This site is not about sports analysis and pontification, per se, but like any dedicated fan, I have my opinions on the upcoming season of Major League Soccer. And, like any dedicated fan, I tend to believe that my opinions are better than most.
This site is, however, about sports simulations and pontifications on such, which is why when I came across this article on MajorLeagueSoccer.com this morning I was intrigued. According to simulations run on EA Sports’ FIFA 12 video game, the LA Galaxy are poised to win the MLS Supporter’s Shield in 2012.
First, a point worthy of debate: Is FIFA 12 a “soccer simulation game?” The beauty of tabletop sports games like APBA Soccer – and, most famously, Strat-o-Matic baseball, is the absolute transparency of the game engine. In Strat baseball, the basic game especially, you can take a look at a card and calculate the likelihood of any particular outcome in any particular at bat. APBA Soccer cards are a little more cloudy, due to the reliance on formation charts and team ratings that can make a particular roll on a player’s card mean different things in different circumstances, but the general outcomes are right there on the card.
What defines these games as “simulations” in my opinion is the fact that they are specifically designed to simulate statistical outcomes of their given season.
Video games are different. The game engine algorithms are not transparent, the player ratings are – as far as we know, anyway – highly subjective. The game is designed to be played with hand/eye coordination, and – most importantly – statistical accuracy is not the primary objective in the game design.
All this is to say, I wouldn’t put any stock in this FIFA 12 simulation of the 2012 MLS season. Will LA Galaxy be the best team this year? Probably. Will the Portland Timbers be the worst? Hopefully (says this Sounders fan).
What EA Sports’ FIFA series has done best is introduce the game to casual fans. At my fraternity house in college (Chico State!) we had some epic FIFA tournaments and to this day I have friends who have become ardent football fans based on their first exposure to The Beautiful Game through EA Sports games.
I haven’t played any FIFA games in a few years now (I don’t own a console system anymore – I’ll bet XBox wouldn’t be happy to hear that), but every once in a while I miss it. It’s a great game – not a simulator though. Just a game.