Holiday Gift Guide 2009: sports pack

Here’s the thing about sports games: they are an illness. You can spend days and weeks turning your team into a dynasty only to dump them and start from scratch with a whole new team. You spend hours stocking your farm system with players who will likely never see a major league pitch. You waste time downloading roster updates, playbooks and new team logos because you’re obsessed with accuracy. You spend more time in this fantasy world than you do following real life sports. You are sick. So am I.

I’ve forced myself to cut back on sports games because I ended up playing too many. It was ridiculous. Start a new basketball franchise, take them through mid-season, then jump to baseball, sim a few seasons on Football Mogul, forget where I was in basketball and start over, and so on.

I thought, look, this is silly. No normally adjusted human being has this much free time on his hands. Let’s go with the desert island picks. If you were stranded on a desert island, which for some odd reason had electrical power, what three games would you need to have?

It turns out this is not easy because there are different types of players. Some zone out on sims. Others only play strangers online. Some like a healthy mix of different sports.

I could get a lot of mileage out of Football Mogul, Baseball Mogul and Madden. I get my sim fix from the Sports Mogul games and then I can get on the field with Madden. I love NBA Live (I’ve tried the sports games from other companies, but I always found EA Sports titles more intuitive and customizable–just a personal preference), and I love the now-discontinued EA Sports NASCAR games (a lot of people knock those games because they’re not realistic enough, but I always liked the fact that they were designed with the casual driver in mind–yet I’ll concede that there would’ve been room for a super hardcore version). And now I’ve lost my place because I garbled the previous sentence with long parentheticals.

If I could take from each sport, I’d take Madden for football, 2K Sports’ MLB Baseball, NBA Live and EA Sports’ NHL (assuming we still consider hockey a big four sport (which it isn’t)). I’d also grab EA Sports’ NCAA Football and Basketball because I love the recruiting features. For simming, I go with Football Mogul and Baseball Mogul. So that’s eight games. How do we narrow it down to three? Because apparently this is a rather small desert island. Only room for three games. Hm. Mighty small indeed. And how exactly did I get swept to this desert island? Was I on a cruise ship? I’m not a cruise ship sorta guy. Did a massive tidal wave wash away the east coast? The Azores…is that where I am? The Azores? This desert island thing makes no sense.

Let’s knock hockey off the list. Hockey is fun versus a friend, but presumably I’ve already cannibalized him by this point. I also have to knock out the two college games because I’m trying to get the most out of my three games. Good. Down to five.

I go Baseball Mogul over MLB 2K not because the 2K games are bad (they’re a blast, to be honest), but because baseball is more about shifting guys around and making adjustments. It’s a slower game. The fun about baseball is poring over stats and potential trades and minor league development and utility infielders. You need a dedicated sim for that. That’s four.

The last one is personal preference. I love NBA Live, but I’m more of a football guy, plus I think Baseball Mogul will suck up more downtime in the long run. Hell, I could spend hours looking to trade for a single-A prospect I will need as my middle relief three seasons down the pike. Like I said, it’s a sickness.

My three is Madden, Football Mogul and Baseball Mogul. If I were to guess, I’d say most people will pick Madden, NBA Live and MLB Baseball 2K (in some instances swapping NCAA Football or NCAA Basketball for their pro counterparts).

For a Super Awesome Day gift that your sports geek bud might not have heard about (seriously, everybody knows about Madden and 2K Sports–I saw a squirrel playing it in a tree the other day: he was going for it on 4th and 23, the bastard), then check out Football Mogul and Baseball Mogul. And please, send help. The sand is chafing my thumbs.

Football Mogul and Baseball Mogul by Sports Mogul

Madden, NBA Live, NHL, NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball by EA Sports

MLB Baseball 2K by 2K Sports

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