Tackling the problem
You cant swing a baseball bat or kick a football nowadays without hitting a sports game. Oh look another iOS game where you flick a football into a goal--how lovely. Basketball, football (or soccer, if you prefer to spell honour without the u), tennis--most popular sports have at least one dominant franchise. However, there are a large number of interesting, often widely-followed, sports that dont have a decent video game.
Well, we think its high-time developers stopped trying to cover the same 4-5 sports over and over again, and started to pay attention to the more unusual ones. There is a whole world of sport out there, waiting to be digitised. Here are 11 sports that desperately need--and would make--a great game.
Its debateable as to whether weve ever had a decent rugby game at all. The latest big-budget rugby union game, World Cup 2011, felt a generation behind the likes of FIFA, PES or Madden. However, there have been decent rugby games in the past, although none dealt with the exciting variation of Rugby 7s (opens in new tab). Interestingly, 7s will become an Olympic sport in 2016, so we could well see a stand-alone game in the next few years.
Rugby 7s, for the uninitiated, is largely the same as the full 15-man game, only with teams of seven aside (duh). Its a quicker, more flowing game, making it ideal for the video game treatment, and because there are relatively few players on the pitch at once, this would cut down on AI and asset demands. Note to developers: wed also take a decent Football Manager style sim for full-fat rugby union too.
Photo credit: Clayton Scott, 2006
Most people see Squash (opens in new tab) as a racquet-sport played by poshos in white v-necked jumpers in between sherry-tastings. It isnt. Played competitively squash is quicker than tennis, and infinitely more manly than badminton. We think its perfect for a video game, and if Rockstar can make a table tennis sim (and make it enjoyable) then someone, somewhere can make a decent squash game.
The key to making a decent squash game would be getting the balance right between control and split-second-reaction hitting. Slow down the pace, and itd be duff, but lose too much control and itd be similarly poor. Sadly, squash is very much a recreational sport--rated the most healthy activity in the world by Forbes--so theres little exposure to the formal, competitive side of it. Plus, theres something wrong about playing a video game based on a healthy sport while youre sat in your pants, on the sofa, eating Kit Kats.
Chances are you havent heard of Buzkashi, and we guarantee none of you have played it. Heres the alarmingly matter-of-fact description according to Wikipedia: Buzkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough. However, polo is played with a ball, and buzkashi is played with a headless goat carcass.
Needless to say, Buzkashi Pro 2014 would be a tough game to make. Simulating 10 riders per team, on horseback, would be a challenge, and were not sure how youd recreate the physics of a headless goat carcass. Add to this the fact that traditional Buzkashi matches can last several days, and youve got a real challenge on your hands. Still, we like the idea of playing a full, 62-hour, real-time game of Buzkashi against our friends, online. Wait, are you calling PETA right now?
Gaelic Football (opens in new tab) is a strange hybrid of football, basketball and rugby. The good news is that this would make for a varied, skilful, high-scoring game with a decent hint of violence. The bad news is that itd take you a while to learn all the rules. Its a goal-based team sport (familiar enough) but its what you actually do with the ball while youre in possession that adds complexity.
In Gaelic Football you mainly carry the ball in your hands, but you can only take four steps before you need to do something with it. You can bounce it (but not twice in a row), kick it back up into your hands, pass it, or punt it. We reckon any developer trying to implement a control scheme would go crazy, even if they made dribbling automatic. The potential audience is limited too. Its huge in Ireland, and some parts of east coast USA, but not really played anywhere else in the world.
Yes, we know that ice hockey is a big deal, and we already have a decent sim for that. Well done. However, we reckon normal (field) Hockey (opens in new tab) would make for a great game too, despite the lack of fist fights and angry Canadian men with no teeth. Its 11 aside, and plays out a little like football, only with a hard, hard ball and hard, hard sticks to manoeuvre that ball around with.
There is, actually, a decent international hockey scene, and the sport has been a mainstay of the Olympics since 1928. More than that, several countries have well established hockey leagues (and stars), and there are several variations to the core field hockey that would work well as alternative modes within the main game, including 6-aside and indoor hockey. Yup, we reckon this one is ripe for a video game.
Dont be fooled by the innocent-sounding name: Handball (opens in new tab) is a physical sport. Its 7-aside, and the aim is to throw the ball into your opponents goal. However, full body-checking and physical tackling is allowed (providing you do it from in front of your opponent), and youre allowed an unlimited number of fouls, so theres no incentive to be gentle.
Given the relative simplicity of the rules, and the fact that team sizes are small, we reckon a Handball game would be fairly easy to make. Again, because theres a violent element to it, theres a good chance itd pique the interest of players whove never even heard of Handball before. Give this sport to the team at EA, who make FIFA and NBA Street, and we reckon this would be a cracker.
Look, even after researching Kabaddi (opens in new tab) for several hours, were still not entirely sure how it works, or how its regulated. There are seven players on each team, and the idea is to send a raider into your opponents half of the playing area to tackle opponents to the ground for points. Thing is, a raider must hold his / her breath and chant the word Kabaddi while theyre in the opposition area. Yeah, its confusing.
Still, itd make for an awesome video game. Free from the restrictions of handling a ball or trying to score a goal, the joy of wrestling your fellow man to the ground (virtually) would shine through. How would you simulate the holding of breath, or the chanting of the word Kabaddi? Kinect could certainly track your voice, but encouraging video game players to actually hold their breath for prolonged periods would be a recipe for lawsuit-style disaster
While there are already several fishing and hunting games out there, none of them simulate the bizarre sport of noodling. Perhaps youre not a redneck, and need us to explain what its all about. The noodler wades into the middle of a river and locates a catfish den (or hole). He or she then dangles an arm into the hole and waits for the catfish to bite, before yanking their arm (with fish attached) out of the hole.
Hey Microsoft--are you still looking for that killer, next-gen Kinect game? World Championship Noodling could be just the thing. Imagine dangling your arm in front of the Kinect camera, waiting for a virtual catfish to grab it, before yanking it out when you get a bite. Imagine the possibility for online biggest catch leaderboards, and special redneck Avatar items like jam-jars full of moonshine, customisable shorts, and NASCAR baseball caps. Youre welcome, Microsoft.
Balls to WWE games--we want to see a full-on Sumo (opens in new tab) sim get a world wide release. Now, we know there are already a few Sumo games in Japan, but none have the detail and depth of a WWE or a Street Fighter. Shame, because its actually a seriously tactical sport that can make for a great spectacle.
Now, while its easy to romanticise the idea of a Sumo game, the realities of making one would be tough. We reckon some kind of RPG approach would work, letting you bulk up your wrestler and learn intricate techniques over the course of several hours. Sumo matches are often finished in seconds, and rely heavily on balance, so simply simulating the sport wouldnt be enough. We would, of course, demand, customisable Sumo nappies (fundoshi).
Were not even sure if this is a sport, but damn it, we demand a video game all the same. The name is pretty descriptive. A wheel of cheese is rolled down a steep hillside in Gloucestershire, and a crowd of (mostly drunk) participants charge after it. The person to claim the wheel of cheese first is the winner. And they already have their prize.
Cheese Rolling (opens in new tab) would work well as a modification of SSX. The basics of going down a steep hill would easily translate to thumbsticks, while the tricks would be controlling your avatars landing without breaking their bones. You could even customise your contestant with ordinary clothes and control the amount of alcohol they drank before each roll. In real life, competitors are encouraged to drink, as alcohol relaxes muscles and decreases the likelihood of bodily damage. Fact.
Yes, this is actually a sport. Or rather, it was, until 2010 when a Russian competitor actually died while taking part in the World Championships in Heinola, Finland. The name says it all really: the idea is to stay inside a seriously hot sauna longer than your opponents. Without dying.
How would this work as a game? We see some kind of Daley Thompson Decathlon treatment working, where you need to mash buttons to tough it out inside the 230F temperature sauna. Mash the buttons too quickly, though, and your sweaty hirsute man will overheat and be forced to leave the sauna in disgrace. Yeah, this one is definitely a goer.
So there you have it. From the sublime to the ridiculous, 12 sports that desperately need their own video games. If youre a budding indie developer, why not give one of them a go. We reckon youd be able to pick up the license for Championship Sauna Endurance pretty cheap. Think we missed a sport? Let us know below.