Is a video game capable of simulating real football?
Every football fan would like to achieve the dream of becoming an elite football player. However, not everyone can despite their best efforts. It used to be much more complicated, but today’s technology and the game´s makers have reached a level of simulation that allows fans to experience what it feels like to be in the public eye and when your play is vital to winning a major title for your team.
While it is true that football is a very complex sport to reflect in a video game, simulation has been a recurring theme in every generation, and has thus been constantly evolving as systems have become more powerful and have allowed representations of the sport and the players to become closer to reality.
As the years went by, the competitiveness grew and so did the experience of the game itself, but the real explosion in innovation was the arrival of the internet in the world of video games, with the possibility of being able to play matches against other players from all over the world, regardless of their place of origin.
Usually, simulators represent the sport realistically and in real time, although there are also video games with alternative representations of football such as penalty games and referee and manager simulators, among others.
History of football video games
1970’s: The first ever football video game was Cassette 24: Fussball, also known simply as Soccer, for the German Interton VC 4000 console in 1978. The game had a very complicated design as it showed the entire field of play on the screen and tiny symbols representing each player, each of whom had to be moved separately with a different button. In 1980 another pioneer, Soccer, was released for the Intellivision console, which allowed the player to run more freely with the ball, although it had only a single two-player mode.
1980’s: The first arcade football simulator was the video game Atari Soccer, released in 1980 by Atari. In this the player controlled a team of three footballers who went everywhere together, the graphics were in black and white and the players were seen from the sky with rudimentary sound effects. The following year, Atari released a very similar game for the Atari 2600 console under the name Pele’s Soccer, which used basically the same scheme, but with the screen oriented vertically.
In 1983, International Soccer was released for the Commodore 64, introducing numerous improvements to the genre, faster and more dynamic gameplay and, for the first time, physics that allowed the ball to fly and bounce. It also included options such as difficulty selection and versus mode against a single player or the CPU. In 1985, Nintendo released Soccer, a game that was notable for its much more colorful graphics, with all eleven players on screen, and gameplay that allowed running and tactical passing instead of just balling.
1990’s: In 1993, Electronic Arts released FIFA International Soccer for various platforms. This groundbreaking game brought an isometric perspective for the first time and stood out for its highly realistic design, with colourful and detailed graphics and sounds from the stands instead of background music. In 1994, Konami released the revolutionary video game International Superstar Soccer for Super Nintendo, the most realistic 2D football game ever. Its main innovation was the depiction of the match in a way similar to that seen on TV broadcasts, using the horizontally oriented semi-aerial camera, with the players depicted to scale and with highly detailed anatomy and animations.
In 1995, Actua Soccer was released for Play Station, the first football simulator with fully three-dimensional graphics, with players represented with polygonal models and animated with motion capture techniques. This marked the beginning of a new era for football simulators, where the mechanics and physics of the sport became more realistic and began to use camera movements, close-ups and shots that appear in television broadcasts with which football fans are most familiar.
2000’s: During the 2000’s, huge improvements in console and computer technology, as well as high-definition screens, have allowed companies to develop simulators with an increasingly demanding and detailed degree of realism. Much emphasis has been placed on the individualisation of players, the use of sports figures, and online multiplayer has been improved and made easier and easier. There is also strong competition among companies to use the licenses of real leagues, players and tournaments from around the world in order to improve the commercial appeal of football simulators. Some of the most played video games today are FIFA 2021 Soccer Manager 2021 and PES 2020, among others.
Finally, we would like to mention one game mode in particular that has been very important over the last decade: the career mode. This allows the user to create a player from scratch, being able to edit even the smallest detail of his facial features to try to make him look as much as possible like what the user wants and, from there, that new player can start a career of a real footballer, going through all kinds of well-simulated phases such as, for example, transfers between clubs, the frustration of defeat or the glory of a trophy.
Although everything is fictitious, the companies still strive every year to make everything more real, so that players can experience situations such as disputes with the coach, press conferences and even criticism from the media. A series of experiences and sensations that bring the user closer to an even deeper experience.