The Allegory of Sports

I’m Canadian, so by definition, I play hockey. Thinking about sports as a whole and how today gaming is somewhat parallel to the mass appeal of sports 20+ years ago.  While sports always have an elite level, only recently has it been as much about the psychological aspect as the physical.  This paradigm shift is also seen in gaming.  Games today are much more complex systems than simple muscle memory.  You need to see 12 different things at once and act accordingly.

Professional sports are an interesting read on people.  Single player sports, as games, focus on muscle memory and repetition.  The psychological aspect is personal, self confidence and learning to achieve greatness.  You can see this in tennis and golf fairly easily.

Group sports are different, as are games.  People have roles to fill and the demands of any given role are vastly different based on the sport.  Baseball is pitcher vs batter, with the fielders as a backup.  They only play if something goes wrong.  Hockey, soccer and basketball are group games where you need to pay attention to everyone on the field at all times.  Individual skill is still important but the ability to read a play makes champions.  Football (and rugby) is the outlier.  It’s the only professional sport that the average person cannot play past 30.  Each role has a different task and other than the quarterback and linebackers, no one really needs to read the play.  They simply follow instructions to the letter and success comes.  New Orleans is a great example of how not having instructions (as they have no coach this year) leads to failure even if you have a solid set of players.

Transfer that thought to gaming now and team based e-sports.  FPS games are more akin to hockey, where situational awareness of both sides is key.  The best Halo players are certainly individually solid but the team only wins if everyone plays as a team and looks out for each other.  PvP group games are more like football.  Players in EvE have specific roles to fill and if you try to fill another one, you will likely fail.  The success is based on the leader’s planning.

PvE groups, raids for most games, are a hybrid of both models depending on the game and difficulty.  The simplest of raids are like football, follow the plan and you win.  The harder ones (like Heroic Raids and Challenge Modes from WoW are a good example) require not only solid planning but great situational awareness.  Each game uses it’s own metric for this and gamers tend to flock to the one that best suits their need, baring social connections.

I will keep this thought in my pocket for future posts.  There’s definitely some more to be said on the topic.

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