Hyperreality and the Disappearance of the Sporting Body

An excellent piece by Jon Azpiri at Salon.com:

Today's video game producers pride themselves on their games' verisimilitude, but there are some critical differences between sports video gaming and the real thing. As anyone who has sat through the fourth quarter of a 30-point blowout can tell you, real sporting events can often be anything but entertaining. Video games can't afford the luxury of garbage time and must tweak reality to hold your attention better than many real sporting events. "It's picking the most exciting elements and trying to make them happen a little more often," says "NBA Live" producer Todd Batty, from his office at the EA Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.

. . .

Video games can give a user a skewed perspective of an athlete's real performance, especially for those who don't follow the sport closely. Football fans got to watch precious little of Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick this season because he missed 11 games with a broken leg. For players of "Madden 2004," however, Vick is one of the best video football players of the last decade. Even gamers who follow sports closely can have an altered view of athletes. While most fans spent last season watching Vick on the sidelines in street clothes, "Madden 2004" players got regular reminders of Vick's offensive brilliance.

This points to a reminder from Walter Benjamin: "One might subsume the eliminated element in the term 'aura' and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art." In this case, the aura of the live sporting act withers in the service of a produced hyperreality, that of the videogame.


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