Noah Brier | December 15, 2022

The Video Games in Sports Edition

On Nascar, creative thinking, and training

Noah here. About a month ago, you might have seen some wild clips from a NASCAR race of driver Ross Chastain riding the wall to gain two spots and qualify for the championship. If you missed it, or need a refresher, here’s the video:

When asked after the race how he came up with the crazy maneuver, he said what everyone was thinking: videogames. “I played a lot of Nascar 2005 on the GameCube with Chad [Chastain] growing up,” Chastain explained. “And you can get away with it, and I never knew if it would actually work … and I just made the choice, and I grabbed fifth gear down the back and full-committed. Once I got against the wall, I basically let go of the wheel and just hoped I didn't catch the turn four access gate or something crazy.”

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Why is this interesting?

One of the things I do to keep up with WITI is to maintain a list of possible topics—often adding links to each item as I come across them until I collect enough material to write an edition. This post started with a tweet from NBA analyst and former front-office executive John Hollinger:

The idea that athletes and coaches should be training with videogames makes a ton of sense but isn’t something I had spent much time thinking about. However, as soon as I shared that tweet, a friend pointed me to this excellent 2010 Wired article on the role of video games in sports. From the piece:

Today's football players have an edge that no athletes before them have possessed: They've played more football than any cohort in history. Even with the rise of year-round training, full-contact practice time on the field hasn't increased — in fact, it has actually gone down, as coaches have tried to limit the physical punishment that the game exacts. But videogames, especially the ubiquitous Madden NFL, now allow athletes of all ages to extend their training beyond their bodies.

One of the things I think about a lot, especially during World Cup season, is how strange it is that so many of us children of the 1980s grew up playing soccer having never seen a professional match. I don’t know when I saw my first, but I don’t imagine it was before I was eight or ten. Today that’s unimaginable, as access to every sport is only a YouTube search away, and FIFA, Madden, NBA2k, and the like give you a feel for the angles, rules, mechanics, and sometimes strategy of the game in a completely new way.

What is especially wild about all this is we are likely just beginning to feel the effects. The more modern consoles are only about 15 years old, meaning the first generation to grow up playing them will just be entering leagues now. It will be fun to see how play continues to evolve as athletes grow up with these amazing devices. (NRB)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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