Why I’ve Spent Almost 400 Hours Playing A Cricket Game

Why I’ve Spent Almost 400 Hours Playing A Cricket Game
Image: Kotaku

383 hours.

It’s more time than most people put into any video game in a year. It’s more time than most put into any video game ever. And it’s definitely more than most would consider sane for playing the virtual version of a sport that’s akin to watching paint dry.

Let me explain my obsession with cricket.

This post has been republished to coincide with two things: the impending one-day Cricket World Cup in England, and the fact that I’ve recently been playing Cricket 19 on the Switch, which has resulted in me falling asleep in bed to playing cricket. Help.

It’s The Perfect Second Screen Game

Image: Kotaku

Remember when the idea of driving virtual trucks seemed absurd? The broader gaming populace understands the appeal of Euro Truck Simulator now though, and games like it. People enjoy games where they can tune out a little. People like to multi-task.

The same goes for virtual cricket.

Most of the action in cricket is compressed into a single moment. The bowler releases the ball. Your eyes watch for the point of release. They drop down in anticipation of where the ball will land. And then you make a quick judgement. You execute the shot.

It might get smashed to the boundary. You might miss it completely. Or maybe you just let it go. Either way, there’s generally 20 or so seconds before the next ball is bowled. A brief moment of downtime, where your mind can freely wander to other things.

Like other streams. TV shows. Podcasts. The weather. Literally anything.

Until the next ball is bowled.

Virtual Cricket Makes Real Cricket Better

Image: Kotaku

Unsurprisingly, people who like playing virtual cricket enjoy watching real cricket. After all, can you think of any other sport that goes for five days and can still fail to have a result at the end?

But it’s more than just passing the time. Sometimes, it helps drown out crappy commentary. Anyone who has been forced to tolerate the circle jerk that is Channel 9 commentary will understand. It’s the most patronising of patriotism, a passion for the national team that cheapens the sport.

So I just play virtual cricket, watch a stream on the second monitor or listen to ABC Grandstand instead while knocking up a century or two of my own.

Another advantage: you get to correct all the knucklehead mistakes that bowlers and batsmen make in crucial moments.

Perfect example: the 4th test of the Ashes last year in England. Australia kicks off the first innings on the morning of August 6. 11 overs later, the first drinks break is taken.

Because Australia managed to piss away 7 wickets for the paltry total of 38.

I was watching a stream of SKY at the time, already furious that Australia had found themselves 2-1 down in the series. The third Test at Birmingham already featured plenty of Australians playing brainless, wasteful shots. So what do you do when the series is on the line?

Throw your wicket away. Obviously.

Fortunately, playing virtual cricket allowed me to correct the car crash that was the Australian middle order. Instead of having a crack at a ball flying off the pitch, I could ignore it for the crap that it was.

You know, what you’re actually supposed to do in Test cricket. Don’t get baited by rubbish. Leave the good balls if you can. Punish the bad ones within reason. Sensible, smart cricket — while enjoying the rest of the Test match unfold.

That’s something you can’t do in FIFA.

The Career Mode Is Pretty Great

Image: Kotaku

This is more of a Sports thing than a cricket thing. But I always had a dream as a kid about making a sports game where you could customise a character as a kid and bring them up through the various state and national leagues before testing your mettle on the international stage.

That’s more or less where most of my hours went into — building a virtual cricketer that mirrored the player I wanted to be. Someone who liked snotting the ball to the fence while bowling trashy spin that deserved to be flogged into the next postcode.

And, no, I’m not going to translate that into non-cricket speak.

Video Games Can’t Shun Technology

Image: Kotaku

What you’re seeing above, apart from bullshit, is the video game version of Hawkeye from Tennis, or goal line technology from soccer. In cricket it’s called DRS, and it stands for the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS). It’s a little more advanced in cricket though, incorporating infra-red imaging cameras, microphones to detect whether the ball was hit by a bat or pad, and ball-tracking technology.

Decisions can be real easy to get wrong in cricket. Bowlers have hit speeds of up to 160km/hr. Sometimes you’re lucky if you have a fraction of a second to distinguish whether a bat hit a thigh pad or the ball itself. And you’re expected to have powers of projection too, thanks to the wonderfully arcane laws governing LBW (leg before wicket) dismissals.

I should know. I was a qualified umpire; it was my first paying job while I was still in high school. And it was a bloody nightmare. I’d have killed for the ability to be able to refer back to technology, and so would the 40 and 50-year-old men that were being given out by a 15-year-old.

So when the Aussie developers behind Don Bradman Cricket 14 announced their version of DRS, it was a godsend. Because it was something that would be available in every single game.

Which isn’t the case for real-life cricket.

The powers that be in Indian cricket, you see, aren’t convinced. Their cricketing authority, the BCCI, has regularly complained that the DRS technology is not 100% accurate, as if a regular umpiring error was somehow easier to stomach. And given that the BCCI is by far and away the most powerful member of world cricket, they get to enforce a wonderfully absurd situation where matches involving them don’t use DRS — but matches with everyone else does.

There’s a bit more to the story than that. But everytime Australia play India, the numbingly stupid topic of DRS is raised. It’s painful to watch as a fan, and at least when I play virtual cricket I don’t have to have my modern game violated by politically motivated, technophobic stupidity.

Cricket Reminds Me Of Counter-Strike

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OK, OK. This needs heavy qualification, so let me explain.

I like Counter-Strike. Most of you probably know that by now. But I’ve never really been open about what precisely it is I like about the toxic first-person shooter so much.

The reason is adrenaline. Every version of Counter-Strike, from the first betas to CS:GO today, is built on an ebb and flow. The round starts slow. You’re frozen in your respective spawns. You can’t move. It’s the buy period. So you focus on other things. Your phone. Bantering the enemy. Buying your weapons. Pouring a drink. Anything but the match at hand.

And then the next 10 or 20 seconds unfolds. Maybe something happens. Maybe the other team rushes you with a flurry of grenades, rifles and sound. Maybe they rush the other side of the map. Maybe nothing happens at all.

Often, nothing happens. So you wait. Your muscles begin to tense up. Your concentration narrows to certain points of the screen. You’re only focusing on the crosshair, occasionally checking the radar. Your ears prick up for the sound of a footstep, or a grenade.

And then everything happens at once. An enemy appears on your screen. A firefight ensues. If you survive, your focus switches to the next fight. Where are your teammates? Where are they in relation to you? Do you have time to reload? Where’s the bomb? Where do you need to be? Can you get there in time? Should you push forward instead?

And when it’s all said and done, the round ends. Your body relaxes. Your concentration eases. Your focus shifts to other things. And then the process starts all over again.

It’s not too dissimilar from the mental cycle of cricket. The bowler runs up to the wicket. They release the ball. The batter watches the point of release. Their eyes drop to the pitch. The bat approaches the ball, and whatever happens, happens.

In truth, I don’t blame Mark for slagging cricket off as much as he does. The rules are vague. The spectacle is slow. The sport’s administration is appallingly incompetent. And the action doesn’t happen very often.

But that’s also why it makes for such a good video game. The elements that ruin cricket in the real world can be ignored, or glossed over. And as a video game, cricket fits into a busy lifestyle more than most games do. The sound is basically irrelevant. Your full attention is purely optional, and it only demands as much time as you’re willing to give.

There’s always multiplayer, of course. But in my experience, it’s far too buggy. And besides, who really wants to spend a night mucking about with other humans when you can sledge the umpire all by yourself?


    • You must provide the secret hand shake first my young apprentice……

      The instructions for which are in the trouble shooting section of your MOBO manual.

  • I generally don’t like watching sports but I will occasionally give a sports game a go. I just don’t think it’ll extend to cricket. Weirdly the biggest endorsement here is the “second screen” angle. Now normally people are quite derisive about that. I explained to a friend that I enjoyed playing Destiny because once I’d finished each mission once or twice I no longer had to give it my full attention except in boss battles or particularly tough strikes. I knew the story, I knew the combat rhythm, there were no surprises. I was able to divide my attention and use that time to catch up on video podcasts on YouTube, “watch” a movie or TV series, etc. The response of course was “oh, it’s a game that’s only fun to play when you’re doing something else, SOUNDS GREAT (/s)” but really, that’s a tremendous oversimplification and I knew there was no point trying to win that argument.
    I can see the appeal in finding other games to do that with, sports games, maybe turn based strategy games – think of all the movies I could catch up on during the AI turns in CiV! I revisited FTL last week and was able to complete an easy mode runthrough (just easing myself back in) during a rewatch of Archer.
    But still… it’s cricket. :/

  • I hate cricket.
    Fecking HATE it.

    But Super Cricket on SNES was an amazing game.

    That’s all i’m going to take from this article.
    Nothing could EVER convince me that cricket is a good game, or even a legitimate sport, for that matter.

      • haha i’ve always found the HOWZAT thing to be the most entertaining thing about cricket. Seeing them all get excited at the SLIGHTEST hint of an out, only for the umpire to ever so slightly shake his head with a completely emotionless expression. The players then have a completely dejected look on their face as if, for a brief moment, they actually believed their own bullshit.

    • The way you could shuffle across and force it down leg side play it behind for a boundary every…. single…. time…..

  • Virtual Cricket Makes Real Cricket Better

    Heathen blasphemy! Nothing could make cricket better, it’s just perfect the way it is. Don’t go changing cricket… to try and please me… I love you just the way you are.

    Sometimes, it helps drown out crappy commentary. Anyone who has been forced to tolerate the circle jerk that is Channel 9 commentary will understand.

    Wow. You just dig yourself deeper. That’s positively un-Australian (heh.. never thought I’d use THAT expression). The 9 commentary is classic. Sure it’s not quite the same since the loss of the incomparable and irreplaceable Benaud, Gregg and increasingly Bill Lawry… but still!

    As for Mark S, I’m not surprised he doesn’t like cricket. After all, he does hail from a bunch of people who run around in the freezing cold wearing nothing but a skirt …

    *shakes fist*

    • Nup I agree with Alex, CH9 commentary is absolute shit. All cheerleading and very little substance. Reaaaaaaalllly looking forward to Tubs telling me how good The Block is going to be this season in between spruiking KFC’s new 12 piece feed.

      • Reaaaaaaalllly looking forward to Tubs telling me how good The Block is going to be this season in between spruiking KFC’s new 12 piece feed

        I very much suspect he has no choice in that …. if he wants to stay employed …

        But yeah, that’s a relatively recent addition to the 9 commentary and it gives me the shits, but is also very much the way of the world now, I’m afraid…

  • Well written/said @alexwalker, I am a massive cricket fan (just ask my partner how much time I lose each summer to cricket) and love the DBC14 game (although I only have about a hundred hours clocked from memory). here’s hoping the upcoming version (DBC17???) can improve on the formula from there, because it really is a great game (now a most of the bugs are worked out)

    I don’t get the hate cricket receives, I usually find people who don’t like cricket, generally don’t like it because they don’t understand it (this is probably relevant to a lot more things than cricket in the world at the moment). My Partner used to HATE (yes all in capitals) cricket, but as years have gone by and she has grasped most of the rules she is nearly as into it as me (and will actually let out a HOWZATTTTT every now and again). The state T20 comp and the TV coverage has probably helped with that also over the last few years, so much so that we have actually spent our last 2 New years eves at the Adelaide oval for the T20 games (and loved it)

    The game itself really does capture everything really well from a players perspective (I played IRL from when I was younger up until a few years ago). especially the first person batting POV, that can be really intense with all the guides/assists turned off.

    I originally started playing just the test matches and tours and found it enjoyable, then when I switched to the career mode it really just clicked and I loved it. For some reason I got distracted by other games and forgot to continue with it. From memory I am just about to break into the Australian team (T20 as I am also a slogger and puss/meat pie bowler)

    Now I’m sitting here thinking how to get out of work (I am self employed) and go home to continue my career.

    Also massive props to you for being an umpire at such a young age, I cant imaging the abuse you would have copped, having seen my fair share of it during my playing days.

    Thanks for the article mate, most enjoyable.

  • I grew up in a cricket family so I can’t stand the game, but as I got older I started to understand the appeal. It’s basically an RTS you can leave on in the background that’s very open to backseat driving. That’s why it works really well to just go with a blanket and spend the afternoon in the sun with friends having a drink. Nobody is on the edge of their seat so you can just sit around talking, dropping in and out as important developments occur.

    It’s sort of deep strategically while being easy to keep up to date on at a glance. Regardless of how things are going you can speculate as to how the teams will react and what they need to do just by hearing the score and knowing the time of day.
    It’s interesting because there seems to be more open discussion about the matches overall rather than from a teams perspective. It’s not like football where you focus on your team and things generally hinge on moment to moment action with a lot of chest thumping. You can say the other team got lucky, but the result of that lucky break has to be backed up with solid play over the course of days, so the comment is usually ‘they got lucky early on then did a good job of playing defensively so we just couldn’t get it back’.
    It has a lot of the same one on one psychological warfare aspects TCGs have. The bowler has to look you in the eyes and know how you’ll respond the same way a Magic player has to look into the eyes of their opponent and figure out if they have five untapped mana cards because they had nothing to play in their turn of it they’re baiting them into a trap.

    Like I said I can’t stand it but I totally consider it a gamer’s game. At face value it’s deceptively similar to traditional sports like football or basketball so we often dismiss it, but there’s a lot more crossover. I often wonder how some of Australia’s better team captains would perform leading e-Sports teams and how big e-Sports coaches would go with cricket teams.

  • Why spend almost 400 hours playing DBC 14?

    To almost get to the point where you understand when it’s safe to take off for a single.

  • I am very similar. too many hours is DB14. Yet I still feel i haven’t gotten far enough. Best cricket game for generations but when you play so much, the little bugs and foibles really get to you. Hopefully a new gen title soon.

  • Shane Warne Cricket 99. I played that game for over 10 years and easily amassed many many more than 400h. It’s a symbol of my childhood and youth that I couldn’t give up for over a decade and in fact I could probably kick it in the guts now and still smash the bowlers around the park. Once you latch on to a good sports game, it can live with you well beyond it’s sequels. I finally(!) moved on to Ricky Pointing International Cricket 2005 (in about 2007) and played that on and off for about 7 years (I still have the PS2 setup in the spare room just in case I get the urge).

    I really want Don Bradman Cricket, I have done since the day it was released, but I can’t. I just can’t. I’m a family man now, with wife and twins and many other games to enjoy, so I won’t do it…not yet anyway….

    • didnt play Shane Warne but i Did play Brian Lara 95 or 96 on the mega drive and Ricky Pointing 2004 on PC… both were bloody great games

      • yeah internationally Shane Warne cricket 99 was called Brian Lara Cricket 99 and Ricky’s was Brian Lara’s international cricket 05 but yeah loved. Now that i’m home from work I just keeping looking at my wishlist item in steam and fighting the urge….

  • “Anyone who has been forced to tolerate the circle jerk that is Channel 9 commentary will understand. It’s the most patronising of patriotism, a passion for the national team that cheapens the sport.” I sense you’re holding back, tell us what you really think.

  • oh umpire’s call, how i hate you with a passion. how hard is it for a person to be given out if the ball is hitting the wicket

  • Yay. Cricket. I love this. Feels so surreal to be reading about cricket on my favourite gaming website. It’s wonderful.

    And yeah, channel 9 commentary is so awful. Should be a separate audio channel that just provides the game audio without the commentary.

    Best article ever. I don’t know anybody else who loves cricket and gaming. They just don’t go together.

  • I adore cricket – I watch it voraciously and grew up playing both the real thing and Brian Lara Cricket on Sega. I would love a modern game where I can sit back and contest my own test match, but I always thought there weren’t any quality titles out there..

  • I like test cricket. It’s fun to watch the score, and keep an eye on decent players in the various world teams. Never played a game, but hey… lately, my “games” of RDR2 last around 5 hours a piece and generally result in:

    1 completed mission
    1 rock carving
    1 dream catcher
    20 various pelts and carcasses

    I cannot imagine how many hours I’ve dropped thus far. The mood keeps me coming back.

    Whatever gameplay loop does it for you buddy 🙂

  • Good lord,I love Cricket.Love Tests,tolerate limited overs and despise tip n run 20/20.A mate and I spent a small fortune to go on a Carribean cricket tour with Big Merv back in the day.We sat in the pool or in the shade for 4 tests drinking and experiencing the local,ah,culture.Sometimes,we even glanced at the scoreboard.Good lord,I love Cricket.Might even get the game.

  • God damn DRS tho, was playing Don Bradman 14 and got the batsman plumb LBW, not out, reviewed, pitched in line, stayed in line and hit middle stump, 3 red lights… not out.

    Uninstalled that motherfucker and never played it again.

    • There was a patch that added some bad calls into the umpiring for a more “realistic” experience, or as I like to call it, Shitty Third Grade Umpire DLC

      • What an odd inclusion, i understand adding in some 50/50 calls, but if let that howler slip in real life, the umpire probably would have been fired.

        That decision would have incited riots on the subcontinent.

        There were a few dodgy AI incidents in that game, i was batting, hit a lovely delivery and the fielder leapt what seemed about 15 meters to catch the ball and got me out. There is “quirky” AI but this was downright cheating.

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