Everything about me and my life so far would suggest that I’d be all over games like FIFA, 2k, and especially Madden. Since I could walk football has been the center of my life. My dad played it, all my uncles played, most of my cousins play or played. Many of us played at a collegiate level or higher. The roots of football run deep. By default, athletics has been an integral part of life. However, I rarely partake in the worlds of MyPlayer, FUT, or competing in Madden. There was a time when I would buy Madden and NCAA Football (RIP) year-in and year-out. In fact, some of my fondest gaming memories are being hours deep into a dynasty and watching my little virtual recruits grow into playmakers and then exporting them to my franchise save in Madden. But years of actual football and the regressive, repetitive nature of sports games has dulled my interest. Ok, a part of it is me being a sore loser I admit. Especially the time I lost to my little brother in Madden; no Bueno. But, until recently the prospects of playing sports games have had little interest to me.
Before we go forward let’s go back. NCAA Football was at its peak when Road to Glory launched and I was all over it. At the time, I was a young high school kid with next level dreams and EA Sports gave me a way to simulate my future. It had unique RPG elements like playing in the playoffs to earn scholarships and choosing where to make your splash. Then you decided how to spend your week before the game making decisions to workout or go to class for different bonuses. As you progressed through the season and years, your dorm room (which served as the menu) visually improved. The funniest little detail is the picture of your “girlfriend” would improve the better you played. When you completed your career you could continue the dream and import your work into Madden. Similar to the collegiate career there were decisions to make, endorsements to earn and your living quarters that served as the menu would improve. It was fun and engaging with details that distracted from the grind of playing game after game. Then one day that all changed. EA stopped making their college game because it wasn’t worth it if they had to pay royalties to the likeness of the players in the game. Then somewhere along the line Madden stripped their Superstar mode bare to a monotonous string of games not much different from the franchise mode. With this turn of events came the death of my interest.
Then along comes FIFA. This game really took off in my early college years and it really hasn’t looked back. As popular as it is, it still falls into my own category of “meh”. I know that as a football guy and a guy that has a strong indifference to sports games I may not have the strongest voice on this. But, don’t write me off just yet. I too joined the FIFA craze and have been an on and off avid player. I have fond memories of meeting my teammates at a buddies house and playing online with four of us on one team against the world. And when I finally invested in the game myself I spent hours in my created player’s career. FIFA reignited a spark in sports games that was missing for me since the death of NCAA football. But it would not last. Not only did it get repetitive, I also sucked at it. My final straw was when I had played hours of it and one of my roommates who rarely plays any video games at all beat me. Like really beat me, not a fluke. I was so upset after that I threw my copy of FIFA into the hallway and refused to touch it. It sat in the same spot for an entire year! (I already admitted I was a sore loser.) I eventually got over it and got into Ultimate Team which certainly helped make sports games not boring but that too gets too repetitive.
Needless to say at this point, but sports games are not for me. Or at least they weren’t. I say that because a recent trend has been popping up in sports games that makes my ears perk. That trend is the RPG and story elements that sports game developers are starting to include in their games. I can’t say I’m an authority on this because I have an outside-looking-in perspective but features like MyPlayer, the Journey and Longshot are a step in a healthy direction. 2k’s MyPlayer seems to function like an MMORPG as well as a basketball game. And EA’s story mode additions are refreshing and a dramatic way to play the game. Much better than mindlessly repeating game after game after game.
Ideally, I’d like to see EA adopt more of 2k’s flair or seek to revamp and improve the Road to Glory/Superstar modes of old. Maybe my attitude toward Madden will soften when I retire from my football career. Maybe they’ll continue to improve the things that interest me. But, until then I’ll stick to my go-to games like shooters, MMOs and Open Worlds.