Menifee Plugged In: There's a Sports Game for Everyone

By Neil Kristjansson

So, Super Bowl XLVIII was a bust, am I right? I love Seattle, but I love Peyton Manning. Good for the Seahawks, but you can’t help but feel bad for the Broncos. Oh well, maybe next year will be a good game. Anyway, this is my way of segueing into a discussion about sports games.

I’ve never really been much of a sports kind of guy. I mean, I like watching football, hockey and basketball, but I don’t invest enough time to draw any conclusions from it. No real favorite teams, no favorite players. None of that. But one thing that’s always kept me somewhat in touch are sports games. The only downside is my football roster hasn’t been updated since 2004.

See, sports games tend to get a bad rap from people who don’t play them because they see it as this sort of excuse for not going out and actually playing the game. It's similar to Rock Band or Guitar Hero – the lame accusations that people were sad and sorry for not playing real instruments. But who cares? They’re fun.

I’ve seen sports games used as simulations for how games might turn out, I’ve seen them played as people’s dream Super Bowls. Heck, I’ve even heard of people using them to live out their fantasy sports fantasies.

When people look at me, or people like me, they don’t really imagine a sports fan. But I can say that I do have some favorite sports games. Here’s a quick list of them:

5. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

Whether you think racing games are sports games or not, you have to admit that the Gran Turismo series is really fun. I don’t like NASCAR. Cars driving in circles isn’t my thing. What I do like is watching fast cars driving around a semi-complicated track. And Gran Turismo 3 introduced me to that.

I remember being 7 years old, watching my dad and his friend construct one of those simulation controller gizmos. You know, the ones where people actually use a steering wheel and gas pedal to control the game. It blew me away. Even without one, I loved driving around and so much as losing was still satisfying to me. This being my introduction to sports games, I was finally able to think something I’d never thought before. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
I know this sounds even further away from your typical idea of what sports are, but the THPS series is embedded in just about everybody my age’s memory. I could go on for a long time about the impact these games had on my tiny mind, but I won’t. Just know: A lot of the 20-something skateboarders you see might not have cared about skating if it weren’t for this game. Great series.

3. Madden NFL 2004
I love this game so much. I still play it on occasion. Actually, last night I wanted to try and recreate the big game, hoping that maybe the Broncos would have a chance. But, considering I played the Broncos … well, that didn’t go well either. See, this game is hard. To me, anyway.

I’ve never been great at playing these kinds of games, let alone sports themselves. In the decade that I’ve had this game, I’ve probably played over 100 full games and only won one. This definitely gave me a closer-to-reality idea of how difficult playing professional football could be. Gotta give it to NFL players.

2. NHL Faceoff 2001
Oh man, this game is fun. Being from Canada, I have a natural affinity for hockey. Jokes aside, this one really got me into the NHL. Hip checks, fights, all that violent stuff that makes for a good game. Actually, now that I think about it, this is the only sport where I do have a favorite team. Go Jets! Or Senators, if you’re a younger me.

Just writing about this game is making me want to play it. Even though I’ve never played an actual game of hockey ever in my life, there’s something so great about playing this game on a nice cold day like today. The sound of the ice, the look of it, the sound of the skates scraping against it as they’re chasing the puck. Hockey. The great sport of the north. Love it.

1. NFL 2K2

My absolute favorite sports game of all time. I’m pretty sure I bought this close to when it came out because of my father. He was always a big football guy – even almost ending up in the CFL. This game is the only reason I ever played sports as a kid. Although baseball is considered the great American pastime, I believe football is far better.

The first time I popped this game in, I was so blown away by the look and feel of everything. Football was so intense, so fun. I had to have invested over 200 hours just into this game alone. Everything from creating my own football player to pitting my favorites against my rivals. Good times. Good times.

What these games gave me was something so simple, but so great. The idea that I, or anybody else, could participate in sports without being able to actually play was really something great. I mean, there are people who practice to get better, and there are people who couldn’t catch a ball to save their life. I’m the latter. But these games gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of how it felt to make a 20-yard pass, or drive 90 MPH left and right through a race track.

Some people love sports, and some people don’t. But I honestly think that everybody should buy and enjoy at least one sports game in their lifetime. Whether it’s football, basketball, or even billiards. To anybody who says they don’t like sports: You haven’t found the right one yet. There’s enough out there for anybody to connect with at least one. So get out there and give them a test run. Play Madden, play catch with some friends and have some fun.

Neil Kristjansson's "Menifee Plugged In" column appears here every other Monday. He writes about two things of interest to most of the younger generation -- music and electronic gaming. He welcomes your comments here or though email at


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