Sports games are an interesting phenomenon. While being one of the most historically rampant genres, and for good reason, they sit somewhere between fantasy and reality. Encouraging players to simultaneously engage in the virtual sport while envisioning themselves in and amongst the real, physical thing.
But it’s not just your average fan who enjoys sporting games. Sportspeople themselves are often found diving into sports games for some recreation (and even training).
That said, sportspeople don’t keep themselves to the world of sports games. Being one of (if not the) prime form of entertainment today, many professional sportspeople find themselves unwinding in front of the very same games that we play.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Footballers Love FIFA
EA’s FIFA franchise has gained a very special place in the world of gaming as the football game. Thus, it’s no surprise that footballers themselves boot up FIFA in their spare time.
Legendary players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have been seen playing the games, however many suspect that these individuals, deeply intertwined with FIFA box art over the years, do so for primarily promotional purposes.
Beyond sponsorship, players like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish are known for being keen FIFA players. Often locking horns in tense matches between one another, and other players at the top of the footballing world.
Portugal’s Diogo Jota has a strong claim to being the best FIFA 21 player who’s also a professional footballer. With his team actually topping the FIFA Ultimate Team Champions leaderboard in February 2021.
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Mario Tennis Aces
While Mario Tennis Aces may not be the most respected or realistic sports simulator, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold all the usual trappings of a Nintendo title. That is: fun, fun, fun.
But did you know that four-time Olympic gold medallist Serena Williams marks this as one of her favourite games? In fact, Serena Williams recalls having a strong history of gaming explaining that “I always liked gaming when I was younger because it was really popular… This generation grew up with (video games). The generation before didn’t have it, so (it was) just always part of my life, and I just kind of enjoyed that.”
While she loves Mario Tennis Aces, alongside a number of other Nintendo Switch titles, shrewd observers would remark that this link to Nintendo is unsurprising seeing as she previously appeared in a $1 million Mario Tennis charity event and even an advert for the game itself. Meaning this love for Tennis Aces may not be as genuine as some might hope.
Xavier Woods is a loved WWE superstar who wears a number of different hats. Be it as a wrestler, a musician, a singer or a lover of video games. Woods even hosts his own YouTube channel known as UpUpDownDown, itself a reference to a cheat in Konami’s classic game Contra.
Woods has plenty of live gameplay and commentary from himself and a host of other WWE stars playing 2K’s WWE series, along plenty of other games.
Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers is an avid gamer and a virtuoso at the Madden franchise.
While Newton enjoys the game, he does note that “It’s really a watered-down version, I can’t play the video game all week and expect to be prepared for a real team on Sunday. I’d be at a disadvantage.” That said, he does note having a real edge in the game, knowing the true techniques of the sport.
Paul George may be a great NBA player, but he also absolutely kills it at 2K’s NBA games. Gaining a reputation for absolutely smoking fans at the game when he encounters them in online lobbies.
While George may claim to be one of the best, Anthony David of the New Orleans Pelicans’ would say otherwise. Even before featuring on the NBA 2K16 box, David was a huge fan of the game and went on to truly master the game.
It’d be a wonder to see George and David go head-to-head in their virtual sport.
With the lines between reality and the virtual becoming ever more blurred, it is no surprise that sportspeople enjoy unwinding in a virtual version of their sport. Even if that version may come across as being simplified or watered down.
Who knows, with the rise of esports perhaps we’ll even see professional sportspeople bridge the gap between their physical and virtual sports, going pro in both. That would be the day.