Gaming - EA Sports: Is it REALLY in the game?

EA Sports

On a day where we celebrate gaming's influence on media and the population Steve Taylor-Bryant looks at how sports gaming can influence a nation...

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I was a child being raised on a multi nation military camp in the old West Germany. In my school and my living area of the camp were some Americans, friends from a big ol’ country thousands of miles away, who helped my love of sport grow. I always played football/soccer and I was an accomplished middle to long distance runner trying my hardest to emulate Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe but, after athletics season in school came to a close we were given choices of which sport would come next. We had Baseball instead of the rounders you may have played in the UK, the girls had Softball. We had American Football instead of Rugby and Basketball for those days when the weather was too bad to hit leather with a stick outdoors.

What has this got to do with gaming? I hear you ask. Well, take a seat and my story shall continue. When I came back to the United Kingdom at the end of the 1980's I was behind everyone in my school when it came to physical education. I had never played tennis, and rounders seemed like an almost childish game and, bizarrely, I found myself missing the mathematics involved in a baseball season. So my continuation of my American sports love needed to be found elsewhere. Channel 4 at the time had the odd hour or so of American Football on the television but that was about it. This is where gaming came in. I played lots of sport games, working my way through the years almost waiting in expectation for a generation of games that took over the world. The EA Sports games. As a nation of cricket lovers and rugby fans the only introduction we had to baseball and American football was through these games. Eventually television caught up and across our satellite channels you can watch NHL, NBA, MLB and the NFL, but as a country we have Electronic Arts to thank.

Titles like Madden NFL (1988 - to present), a game named after the Super-Bowl winning coach and commentator John Madden, kept a buzz about the NFL brand going in some dark times for the sport television wise. MVP Baseball in the early 2000's gave me my chance to play professional short stop for the New York Mets, and see if I could maintain the stunningly poor batting average I had started all those years ago at school. The Rob Lowe film Youngblood and EA Sports NHL gave me a fascination with the ultra violent game of Ice Hockey.

Other games came and went, EA delved into the traditional football market with FIFA storming the globe and giving those children never picked for teams at school a chance to Christiano Ronaldo. Tiger Woods Golf took a relatively unpopular upper class sport and brought it into the mainstream, a multi player game loved by women as well as men and, with the strict out of date rules of some golf clubs, this was a woman's only opportunity to feel like they had played certain famous courses.

The invention of the Wii and similar gaming stations brought exercise to an ever growing obese nation, with Wii sports and Olympic type events leading to overweight folk (I am talking about me primarily) shedding pounds, spitting up blood and crashing into coffee tables.

So, yes, sport was invented before gaming, but our love of sport outside what we were raised with is all thanks to EA Sports and the like. Where else could you be a boxer and not actually get hit? Where could you drive a Ferrari around Monaco when you can’t even reverse park in real life? Gaming.

Thank you Electronic Arts.

Image - EA.