Sport doesn't always make sense. I wonder if video game will ever be able to capture that.
In the lead up to the fight this weekend between Ronda Rousey and Alexis Davis at UFC 175, EA released a prediction video using its new game, EA Sports UFC.
Ronda Rousey was the overwhelming favourite. A former Judo olympian, unbeaten in her MMA career, she had finished seven of her eight wins by submission via her signature maneuver – the arm bar. She’d broken arms with it before. It’s brutal. She's brutal. An absolute killing machine.
So when EA Sports UFC’s prediction video ended with a Ronda Rousey victory in the 2nd round, via armbar submission most people nodded their heads. Yep, that’s probably how it’ll go down. Damn, this game is good -- that makes sense.
But sport doesn’t always make sense.
The fight itself played out a little differently. Ronda walked out, punched Alexis Davis in the face, kneed her in the liver, performed a Judo throw with incredible velocity and proceeded to utterly brutalise Alexis on the ground until she was almost unconscious. The fight lasted 16 seconds.
I did not see that coming.
Earlier this morning the host country of the Football World Cup, Brazil, was defeated by Germany by an astonishing deficit of 7 goals to 1. When I woke up, turned on the television and saw the score I wondered if I had accidentally woken into a new, strange dimension.
I waited for the donuts to rain in from the sky. This can’t be happening…
I wondered what the score would be if EA Sports had run a simulation using FIFA 14. They could have run that game a thousand times, but I doubt they’d ever come back with a scoreline reading Germany 7 Brazil 1.
This is the glorious, random nature of real sport. I wonder if video games will ever have the ability to capture it.
Could Fight Night ever replicate Rumble in the Jungle, when Muhammad Ali rope-a-doped his way to victory against a seemingly unbeatable George Foreman? Could EA Sports UFC ever create a moment as succinctly grotesque and shocking as Anderson Silva’s leg break in his rematch against Chris Weidman? Could a cricketer as dominant as Don Bradman exist in a Cricket game without his stats being loaded and unfair to a ridiculous degree?
I don’t know if it’s possible. I wonder if it’s even a plausible goal, or – crucially -- what we actually want or need to see replicated in video games about sport.
In real life that sort of drama is crucial. The unexpected, in a sense, is the defining, crowning point of difference for sport as a spectator activity. Viewers tune in because something spectacular might happen. It might not. Germany vs Brazil could have (and probably should have) been a slow paced, boring game that ended in a penalty shoot out. But it wasn’t.
Yet, even if it were, that result would have felt real. It would have felt justified. No-one would have complained, not really. This is sport. You hope for drama, but sport is random. When something dramatic does occur it occurs from natural elements of competition and it never feels exploitative or cheap. It is always earned and always something genuine.
Could that type of dynamic exist in a video game? Maybe in decades when technology and design has evolved, but part of me thinks that the glorious randomness of sport could never be replicated in a video game setting -- because we the players wouldn’t allow it.
As players we could never accept it.
Want proof? Okay. You asked for it.
Imagine EA Sports did create a prediction video for Germany vs Brazil. Imagine it released this prediction video on its YouTube channel for all to see.
Imagine the final score of the game was Germany 7 Brazil 1. How do you react? Now imagine the comments.
“This game is broken.” “This game isn’t realistic.” “What the fuck EA, how do you make such a piece of shit video game? URGH.”
“That would never happen.”
But it did happen. It literally just happened. That is the glorious randomness of sport.