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“Dad, I want to watch football!”

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“Dad, I want to watch football!”

Santi, my four years old kid, tells us once in a while that he wants to watch football (soccer). The first time it happened was in June last year, during the Copa America 2015 that was played in Chile, while everyone around him was talking about the matches of the Chilean national team.

Most games were played at the evening so, every day after dinner, Santi asked if there was going to be “football of Chile”. His disappointment was pretty evident when there were no games, partly because he liked the ritual of the family together watching football, and partly because he did not want to sleep (just like any other little boy). He was very aware that football games allowed him to stay up later, just like his mom and dad.

He did not understand too much of what he was watching, but we tried to explain him that the red shirt players were from Chile and that they were trying to score goals against the white, green, yellow or light blue ones (yes, especially to the light blue ones), or whoever we had as rivals. He did not stay with us the whole game because he was easily distracted and began to play with any other toy, but he always kept attentive and quickly came back if he heard us celebrating a nice shot or, even better, a Chilean goal.

Old TV with football
In our super- modern television, we enjoyed watching the Chilean team matches (the picture is from the World Cup of 1962)

Santi also likes playing football. Like Diego, his older brother, whenever he sees a ball or something like it, no matter what size it is or where it is, he will try to kick it and send it as far as possible, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Clearly, my children are no exception. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and they are part of the millions of children that grow up watching football and listening to their family and friends talking about it.

Football and videogames

Being so popular, football has always been present in video games. The very first early versions were just basic simulations, given the technology constraints. If you were lucky, you could see human players; the rules were quite simplified and you really required enough imagination to actually feel like you were playing a football game.

Old football videogame
Pele’s Championship Soccer (1980, Atari 2600), a super “primitive” football videogame

In the years that followed, a lot of franchises appeared that offered the user different “flavors” of the same sport. In Nintendo Worldcup, for instance, players could shoot powered balls that hit rivals, and it was usual that matches ended up with players hurt on the floor and scores of 10 or more goals.

Nintendo Worldcup Screenshot
In Nintendo Worldcup (1990, NES), it was pretty common to end matches with players hurt on the floor, either because they were hit either by opponents or the powered ball.

Other football games were released in which the main objective was not to move players during a match for scoring goals and defeating the opponent. On the contrary, these games were about managing the team, training the players and thus win championships, but when the matches were played, the only thing the user could do was to watch as a spectator, and sometimes give some instructions.

Championship Manager was one of the pioneers in this genre, but it was followed by others such as the fun and more recent Pocket League Story, for mobile devices.

Pocket League Story screenshot
In Pocket League Story (2011, iOS/Android), the player manages a football team, decides which training to do, how to play matches and in which tournaments to participate.

Of course, there are a lot of games that within the constraints of the technology available at the time they are published, they tried to give the player an experience as realistic and complete as possible. From the early Kick Off versions to the quite good Sensible Soccer, to the very famous Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) and FIFA games.

Every year, these two franchises release a new version in which they deliver more detailed graphics, better referees, commentators, repetitions, multiple cameras, realistic movements and accurate physical simulations. They are super-productions with huge budgets and quite large development teams.

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Juan Pablo Lastra

Juan Pablo makes videogames since he was 8 and he is a father since 2004. Today, he has three children and he has worked in more than 20 videogames. He got interested on how paternity and the videogame industry are related and he decided to write about it, founding "Papa Game Dev"

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