Dating knowledge through video games

Originally Published: October 28, 2009
By Torey Strahl | Page 2

A short while ago, my sister began dating a sports lover -- a real varsity hero type. One of those kind of guys who prep for Sundays as if they are the ones suiting up with eye black and pads. They join softball leagues during the summer to maintain a competitive edge. They take the day off from work on the first day of the NCAA tournament, fantasizing all the while that Clark Kellogg is breaking down their game.

My sister, like some young women, was not well-versed in the same sports as her boyfriend. Most of what she knew about athletics concerned figure skating. As far as football, basketball, hockey and baseball go, the rules, the jargon and the way the leagues work were as over her head as Dikembe Mutombo.

Now you see the problem. If she wants to spend time with her sports-loving man, she needs to acquire basic knowledge of the big professional sports. Her fluency of triple axels, double salchows and Surya Bonaly wasn't going to cut it with any of the guys at the bar.

She came to me, her fellow female, and asked how I learned sports -- really learned them, as opposed to those girls who masquerade as fans, claiming, "My pink sparkly Red Sox tank top means I know what OPS means!" I told her the same thing I tell every girl who finds herself in a similar predicament of sports ignorance: If you want to learn how to play sports, play them. But if you want to understand a sport, there is another option. You can follow my footsteps. The foundation of my knowledge of sports -- especially in those I never played -- lies in video games.

Video games put you in the game. You're the quarterback, the point guard, the center, the pitcher. You must use both your brain and the players' brawn to win. You have to know the game and make the best decisions on the fly. If you don't, you're probably going to lose. Basic instinct teaches us to prefer winning to losing, so we learn the intricacies of whatever game we're playing. And in the case of females like my sister, playing video games can give that basic knowledge of the Power I formation, power forwards, power plays and power hitters, about which they have been wondering -- but afraid to ask -- for ages.

My education started just before the new millennium. See that cute 10-year-old girl sitting cross-legged, playing PlayStation 1? That's me. Those games you see strewn before me -- "NFL GameDay 97," 98, and 99; "NBA Live 99"; "NHL 98"; and "Triple Play 99" -- taught me to think about sports like a player -- not a girl player, just a player. It's because of all those afternoons playing with Ed McCaffrey, young Kobe Bryant, Joe Sakic and Pedro Martinez that I can hold my own in the world of sports today.

Here's a quick crash course in the basics of sports video games that I learned along the way:

1. Learn the controls. Pushing every button at once in hopes that you will execute a perfect 360 tail grab, fadeaway or Hail Mary is not the gamer's way. We can't all be as lucky as David Tyree.

2. Those floating diamonds above the players' heads and bright rings beneath their feet are simply the game's way of telling you which player you're controlling at that particular moment. Consider it your personal "Complete Idiot's Guide To What Is Happening." Those icons do not exist in real life ... unless you've been hanging with Ricky Williams too much.

3. The vibration of your controller is meant to represent the physical realities of a fierce check, tackle or collision. If you learn which actions in the game cause your controller to vibrate, you probably can catch on to when the guys will squint their eyes and collectively moan "oooh" in response to a real-life hit.

4. Joysticks take some getting used to. They are delicate and precise -- a bit like females' feelings. They have the potential to be managed, or they can go all over the place. Learn to harness the joysticks and direct your player on the field, court, ice or diamond to victory.

5. Although video games attempt to imitate reality, they sometimes allow events that are extremely unlikely to occur in the confines of the actual universe. So if you somehow get the Lions to string together a couple of wins in "Madden NFL 10," don't expect to see that happen in real life.

Thank goodness for video games. Otherwise I might have bought a pink Red Sox hat.

Torey Strahl is a contributor to Page 2. You can contact her at