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Box Score: A time to celebrate unless you cant

Team-based celebrations have made great strides in recent years. Many – myself included – feel the best in the land is EA’s NHL series. This year’s Cup ceremony includes the end-of-game handshake, presentation of the Conn Smythe trophy to the playoff MVP, and several key players skating the Stanley Cup around the ice, then culminates with the iconic team photo around the Cup at center ice. It captures the moment superbly and at a lovely pace.

“The Stanley Cup represents the Holy Grail of hockey so it’s extremely important that the Stanley Cup celebration be meaningful in our game,” says Sean Ramjagsingh, Line Producer for EA SPORTS’ NHL series. “We’ve received very positive feedback on our Cup celebration, and we’ve tweaked it slightly over the past few years to make it more authentic. An example is the addition of Stanley Cup patches to jerseys which is reflected in the celebration. That said, we recognize that for purchasers who have bought the past few NHL titles, the celebration may not be as exciting anymore and is something that could possibly receive an update in upcoming iterations.”

For years, NHL has been king of the land, but there’s competition brewing. Starting two seasons ago, Madden NFL introduced customized Super Bowl endings that feature team-specific commentary, ticker-tape parades, and a White House photo-op with President Obama replete with the presentation of a customized jersey. As a long-suffering Eagles fan, hearing Gus Johnson reflect on my team ending its streak of ineptitude was touching. If only it could happen in real life.

FIFA doesn’t hit as many high marks, but does feature confetti, the team taking a collective ‘thank you’ dive into the pitch, and a group photo around the particular Cup that’s been won. What’s more interesting, however, is that these celebrations vary little (if at all) if they’re won within Be A Pro or Superstar or My Player versus a more traditional team mode.

Ben Haumiller, producer of EA’s NCAA Football, knows how important championship moments are for his customers, whether they’re at the team or individual player level – and he recognizes NCAA’s in-game accomplishments aren’t celebrated quite much as they could be.

“There’s that pomp and that circumstance and that pageantry around National Championship games and the Heisman,” he says. “That’s an area where we have a lot of room for growth for presentation. It’s been something that we’ve wanted to do but for one reason or another it’s not made it into the game yet. There is a big push to get that up to the front, though.”

To Haumiller’s point, developers always have to prioritize, and few game makers have more to do in less time than those who make annual sports titles. Gameplay adjustments will almost always win in favor of presentation aspects, especially when the number of people exposed to the celebrations is always smaller than those who experience the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Leo slogs away in the majors with me knowing that his biggest accomplishments on the virtual mound will be met with very little recognition. There will be no press conferences, one-on-ones with his manager, or Hall of Fame speeches. If he wins a World Series, a few moments of an on-field teammate pileup will have to do.

Should I care? Probably not.

But I do.