All Geek to Me

April 9, 2008

A Short History of Computer Games – Pong to Madden

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 2:20 pm

The second of my posts on computer games that I have enjoyed across the last twenty five years looks at sports simulations. I suppose that you could say that it was sports simulations started the home video gaming industry, with Pong as a tennis simulation.

There are essentially two types of sports simulations, those that focus on letting you play the game and those that deal with the management and coaching side. Back in my earliest days I recall a football game on my friend’s Commodore 64. It was great fun, but bore little relationship to the real game. You saw only a small amount of the pitch at anyone time, so shooting for goal was almost impossible. Walking the ball into the net was the standard method of scoring. At around the same time I keyed in a listing from a computer magazine for a World Cup management simulation. Another friend and I spent many an hour taking England to victory in the 1982 world cup.

The only other direct sports simulation that caught my attention was Sensible Soccer, which had tiny player graphics, but excellent control and allowed you a view of enough of the pitch to make passing and shooting a real possibility. I had a friend who used to treat the game as a chance to see how many of your players he could injure so severely that they would be carried off – I think he might have been happier with an Ice Hockey simulation.

It is the management thread of games that have really intrigued me across the year. I played several of the Championship Manager games and more recently Football Manager, the game that the authors of Championship Manager wrote after they changed publishers. There is something addictive about the signing of players, the selection of teams, and the sense of frustration as a dominating team performance slips away into a 1-0 defeat. In an earlier incarnation I ended up managing Aston Villa, signing a couple of players who later actually joined the club and took them to a Champion’s League win and the Premiership Title. The games seem to be getting more realistic, in very early incarnations I had my beloved Norwich City at the top of the Premiership and even took Boston United to the Double.

Sports Simulations are big business. EA publish a host of games, which they update each year with minor enhancements, and sell vast numbers. The Granddaddy of these license simulations is Madden, a game so famous that there is no need to mention which sport it simulates. The only major American sport for which EA does not have the major license is Baseball, whose officially endorsed games are produced by another studio. Increasingly these games include an element of management as well as the playing of the game.

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