image – amazon.com

i always talk about how closely art imitates life imitates art and on and on in an infinite 2-way loop.  sports games is where that sentiment is taken pretty literally, where studios like EA do their best to accurately replicate every sound, team, player and environment to enhance their customers’ experience.  the TPC sawgrass course in the tiger woods franchise, for example, looks just about as nice as it does watching golf on tv in HD, and stuff like the 17th hole on the stadium course appears to be just as difficult to play without hitting the water.  i say appears to be because a tee time for 4 at sawgrass would set you back about $1500.  you have that kind of scratch to spend on one afternoon?  but anyway, back to the real matter at hand.

the case just illustrated is no different with EA sports’ flagship franchise madden NFL.  these games have the graphic power to accurately track player motion down to the last detail – different players have different strides when walking or running the ball.  they even visually differentiate that way different quarterbacks throw the football to their receivers.  but the most recent addition to the madden line of games doesn’t have to do with visual realism, it has to do with a more serious aspect of real NFL football – concussions.
concussions and player head injuries have been a big topic of discussion during the NFL’s ’10-’11 season, primarily injuries stemming from hard hits and helmet to helmet contact.  to emphasize the seriousness and risk of this sort of injury, new madden football games will show when one of the players’ digital little team members suffers a concussion on the field, and more importantly, will show that player leaving the field for the remainder of the game – no exceptions.  this is a big change from earlier iterations of the game, where a concussed player could be back on the field after just a couple of downs on the sidelines.  when you think about that as what younger players see on the screen, it makes sense that it could possibly convey the message that head injury is isn’t so bad.

john madden, who is still involved with the development of the games that bear his name, believes that it’s time for that to change for two main reasons: (1) to make the game more realistic to actual NFL play, and (2) to show younger sports gamers and youth football players how serious a football head injury can be.  according to madden in an interview with the new york times:  “concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game.” he goes on to say, “it starts young kids – they start in video games.  i think the osmosis is if you get a concussion, that’s a serious thing and you shouldn’t play.  or leading with the head that you want to eliminate. we want that message to be strong.”

sports injury isn’t something that i’ve really seen positively addressed at all in all of the sports games i’ve played over the years, but there are a few examples where it was handled a little… differently.  blitz: the league kind of goes the other way, allowing you to “juice” a player through an injury and run the risk of more severe injuries.  and EA’s own NHL ’92 showed recipients of hard checks lying unconscious in an almost comically growing pool of blood.the NFL and EA are working very closely to make sure that  head injuries are accurately portrayed in madden 12 and beyond.  “we want it handed off to the next generation.  there was a time when someone would get a concussion and you’d say he just got dinged, take some smelling salts and get back in the game. those days are over.”

this is a definite positive step being taken by EA and the NFL.  i’m sure there’s going to be a flood of players that are going to argue that it’s a game and that this will take away from their gaming experience.  those players are probably at least teenagers and really don’t care about games being used as a medium for any sort of safety message.  but you have to consider the number of younger people and kids that play this game, and given what i’ve seen on my tv on sunday afternoons, it’s definitely something i’m glad is being addressed.  it speaks not only to responsible game development, but the idea that a game is a medium that’s large enough to encompass more than shooting bad guys and throwing touchdowns.

and that all aside, i’m curious about how james harrison feels about all this.

sources:
new york times
gamesradar

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About Tushar

Author and creator of Technical Fowl. IT/Tech hero. Jiu Jitsu purple belt. Enjoying the venn diagram intersection of tech, gaming, business, and politics.

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