Why Video Games Can Never Replicate Germany 7 Brazil 1

Why Video Games Can Never Replicate Germany 7 Brazil 1

Sport doesn’t always make sense. I wonder if video game will ever be able to capture that.

An example.

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.

Another example.

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.


  • tell me about it. no matter how hard I hit him, even with FIFA’s wonky physics I can’t even break neymar’s foot, let alone his back.

    • I don’t think Brazil threw the match, it was just a combination of some woeful defensive positioning and a horribly bad night.

      There’s a distinct possibility that most of those players will never play in a World Cup again, considering how many other talented Brazilians there are, and I’m sure they’ll lose a mint in sponsorships. Plus, there have been South American players KILLED for playing badly before (in a dangerous part of Columbia, but still… not an enviable position).

    • Most games are trying to simulate the ideal version of the sport.

      There was a football game a while back that let you dope your players for an advantage, but it was insta-banned in Australia.

      • I think it was allowed in bloodbowl ??? and in deathrow which was an awesome game. In my ideal game you could juice a player upto his eyeballs at the expense of a short life 😛

        • Deathrow was indeed awesome 🙂 I want more fantasy sports games like these, rather than the sims that get pumped out every year.

          • I was so hoping for a deathrow2, its a shame it wasn’t popular enough to justify another one. 😐

  • I have also dreamt of donuts raining from the sky. I am also very rich in this situation…

  • Think you are forgetting Football Manager! More times than I can name I have encountered scenarios that seemed flat out impossible.

    • A couple of years ago when Football Manager Live was still going, around the time of FM11 and FM12, the match engine threw up the case that teams playing a 4-6-0 would rip apart defences and be at the top of the game. At the time everyone said bullshit and anyone who used it was cheating with a ‘super-formation’ that the game couldn’t handle. Turns out that formation has been used fairly effectively by some top teams over the last 2-3 years.

      Mind you, one of my most recent FM14 saves said that Nigeria would win the World Cup…

    • In the World Cup 98 video game (which is admittedly a while ago), my brother and I got so good at beating the AI goalkeeper that in one game between us, the scoreline finished 22-20.

      And we were only playing 20 minute halves.

      • I loved World Cup 98. But that game was pretty easy. All you had to do was get the ball, zig zag a little as you get to the corner edge of the box, cut back to centre and shoot. Score everytime.
        Proper length games could easily be won by 100 goals or more.

  • As randomness usually means a bug, the perfect sports game strives to remove randomness from result. Until we reach a point where the game is a perfect replication of a sport, we won’t be able to accept random events in a game. They are almost always derided even when they are an attempt to be realistic, like ridiculous first jab flash KO’s in UFC, or random false start penalties in Madden. Sports games need to earn the right to do something out of the ordinary, and even then a focus on hyper competitive play means these types of events should be limited to single player matches.

    Maybe we’ve also been trained by years of ‘random’ events hiding rubber band AI, like full court shots draining in NBA Jam and fumbles in Blitz or Madden. I like the idea of random events to add some spice to franchise or career modes, something like the Fight Night Champion story mode fights with a broken hand or a crooked ref, that add drama and a different challenge to an individual match, but it has to be done right.

    • This is a pretty ridiculous post in my opinion. Sport in many scenarios massive revolves around luck , or at least the perception of it. That is why the team with the theoretical best team never wins 100% of the time.

      The rubber band AI is a valid criticism, but this is largely contained to the action sports realm and doesn’t touch on the sims. Which is the major piece that people are missing in this discussion.

      What it comes down to is overall game design, randomness isn’t inherently bad, but if it is implemented in a way that people can’t justify to being part and parcel of the overall theme of the game, then of course they are going to find fault.

      • It depends where the luck and randomness comes from. The bounce of the ball going against you, a ball carrier fumbling three times or managing the hit the woodwork ten times in a game? That’s fine, as long as the systems causing it are consistent and the RNG is just against you. Randomness for the sake of it isn’t what a lot of sports gamers would want, especially in a competitive environment.

        The balance is where games need to replicate ‘random’ moments like the bounce of an oval ball or where a ball goes after it is tipped properly, but not add random events for the sake of it. Real sports might be more fun because of brain snaps or more dramatic because of injury (or in today’s case, a team just having a terrible day) but what makes video game sports fun and what makes real sports fun is not the same.

  • Holland 5-1 Spain. Brazil 1 – 7 Germany. Two results no-one would’ve predicted except for opportunistic gamblers. Speaking of which, my old housemate posted a pic of a winning $46k bet from $20 on Khedira to score and Germany to win 7-1.

    All in all, I love sport when it throws up results like this and this has been the best World Cup that I can remember for unexpected results

    • Your ex-housemate got the score exactly right? His name isn’t “Biff Tannen”, by any chance?

      • hahaha my sister asked when it was 3-0 I think if she should bet on 7-0. She would’ve been miffed if she had with the Brazil goal right at the end

      • “Grays….Sports…..Almanac.”
        Rises from hot tub.
        “You heard him girls, party’s over.”

  • I don’t play Fifa that much, but does it take into account the individual player stats when calculating the overall team ranking? Just wondering, if taking Neymar and Silva out would affect the Fifa simulation that much.

  • This is an actual quote from the developers of the Championship Manager franchise in 2001:

    Our manager always plays as Watford and I’m really gutted when I find out he’s won the European Cup after 15 seasons. That shouldn’t happen in the game because it wouldn’t happen in real life. Villa, Tottenham or Everton, yes. Watford, no. We see that as a flaw, so we go back and rectify it.

    I think that sums up the sports game vs. sports reality issue quite nicely. Randomness, chance and unlikely victories are actively programmed out of existence.

  • 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 assumption you are basing this on – but how do you know? It’s perfectly possible that a normal curve of some sort would emerge and that you would get exactly this result.

  • Must there be score spoilers posted front and centre?! I work all over the place so I recorded the game to get up and watch, and I can’t even avoid spoilers on a games news website of all things. Thanks, I guess!

  • “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.”

    To be fair, most people react this way to EA games under any circumstances 😛

  • Oh man @markserrels
    how good was UFC175??
    Ronda is amazing. My jaw dropped at that fight!
    And the guy fighting (and kicking) with a broken toe… crazy!

    The soccer was just a joke!

  • You might be right that Fifa 14 could never predict something like that – but the Football Manager series can and does throw up results like that. It can throw up results like Liverpool finishing second in the Premiership whilst the defending champion finishes in mid-table. These aren’t common occurrences – but they aren’t common in real-life either.

    Also, although 7-1 was a surprise, nobody should be surprised at all that Germany won. Brazil haven’t looked good this tournament and they were missing their best two players in Thiago Silva and Neymar. Their only other real high-quality player is Oscar (who had a stinker, despite scoring). They have good players they didn’t take with them, but for the most part they are weak in midfield and attack (which makes not taking Coutinho a massive blunder).

    • Even with their star players, I don’t think they’d win. As you said, and I’ll agree, Brazil wasn’t looking good this tourny, and in this specific game, it was the Brazilian defense that let the team down. Watching the goals alone, players were left unmarked and half the time the Brazilian defense were found standing around or running around like headless chooks.

  • I love the randomness of sport!

    Having said that, on my recent playthrough of FIFA World Cup 2014 on PS3 as Australia there were a few upsets. This was before the actual World Cup had started and my first game against Chile was a 1-0 loss, which went according to predictions, but then I just had an amazing game against the Netherlands and strung together a 4-0 win, which would have been roughly equivalent to today’s real-life events (given the gulf between the two sides in rankings and talent).

    So basically sometimes these amazing things happen in games as well – your passing is a little crisper, you just have the timing down well and it all comes together.

  • Do you want balanced or do you want real? Because reality ain’t always balanced, but try telling that over xbox live

  • I’ve long wondered which post would force me to register in order to reply. This is that post.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that “video games can never replicate” an event that may actually happen in real life, however unlikely. I would actually argue that some (but not all) games can when you introduce the human element in the right way.

    You might argue that a completely CPU controlled FIFA game may never, ever, replicate the Germany 7-1 Brazil outcome, but it’s not difficult to see that a human controlled game can. So long as a sports game can at least allow that to happen, then I don’t think that’s a deficiency.

    In other words, if a game’s primary mode of play involves real time human input, and not strict, autonomous simulation, then being able to arrive at those anomalous, outlying, blow-out results in a football match without human intervention isn’t a short-coming, IMO. In regards to this statement:

    This is the glorious, random nature of real sport. I wonder if video games will ever have the ability to capture it.

    My bottom line argument is that the likes of PES, FIFA, and some other sports games, they do have the ability to capture this glorious, random nature, so long as humans are in control.

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