Sports games are to video games what senseless summer sequels are to Hollywood--cash cows.
It's true video games are also supported by seemingly endless sequels (Megaman) but sports games have a special status; they are sequels before they hit the shelf. Anyone who is the least bit interested in buying a sports game will already be familiar with the sport, so designers don't need to worry about acclimatizing anyone to new characters or storylines.
Between seasons in the real sports leagues, players change teams, teams change cities, etc. Because of this we are graced with yearly versions of our favourite sports games with slightly better graphics, a few new features and updated rosters, which remain up to date for about a week.
Naturally, there is a plethora of sports games to choose from in any used game bin that will provide you with hours upon hours of enjoyment. That is, until you discover the one way to score goals, touchdowns, runs, tries, circuits, whatevers thereby making the hardest difficulty setting insultingly easy. Then it's back to the ole' used bin.
Some sports games break this overall trend, and no I'm not talking about the ones where there are two or three different ways to score points. Every once in a while, a game comes around that injects a big intoxicating shot of fun into an otherwise stagnant genre.
These games tend to break away from simulating sports. Instead they take liberties with reality, the rules of the game, human anatomy and physics, leaving us with a fantasy sport that leaves the real version looking as useless as that damn Virtual Boy sitting in the closet.
Games such as NFL Blitz, NBA Jam and Tony Hawk Pro Skater are shining benchmarks of the sports game industry. They transcend the limitations of the genre sparkling in all their quirks and "fuck gravity," attitudesÂ--until the sequels arrived. NFL Blitz became NFL Blitz 99, NFL Blitz 2000, NFL Blitz 2001 etc., and Tony Hawk has spawned so many sequels they've stopped counting. Yet, these games proved there could be a bright future for sports games, a future that doesn't just revolve around switching the way to score from a one-timer to a breakaway.
So, all you failed starting pitchers and sure-fire hockey stars (if it wasn't for your bummed knee), take a seat and have some beer and chips, because this year's batch of sports games are fresh and waiting for you. Yes, there is no better time than the cold months of winter to sit on your ass and play games, staring at the fit and beautiful people we would all love to be.
With sports games, you can fulfill dreams of hoisting the championship trophy from your couch, far removed from the icky hard work and physical activity--you know, the actual sport aspect of it.