What constitutes skill in sports gaming?

Posted April 15th, 2008 at 6:19 am

Over at 5WG there is what I find to be a fascinating back and forth discussion regarding “skill” in sports gaming. It’s definitely worth a full read through here and part two here. The trigger for the topic was a recent Game Informer issue which stated that MLB 2K8 requires more skill to play than MLB 08: The Show. Basically the thinking behind that is the unique control schemes force users to build up skill by utilizing them as opposed to The Show which is more traditional and straight forward.

I look back to the Madden vision cone as one clear example of “twitch” skill vs knowledge. While it was designed in an attempt to replicate the real decision making of a QB it was severely flawed. Yet there was a faction of gamers who swore by it and acted as though anyone who didn’t like the cone or didn’t want to use it were somehow less skilled than those who did. But is having a minutely quicker reaction time to take advantage of flaws with a feature really skill? Some may say it is while others not. A video game skill maybe but it isn’t cerebral in nature as some football fans would prefer the game is played.

One thing, and this has been addressed a lot lately by EA Sports President Peter Moore, is that the sports titles need to be more accessible. The control schemes are considered by many to be too complicated and extremely difficult to learn and get comfortable with. For people who have been playing Madden for many years it seems like second nature but for someone picking it up for the first time it is overwhelming. Even in the case of myself, and I have vast experience with Madden, I don’t even bother with about 80% of the pre-play defensive options. Just imagine someone relatively new to the game seeing all those options on screen and having only a few seconds to process it all.

What do you guys think when it comes to video game skill vs knowledge of sport skill? How should games balance the two? What are some examples of games that got it right whether that be through the controls, features, or simply the overall gameplay?