniently disappear late in games when they’re behind without a chance of coming back. While technology has gotten a little better at helping identify them, these online jerks continue to destroy the appeal of gaming over the internet. And it only seems like it’s getting worse.

Above: What it feels like to have an opponent suddenly drop out of your game 

What we want: These people need to pay. Anyone can have an accidental disconnection every now and again, but if it happens more than once in a short amount of time, temporarily ban them from playing ranked games. If it keeps on happening, ban ‘em forever. We know what you’re thinking: you can’t do that to people who pay for the game (and the service, if it’s Xbox Live). We say, “who cares?” The only way to change behavior is to eliminate the ability for it to happen. Even if it’s not their fault because, for example, they have a bad internet service, it doesn’t matter, because they still ruin their competitor’s good time. Get rid of the Disconnectors, and you’ll immediately have a better community.

3. Money plays

Guaranteed goals, post-up moves, and big gainers have been around since the dawn of sports video games. We all remember the right-left-right-left-shoot goals of old Sega NHL games, or the unstoppable Bo Jackson pitchout in Tecmo Bowl. In the pre-internet/message board days of the oh-so-innocent ‘80s and ‘90s, a lot of money plays were discovered the old-fashioned way (constant tinkering) and had no way of being fixed once the game hit the marketplace. We remember having gentlemen’s agreements to refrain from these plays, too – and if they were violated, fistfights and hard feelings quickly ensued. In the modern era, though, money plays are much easier to discover and more prevalent than ever – which quickly ramps down the fun factor.

What we want: We have a pretty good idea how complicated it is to make a sports game, and we understand even more that no matter how much you test a game before it goes out the door to consumers, things happen. People find glitches or bugs that were known about but developers secretly hoped didn’t get found. All we want is a vigilant post-release presence that allows for these glitches to be reported and fixed – quickly – so that our offline and online games can be as free from these guaranteed plays as soon as possible. We’ve been burned too many times by exploiters who’ve decided it’s more fun to spend time glitching their way to victory than playing a game the way it was meant to be.


Top 7


  • 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.

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