Thursday 10 June 2010

Ways to Grow the Game: CFL Video Game

In an ongoing attempt to find ways to make the CFL a larger, more successful professional sports league, I will be looking at ideas that can push the CFL to the forefront of pro sports in Canada and North America. I have titled these articles "Ways to Grow the Game."

There is one thing I've been waiting for almost my entire life, and definitely since I was a teenager: a CFL video game.

My love for football may have started with television, but it expanded because of video games. I still remember saving up my money to buy NFL '95 for the Sega Genesis, which had my favourite NFL player of all-time on the cover: Joe Montana. By spending my formative years running wild with Barry Sanders, throwing bombs with Joe Montana and taking passes all the way with Jerry Rice, my love for football, and the NFL, grew. The one thing I yearned for was the chance to play as my beloved Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a similar game. I wanted nothing more than to be Earl Winfield taking a punt back for a TD against the Argos on Labour Day. Unfortunately, it's 2010, and that dream is still just that, a dream.

Throughout the years I have dabbled with creating teams in the Madden series of football games that resemble the CFL teams. It was by no means perfect, but it filled the void. Then last year the developers of the NCAA Football game decided to add something called Team Builder, which allowed owners of the game to go online and create a team from scratch, even allowing them to import pictures from the Internet and use them as logos. This allowed users to recreate CFL teams almost perfectly. You could even edit the players' names and looks to have them match the roster for the CFL team you were recreating. My understanding is that the Team Builder was a tremendous success, and there is hope that it will one day be added to future versions of the Madden series of games.

While this is a nice temporary measure, it doesn't address the glaring need for an actual CFL video game. The league is all about growing in popularity, and the only way to grow is to attract new, young fans. The best way to do that is through things like video games.

My understanding is that games have been pitched, somewhat produced, but never fully realized. I think a CFL game would be a great seller. I know a lot of people who would quickly purchase it. I can remember having discussion as far back as 1995 about how awesome a CFL game would be (CFL Live '95 was the name we came up with; original, I know) and how cool it would be to see a digitized recreation of the Tiger-Cats, Hamilton and Ivor Wynne Stadium. In 2010, I still think that would be cool. I would love nothing more than to be Kevin Glenn throwing TD passes to Dave Stala and Arland Bruce in a CFL video game. Or to be Otis Floyd or Markeith Knowlton sacking Anthony Calvillo to the thunderous roar of the Ivor Wynne faithful.

For the time being it looks like a CFL video game is a long way from seeing the light of day. Hopefully one day before I am too old to appreciate video games I will get to play as my beloved Hamilton Tiger-Cats in an authentic, fully licensed CFL video game.

Just recently it was announced that the National Lacrosse League would have a video game made for it. The NLL doesn't have anywhere near the following of the CFL. Heck, create a CFL game and everyone in the province of Saskatchewan will buy at least three copies each. If the NLL can get a game made, so can the CFL.

Hopefully we are closer to seeing a CFL game on the XBox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and any other video game system. The dream the 13-year-old me had is still in there; hopefully that dream can become a reality sooner rather than later. I guess for the time being, the NCAA Team Builder will have to suffice, but hopefully not for too much longer.

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