Athletes Use Virtual Sports Video Games To Enhance Performance


Good news for video game manufacturers, bad news for those who already think children don't spend enough time outdoors: Athletes use virtual games as a training tool to improve their real, on-court/field/rink performances, The New York Times reports.

Electronic Arts' FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL, NBA Live and NHL series are just a few of the popular video games simulating sports that have inspired a huge following from children to professional athletes. The video games have become so real that they can help athletes across all sports. New York Red Bulls forward Conor Chinn spends hours playing FIFA Soccer on his Microsoft Xbox 360 as part of his daily regimen.

"It gets your soccer brain started that day," Chinn told the Times.

Chinn began the routine in college and finds that each two-dimensional player mimics the way the real player moves, shoots and passes.

"You really get to see and experience the players’ style of play," he told the Times. "After I face a guy on the field, you can see how very similar the movements and actions are in the video game."

NASCAR driver Joey Logano gets ready for race day online at NASCAR rules prohibit drivers from test-driving course tracks, but the online simulation gives racers a reminder of the course before they get behind the wheel.

“The graphics are really close to the real thing,” Logano said. “You get to experience any turn or bump.”

Other athletes use the realistic virtual games when they are injured and unable to play the real game. Coaches and players say that while the video games cannot replace real training, players often bond over the friendly competition.

Whether athlete plays these games for leisure or to bolster their performance, there is no denying that the virtual world is becoming more like the real leagues with every updated edition.

“Our developers pore over hundreds of hours, watching footage of players and paying extremely close attention to all their movements, physical nuances and a variety of other granular detail,” said Bryan Lam, a spokesman for 2K Sports, whose games include NBA 2K, MLB 2K and NHL 2K. “We work closely with pro athletes to capture their signature style, so it’s their exact movements in our game.”

New York Islanders center Rob Schremp admits that Electronic Arts got him "right on the button."

Nevertheless, athletes' gaming habits also have stirred some controversy. New Jersey Nets small forward Terrence William enjoys video games, but thinks playing them in the arena is unprofessional. John Hart, a senior adviser for the Texas Rangers and MLB Network analyst, agrees. He believes players in the clubhouse should be focused on preparing for games, but he sees the value of video games as well.

“You want your players to be relaxed and have a certain camaraderie,” Hart said. “Players used to play golf or even hang out at bars years ago. Now they play video games with each other.”

But like anything, there can be a downside. Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya was unable to pitch in 2006 after hurting his forearm and wrist by playing too much Guitar Hero.

Injuries from video games?

Players spending hours in front of a TV to train?

Call it a brave new virtual world.

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