The Sport Media Interface

I don't want to confuse sport videogaming with virtual sport, since they are different, although related, concepts.

Virtual sport supersedes sport videogaming, requiring by definition an element of athleticism to perform the necessary skills. Athleticism is a combination of various biophysical characteristics, including speed, strength, power, agility, flexibility, coordination and endurance.

While a Jolt-fueled late-night session of Madden 2001 resembles "speed" and "endurance," in reality the only biophysical characteristic seen in sport videogaming is hand-eye coordination (though this should not be considered trivial).

The sundry attempts to date to bring a biophysical component to sport videogames have been amusing, if not particularly successful. Nintendo's Power Pad, introduced in 1988, was a boon for parents, whose sweaty kids would collapse into bed after an evening of World Class Track Meet (a console rip-off of HyperOlympics). For the hyper athletes themselves, though, the technology proved suspect, as competitors would often lie down on the floor and slap the pad to victory much more quickly than if they had actually been running.

Radica PlayTV Baseball, released in 2000, was revolutionary in that it allowed the player to virtually "hit" and "pitch" in a game by means of motion sensors in a ball, bat and home plate attached to the game system. Unfortunately, Ruthian swings with friends had to be put on hold when the bat flew apart after a particularly aggressive cut, nearly maiming a "fan" before embedding itself in a plaster wall. Alas, the product had been recalled only days earlier.

There have been other attempts at increased user interactivity, with equally dismal results. Although rudimentary, these interfaces are in fact quite significant when viewed as a portent of things to come. They represent the next evolutionary step down the path to virtual sport.


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