Welcome back from spring break!
Yeah, I know, probably no one wants to be back in school right now, especially since the end of spring break also means tests are right around the corner. But, as in most years, we can all at least rely on our memories of what happened during the break to carry us through the rest of the semester.
Except, of course, if you’re like me and have some memories you’d rather forget.
For anyone expecting some gossip over what I did in spring break, I’m sorry to disappoint. None of this relates to anything I personally did, but rather things that just coincidentally happened during the week I was on spring break. While this is my last spring break here at USC, I am too much of a prune to actually go out and risk embarrassing myself.
Unless you count going out in an Anaheim Ducks jersey an embarrassment.
Yes, the cat is out of the bag, I’m a Ducks fan. Don’t ask me how a Brazilian who first came into contact with hockey a year ago chose to cheer for a team that, to put it lightly, has been having a rocky season. These sorts of things just happened, and trust me on this, if I had a time machine, maybe things would have been different. But, sadly, this is the reality I live in.
Now, even though I’m a newcomer to the sport, I know enough about the game to know that this is hardly a permanent thing. Teams usually go through a restructuring period, allowing them to bring in new talent and flip the situation around come the next season. And maybe, by this time next year, I’ll be thankful for owning so much merch instead of doubting my financial decisions. But as a fan, even though I know that our team will eventually get better, I can’t help but feel sad whenever we lose.
So you can imagine how I felt this Sunday when our hopes of making the playoffs were dashed by the Vancouver Canucks.
I won’t go into too much detail. After all, this is not a hockey column. All you need to know is that, after coming hot off a win, we lost despite our best efforts. It was a depressing end to my spring break, to say the least. So, after moping around, I did what any committed fan would do: I booted up NHL 23 and won the Stanley Cup as the Ducks myself.
Oh, come on, don’t pretend as if you’ve never done something similar. If you love video games and sports, you’re bound to have done this after your favorite team has disappointed you. In fact, this is hardly the first time I’ve done something like this. Back when Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup, it took less than 20 minutes for me to absolutely destroy Croatia on FIFA 23, with a final score of 15-0. And let me tell you, I ran that game again and again until I had beaten them more times than I could count.
Of course, this is all just helpless coping, but there is some fun in playing these games as a fan. You’re more invested in the outcome, and having some say in how the people you see on TV play is gratifying, even if none of the tactics you employed would actually work in real life. Paired with all the other added modes, such as building your own superstar team, these relatively simple games offer hours of genuine entertainment in ways that other genres struggle to.
But I don’t have to defend these games. Odds are, if you’re reading the sports section, you’ve probably played them yourself already. After all, they are consistently on the list of the most-sold games of the year, even though their gameplay hardly ever changes. That is because, unlike most other games, sports games manage to bridge the gap and make non-gamers pick up the controller. You don’t need extensive knowledge of anything other than the sport you love to enjoy it.
But what is not often considered is how this low barrier of entry makes sports games the perfect two-way street; as much as they help get people into video games, they also make people care more about the sport. I say this because, as you can expect, it happened to me.
You see, back when I was first getting into sports as a kid, I used FIFA as a way to navigate a complicated world of teams from my home country and abroad. Because the game was simple to understand, I felt quick gratification and began developing ties with the players I used. Suddenly, the names that I saw on the news started having some more weight to them, and the more matches I won against real opponents online, the stronger those ties became. Soon enough, I found myself buying tickets to go see real matches and tuning in on TV whenever my team was playing.
My story is hardly unique. In fact, I imagine that nowadays, this narrative is all the more common. After all, you no longer have to even own the game to be influenced. Thanks to streamers and other internet celebrities, people from all kinds of life are exposed to these games and develop an interest in them alongside the streamer they are watching.
Because of this exposure, sports games serve as the perfect case study of how successful partnerships can benefit everyone involved. Both the game, as well as the sport in question and the influencers who promote it, come out with a larger audience, all because of this mutually beneficial relationship.
Of course, this doesn’t translate perfectly into the world of esports. Not every competitive game has the luck of featuring the likeness of top-class athletes, or has a relatively low skill barrier that allows people from all skill levels to enjoy it. However, the overall takeaway still remains. If a partnership is properly incorporated and not simply attached, the benefits for all parties will be well worth the extra cost. In a classic example, the game Fortnite, albeit not marketed as a professional-level game, benefits greatly from its multiple partnerships with different artists and products, which aid in engaging with an audience that might not have cared otherwise.
This all sounds complicated, I know, but I encourage you to pick up one of these sports games and test out my theory yourself. If it works, you don’t even need to like the sport to begin with. By playing it, you’ll naturally find yourself caring more about it, and sooner or later, odds are you’ll become a fan. If you do decide to test them out, just a word of advice: Whatever you do, don’t play as the Ducks in NHL 23. Speaking from experience.
Guilherme Guerreiro is a senior writing about esports. His column “Press Play to Start” runs every other Wednesday.
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