Today, ESPN brings us a delightful video about the evolution of sports video games, starting way back with one of gaming's greatest classics: Pong. The segment is chock-full of interviews with game developers, actors, and athletes like Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - all playable characters in sports games.
The clip starts with the classics (Atari, NES) and highlights revolutionary trends in the genre, like RBI Baseball, which was the first game to use real players' names, and Tecmo Bowl, which not only had real NFL players, but real NFL plays. The video also addresses some of sports gaming's failures - such as the widely-panned "Shaq Fu" - and the cultural crossover of sports video games into the general lexicon with "Swingers" in 1996.
It's a bit lengthy, but it's worth the watch, especially for the commentary from the athletes themselves. "The name Tony Hawk just became synonymous with a video game instead of a real person," a bemused Tony Hawk says at one point. "I've met people who didn't know I was a real person."
With sports games generating revenue (more than one billion dollars per year in the U.S. today) and professional gaming competitions, it's easy to forget the industry's humble roots. This video provides a compelling reason why we shouldn't.