Video games transfer sports skills to the field

Trevor Maxim | Staff Writer

With the increasing popularity of sports-related video games, those who were once merely spectators can now become coaches or players in the virtual world. Xbox Live, the most popular online gaming service, allows players to compete against each other over the internet in real-time. The service had 17 million active users as of January 2009, according to Microsoft executive Robbie Bach.
For senior Kasim Ahmad, there is a thin line between the world of professional sports and that of sports video games. An enthusiast of both the Madden NFL football and NBA 2k basketball series, Ahmad said that he has become an expert in the world of professional football based on his experiences playing on Xbox live.

“[I recognize] what kind of defense [an NFL team] is in just by looking at their formation,” Ahmad said. “If they’re in a cover two or something or cover three or not, you would be able to know that from playing Madden.”

Ahmad said he often critiques his favorite sports teams, including the Bengals, using knowledge that he has gained from Madden NFL 10.

Regarding the in-game tactics of the team, Ahmad said he has a variety of recommendations, ranging from the serious to the lighthearted.

“The way I celebrate personally after I score, [the Bengals] could use some of them,” Ahmad said. “Some of my dance moves are exceptional, I’d say, to the competition.”

The consequences of taking sports video games so seriously can sometimes be difficult, according to Ahmad. He said that Xbox Live games against friends create intense competition.

“I usually place a wager [on games],” Ahmad said. “I actually lost a bass guitar to [junior] Carson Craig earlier this year.”

Sophomore Matt Buchko also said that he finds an interest in some sports through their video games, with very little on-field experience. Buchko said he follows professional and college football, analyzing the games with the knowledge he gained from the Madden NFL and NCAA Football series.

“When I’m watching a game or playing with my friends, I kind of realize stuff that I probably wouldn’t have realized without playing the [football video] games,” Buchko said.

Although Buchko said his gaming does get very competitive on Xbox Live and with his friends, he said that he has not played organized football since fifth grade. Buchko also said, however, that he is content with his decision and does not plan on returning to the gridiron.

“I [don’t want to play] for a real team,” Buchko said. “But every once in a while, I play outside with my friends or something.”

Football games like Madden NFL 10 do, however, make some players want to put their sports knowledge to the test, according to junior Gera Dimitriev. Dimitriev said that playing the video game has not only taught him about football, but he is even contemplating a return to the field for the first time since eighth grade.

“I’m considering playing [for the football team] senior year if I get taller and buffer,” Dimitriev said. “Madden pumps me up and makes me want to play.”

Dimitriev said he often treats the video game as more than just a recreational activity, with the intensity of the competition and the real meaning of the outcomes.

“I’ve broken [Xbox 360] controllers before,” Dimitriev said. “I threw like six interceptions in a game, and I threw [the controller] against the ground.”

While senior Alex Farren is best known for his achievements on the football field, he said that his skill on the virtual hockey rink is equally impressive. Farren said there was a period of a week in January 2009 during which he was ranked eighth in the nation for EA Sports’ NHL 09 hockey game.

“I was playing about six hours a day, [and] I had, like, an 80-game win streak or something crazy like that,” Farren said. “But since then, my ranking has dropped, and I have yet to break the top 500.”

Outside of his accomplishments in NHL 09, Farren said the only real experience he has playing the game came from a street hockey league when he was in second grade. He has, though, begun to follow professional hockey based on his interest in NHL 09.

“I only got interested in hockey because of the video game,” Farren said. “If it wasn’t for the video game, I’d have no interest in the game. In fact, I’d probably hate it.”

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