1980s vs. Today: Sports video games   

Updated: June 5, 2008, 12:45 PM ET

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The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

The ballpark experience
The sports media
The SI swimsuit issue
Sports video games
Superstar athletes
Fantasy games
Lakers vs. Celtics

In the beginning, there was "Pong" … and then, a great swirling vortex of sports video game suckage. Early '80s home consoles simply weren't powerful enough to produce decent sports sims ("Pole Position" being the lone exception; Atari's blob football doesn't count). Enter Nintendo. Beyond saving the video game industry from a massive crash, the NES rescued sports gaming. Titles like "Double Dribble," "Blades of Steel," "RBI Baseball" and the still-enjoyable "Tecmo Bowl" paved the way for the "Madden" games of today.

Pros: Rather than sweat the proper software shader for Kobe Bryant's shoes, game makers focused on addictive, uncomplicated experiences. Sure, "Tecmo Bowl" had only four plays -- but with Bo Jackson in the backfield, how many did you really need?

Cons: Games looked like flickering, Technicolored vomit; cheats and money plays were rampant; no online play. Oh, and realistic statistics? Ahahahahaha!

Madden Video Game

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

"Madden" changed the sports video game landscape forever.

Zoom in, and you can count the pores on Jerry Rice's virtual nose. "Madden" playbooks require weeks of study. Digital LeBron shoots and dunks just like his real-life counterpart. Sports games have never been more detailed and true to life. And that's without mentioning the ability to set beer prices in franchise-owner mode.

Pros: Love USC football? You can playact as quarterback (on the field), offensive coordinator (in playbook practice mode), even athletic director (dynasty mode recruiting) -- all from the comfort of your couch. A whole make-believe sports universe is just a control pad away.

Cons: Call it the curse of raised expectations -- the same level of detail that engrosses also frustrates, because as games seem more real, every unreal thing stands out. In "Tecmo Bowl," the lack of a chain gang was irrelevant; in "Madden," it rankles.

VERDICT: Tie. On one hand, today's games are deeper, more sophisticated and better looking than their predecessors. On the other hand, they're far less accessible, and arguably not as fun. Which is probably why "Wii Sports" -- easy to pick up and play, hard to master, decidedly old-school in its gaming ethos -- is so popular.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2. Sound off to Patrick here.



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And then there were two -- the Lakers and Celtics. Who will win the NBA Finals? Let the games begin.

Finals schedule | Playoff bracket | Playoff home

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Audio Audio

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