So, I asked Casey Edison, a long time professional in the arena of Electronic video games to take a stab at an article I had been considering: video gaming and the student athlete. Casey wrote this informative piece just below on the origins of video gaming and also how it can benefit athletes.
There are two things in the world that always have seemed like polar opposites to me: sports and video games. This is probably because in movies and on TV, you never see the “jocks” playing video games, only the “nerds”. I wondered for a long time if that was the case in real life as well. With sports game franchises like Madden and FIFA doing billions of dollars a year in sales, I thought surely some of the players must be athletes themselves. As it turns out, I was right, and Hollywood once again got it totally wrong. Sports games can actually help athletes do better on the field, in some cases.
Sports video games got their start in 1958 when a scientist from Brookhaven National Laboratory used an oscilloscope to create Tennis for Two, which is considered the very first video game. Then in 1972, Atari created a table tennis simulation game called Pong. Pong was the first commercially successful video game, and paved the way for games like Konami’s Track and Field in 1982 (the game that began the Hyper Sports franchise, which the youth of today can buy on their smart phones) and Joel Madden Football, a game whose franchise is now celebrating 27 successful years. Indeed, sports and video games have been perfectly coupled for so long that the stereotype of the gamer knowing nothing about sports is very strange. Even if a gamer wasn’t a fan of sports simulation games like Madden, there are still games like Mario Tennis or Wii Sports to enjoy. Sports games can build a healthy sense of competition without the pressure to really win. And video games themselves are now a sport, with students starting to get scholarships for playing “e-sports” and entering gaming competitions.
In Chris Suellenthrop’s article on Wired, “Game Changers: How Video Games Trained a Generation of Athletes”, he interviewed a high school football coach who said he used Madden to help teach his student athletes the finer points of football. He said it helps them learn the lingo and the tactics, perhaps with a better understanding than student athletes had of such things in the past. It’s no real surprise to find out that video games, especially sports games, can be used as a learning tool. Electronic poker has launched a bevy of new professional poker players to the top, and video games have been used as tools for teaching for almost as long as games have been around. It has also been proven by cognitive scientists that video games are good for hand eye coordination. Video games, of course, are also great for relaxation. Student athletes often relax on the bus on their way to a game on their mobile device. It’s pretty incredible how intertwined sports and video games really are.