November 14, 2009

Cricket videogames

Cricket and generation Xbox

Cricinfo

From Suhas Cadmabi, United States


Cricket video games haven't achieved the popularity of those of other sports © Getty Images
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If age were purely a reflection of musical taste, I'd be in my forties. Common reactions to my choice in artists range from amazement ("Man, that's what my dad used to play during his IIT [Indian Institute of Technology] hostel days!"), to outright concern ("Don't you listen to anything contemporary?"). And yet, thanks to the advent of Guitar Hero, a number of teenage cousins suddenly want to engage me in discussions on how Hendrix died young, or whether Mick Jagger was indeed a better frontman than Roger Daltrey. I'm only too happy to indulge them.

The argument here is that lifestyle choices of the urban teenage demographic are being increasingly shaped by the gaming industry, and this also applies to the sports they consume. Take, for example, the schoolkid who aspires to be able to talk football one day with his classmates; he might find the latest edition of EA Sports' FIFA series to be a very handy companion to the live action on the telly. And, going all the way with Manchester United in the virtual world provides the perfect supplement to watching them clinch the Premiership title in the real one.

By the same token, cricket-based games have been rather conspicuous by their inability to make a dent in this market. Could this be a reason for the (perceived) decline in popularity of the game among metropolitan kids, especially in India? An uncle of mine certainly agrees. We were discussing a Cricinfo article in which the author, intrigued by the fact that his fifteen-year-old son should find greater pleasure in watching Thierry Henry and Arsenal than Rahul Dravid and India, observed that cricket appeared to be "reasonably popular, but not cool" among his son's peer group.

I asked my uncle why cricket wasn't being followed by that particular age group, in the way we might expect it to be. He replied: "When we were growing up we used to play a lot of cricket - with a rubber or tennis ball, or even a regular cricket ball. We used to play in the backyard, in the corridors of our apartment buildings, in the garage and on the road. Many of us had access to reasonably large grounds where we could play cricket on full-length pitches. Today's kids do not have this opportunity. "Their experience with sports is mostly second-hand. They either watch them on TV, or play a video-game version. I think the latter significantly determines the games they follow on television; it is easy to enjoy football or basketball on a Playstation, but cricket, especially Test cricket, simply can't be ported to that medium. To me, this lack of a first-hand experience with the game, or even a reasonable second-hand simulation alternative has drawn our kids away from the magic of cricket as we know it. Blame it on the urban jungle."

I remember learning a great deal about Basketball and Ice Hockey thanks to EA Sports' NBA Live and NHL titles, but figuring out the nuances of cricket through a video game would certainly have been a tough ask. The many variables in cricket which might come into effect - pitch conditions, weather, the state of the ball - are best understood by playing in real conditions, and learning from experience. Hitherto, computer games have been unable to capture the feel of the real thing. When I look back at some of the cricket-based games released over the years (EA Sports' Cricket, and Codemasters' Brian Lara Cricket), these observations ring true; the void is yet to be filled.

Perhaps then, cricket might lend itself better to a strategy-based gameplay than the arcade or simulation type, but efforts in that direction have been equally unsuccessful. International Cricket Captain, the game's answer to Football Manager, enjoys a cult following in the UK; I suspect it will remain at that. How many of us would salivate at the thought of leading Sussex to the County Championship?

And, years ago, Anil Kumble teamed up with Ananth Narayan (a contributor to It Figures, the stats blog on Cricinfo) to come out with a strategy game called Googly. It addressed some of these issues in theory but, in the words of Indian blogger Sidin Vadukut, had "graphics reminiscent of a Rohrschach Test and gameplay marginally more engaging than digging one’s nose." I'm not about to suggest that cricket resonates less among the urban youth of today only because it happens to be poorly represented in the gaming market; there are several other possible reasons, but maybe this factor needs to be looked at more closely by the game's fans.

After all, Lalit Modi has made no secret of the fact that the upwardly mobile youngster - who might otherwise be saving up to buy a much-coveted Arsenal jersey or Ferrari jacket - is a major component of the IPL's target audience. If he and his marketing team are serious about wooing this particular segment, they could do worse than investing in a specialised team of cricket-loving game developers, so that they might finally come up with the definitive cricketing video game.

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Posted by Gizza on (November 17, 2009, 13:20 GMT)

I agree with this article and with many of the comments above (might get Cricket on Wii myself soon). Another very important point IMO is that the games are one-sided, as in between bat and ball. If you thought T20 was bad wait till you play most cricket video games (And some internet based ones like StickCricket).

Batting is just a matter of timing (when to press the button) since in most cricket games they tell you where the bowler will pitch the ball. Bowling is quite hard except for the unrealistic games where you spin or swing the ball a mile every time. But then it becomes too easy and you bowl the other side out for 10.

You just don't get normal scores (batting or bowling) is computer game cricket (Tests, ODI's or T20s). Strategy games rely too much on luck so a good manager/coach/captain or whatever will probably only have 60% chance of winning as opposed to 50% if you had no idea.

Wii seems to explored new territory with beach cricket. How about street or backyard cricket?

Posted by Salman Haider on (November 16, 2009, 13:32 GMT)

I think developers need to make some adjustment in players look also, all the player look like the same in everything. Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is the best example for sports game developers.They need to look how that PES team made that incredible game.Game must be authorized by all test playing nations.

Posted by Lukesh on (November 16, 2009, 13:24 GMT)

I have to agree with some of the above statements on a cricket game for the wii. I own a wii and i'm itching for a cricket game to come out.

Posted by Bobo on (November 16, 2009, 11:55 GMT)

There is a Wii cricket game - Ashes 2009. It's very good. A test match takes approx 3 hours, but you can save between innings.

Posted by Drew on (November 16, 2009, 11:10 GMT)

@sudeep ie wii cricket by codemasters i think. Unfortunately it doesn't implement the motion plus improvement. So the UK version was released august or so before they could but they held the Australian release back till nov. Why not include motion plus. WTF were codemasters thinking? Making us wait without improvement just to coincide with summer. I Bought new super mario instead.

Posted by Shredder from www.howzat.com on (November 16, 2009, 8:35 GMT)

We found your post to be very intriguing, and co-incidentally, we are a small team developing this very cool cricket game called howzat, combining the best of both worlds - Management and Strategy, with real-game play, Arcade style as you mentioned.

I'd love to have a chat with you about it, please do e-mail me and I can brief you further.

Posted by Sudeep Kumar on (November 16, 2009, 6:00 GMT)

Everyone who has played Wii and loves cricket has wished for a Wii Cricket Game. C'mon Nintendo, EA ,... I hope you're reading this

Posted by Gerard on (November 14, 2009, 21:51 GMT)

I think the biggest problem with cricket video games is the game's timeframe. It would take weeks to play through a test series, and even a one day game would take 3-4 hours to get through 100 overs.

Maybe developers need to be more creative when designing games: having the player pick one batsman and one bowler to play as with the option of skipping through the performances of computer controlled players might be a better format than the games currently being produced.

Posted by Ahmad on (November 14, 2009, 19:06 GMT)

One of the things missing from the major cricket titles coming out have been the player endorsements. Cricket fans usually love watching certain cricketers so when Tendulkar or Wasim are a part of a side and the game uses similar sounding names it immediately makes the whole thing feel cheap and worthless. You will never see this in a FIFA game; they even have likenesses of all top players so you'd be able to tell Messi and Beckham apart. Contrastingly, Cricket games give you a bunch of clones. No flair, no individuality, no celebrations and monotonous commentary. Plus, there is the small matter of cricket games being endorsed only by the Aussie, British and South African sides. Somehow that starts to reflect in the stats the teams get. A mediocre Aussie/Brit bowler ends up having similar stats to a leading Pakistani/Indian bowler...its easier to gauge consistency etc but they can't gauge the natural flair that makes these sides engaging. Without flair the game is bound to bore.

Posted by Jack on (November 14, 2009, 14:06 GMT)

The wii offers a unique(for now) interface to make a cricket game more possible. I think any prospective game devlopers you start there.

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