All gamers have their genre(s) of preference, but I’ve noticed that sports simulator is rarely listed and when it is, it’s one of the only things listed. Don’t get me wrong; I know gamers are buying 2k, Madden, FIFA, etc. The popularity of these games can’t be denied.

But with sports simulators, it feels like you either love them or see no personal value in them whatsoever. If the latter is the case, I’d like to challenge that notion. Here are the most common reactions gamers who don’t play sports sims have to the genre and why they should reconsider.

1) “What’s the point? You could just play in real life.”

If you play in real life, this is all the more reason you should try sports simulators. The knowledge you’ve gained from being on the field/court will translate to the game. If you enjoy participating in the sport, you’ll likely have fun playing it at home, too.

Plus, you are able to go beyond the real life experience the sport offers. With virtual sports, time, money and weather is never an issue, and you are able to play at a professional level with a team you are invested in. Sure you can play a pick up game of basketball at your local park, but can you play against Lebron? Probably not.

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Additionally, you control all the players on your team; not just yourself. In this way, sports simulators offer something different than what you get in real life.

2) “It’s the same game released every year; basically just a money grab.”

People forget this is merely a symptom of the genre. The game, in some ways, is “the same” every year because the rules of a sport rarely change. But just because the gameplay doesn’t drastically shift from year to year, that doesn’t mean it’s the same game with a new cover.

While changes from game to game are small, the overall history of a franchise reveals how these small differences add up. Madden 2012 is going to play and look differently than Madden 2016. There are many improvements and additions to be made to any sports simulator franchise, from adjusting button mapping and adding new plays to increasing the number of teams and adding new components to the campaign mode. For instance, FIFA 17’s new story mode will add an entirely new experience that FIFA 16 did not offer.

Many people outside the sports simulator genre believe these annual releases are merely money grabs, but this is also false. Sports simulators are released annually to keep up with team changes and make adjustments to the formula. And while today player trades can be taken care of via updates, the annual releases also pay homage to the seasons we have in sports. Sports leagues receive fresh starts and gamers receive new games.

3) “I played a few times against my friend who was super intense. I got blown out immediately so…”

Like any game, there’s a learning curve to sports simulators. In the gaming community, I’ve noticed that players either grew up playing them (and may or may not still play them) or they never played sports simulators. As for myself, I always started off far behind my brother in this department. This happened first with Madden 03 and again, more recently, with FIFA 16.

One thing I recommend when you’re playing against a person far better than you is to select teams that will help even the score. For instance, I started out with a fake “all-star” team in Madden while my brother played with a college team.

I know that gap sounds huge, but that’s how far off my skill-level was. Playing this way made the games even until I was ready to move on to a standard NFL team.

…Eventually, we became evenly matched.

Unfortunately, some gamers are too proud to take it step by step like that. Put that aside and let your friend help you get better. And if they’re a snob or a jerk about it maybe you shouldn’t be playing with them.

4) “I’m not a fan of the sport so this is just complicated/boring to me.”

All the more reason to play the game! I know that sounds counterintuitive but hear me out. Sports can be experienced in a multitude of ways: playing in real life, watching live, watching at home, playing a sports sim, and watching a sports sim. So don’t dismiss sports sims based on your real life interests.

I hate watching baseball on television but have a really good time watching at Wrigley Field. I’ve always hated football but enjoyed playing Madden 03—even without ever understanding the sport’s subtleties.

Like anything in life, I recommend you keep an open mind and really give it a chance. Too often we base our tastes on 1 or 2 experiences. Many elements could be at play here. Perhaps you haven’t found the right sport in the sports simulator genre. Or maybe you’ll have more fun playing against friends rather than CPU athletes.

As far as learning the rules of a sport…

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This can be a challenge.

But it’s one you should be excited about. Sports simulation is one of the only sub-genres of video games that teaches you skills you can use in real life (as a fan). Sports simulators can fuel your interest in a real life sport and vice-versa.

I’ve been getting into soccer over the past year or two (primarily as a fan of LigaMX and MLS). This was a conscious decision on my part to “see what the fuss is about.” I wasn’t instantly in love or anything, but the more I watched, the more I found things I really liked about the sport. I still have a lot to learn (I’m bad with players’ names and I don’t know anything about positions/formations), but a lot of the knowledge I do have can be traced to FIFA 16.

FIFA 16 has increased my understanding of soccer and has made watching the sport far more enjoyable. I now fully understand the basics of the game: crosses, tackles, sliding tackles, penalties, free kicks, corner kicks, red/yellow cards, substitutions, injuries, extra time, and golden goal.

The excitement I feel trying to score a goal against my brother transfers over to my viewing of the game.

Before playing FIFA 16, I never understood how fans could “see a goal coming” so early on the field; now it’s crystal clear.

In the end, sports simulators have given me a lot of great memories, a bit of practical knowledge, and an appreciation for sports culture. You don’t need to be a sports person to play these games, so give them a chance. And, more importantly, give yourself a chance. Be bad at it for a while but don’t give up; you’ll be a better gamer for it.

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