Saturday, 8 June 2013

NHL & NHLPA Earn Fees While EA Sports Promotes Fighting In Hockey

In the past few weeks EA Sports has ramped up their promotion of NHL 14 and is targeting fans of the hockey video game series to drive orders before the official release.  Prominent in their advertising and early reviews is the new feature, the “Enforcer Engine”   The majority of hype about NHL 14 is about fighting, and the NHL and NHLPA collect fees from every copy sold while hockey’s image suffers.

If you have been on this blog for more than a minute then it should be obvious to you that my opinion on fighting in hockey is that it should be reduced or eliminated.  There are lots of journalists and other bloggers that think 2 players punching each other in the face is wrong, simply because it’s barbaric.  Yep, I’m in that camp as well.  There are numerous medical experts and former enforcers who tell us about the harmful effects and the day-to-day impact of the job.  They know what they are talking about, and I agree with them.  But I’m also part of a smaller group that believe that fighting is supported by myths about how it affects the sport, and those myths are dismissed easily by facts and statistics.   So dropping the gloves will not change momentum or protect the stars, but it will lead to broken orbital bones and bruised brains while turning off potential fans who perceive the game to be something like wrestling.

EA Sports has released a promotional video that shows how awesome their new Enforcer Engine is and how it has been improved over last year’s game.  

Their marketing material for the new feature clearly takes precedence over any new software or graphics added to NHL ’14.

Enforcer Engine - There is a code in hockey, when it is broken you have to respond. A first for the NHL franchise, Fight Night technology delivers a new 3rd person experience, physics-based punch targeting and player size differentiation to every fight, creating the most authentic and electrifying experience yet.

Can you imagine any of the other professional sports associations, who also collect fees from EA Sports, allowing their sport to be promoted with an image built on violence and or play-action that obviously has a negative impression on their league?

Here’s a look at some new and exciting features in these EA Sports games:

NFL Bounty System – Earn valuable credits by laying out your opponent with devastating hits.  Players are rated according to their star status, the bigger the star the more credits are deposited in your online account.  Put Drew Brees in the hospital and earn enough for a virtual night out with a couple of cheerleaders.

NCAA Recruitment Challenge – Build your dream football team from the best talent that illegal payments can buy.  You have to skillfully deliver cars, money, girls and whatever else these high school players want, while avoiding the scrutiny of the NCAA cops.  Be careful, if you’re caught then the game disk will melt into your game console.

MLB Head Hunter Engine – Tired of your opponents driving the ball out of the park.  Well next time they step into the batter’s box you can unleash a high and hard message right to their temple.  This new feature establishes your dominance in a sickening display of head trauma and helmet cracking.  But if you miss, get ready put your cleats into his groin.

You may think that the above is a bit over the top.  But imagine casual hockey fans, young and old, who play NHL ’14 and believe that punching your opponent is an integral part of the game.  If I was an NHL executive and I cared about what outsiders thought (not sure what part of that statement is more far-fetched) my next meeting with EA Sports would demand that fighting is toned down and they focus on the artistry of the hockey players.

I believe that the NHL and NHLPA should be stewards of the game at the professional level.  Yes they are driven by profit, which is necessary to be successful and grow the game, but they also need to protect the image of the sport. Instead they ignore mounting evidence of the damage being done to player’s health and future well-being by continuing to support punches to the face.  They remain silent when 3 brawls break out on an opening face-off or a young rookie is left unconscious on the ice from a punch.   They seem oblivious to the fact that the image of the sport is shaped by numerous websites that display, rate and archive every fight from Junior through to the professional level.  And they profit from their relationship with EA Sports while the video game company promotes the league through its “Enforcer Engine”.   

Perhaps they don’t understand the impression of hockey that is being created by their inaction.  Maybe they don’t care about their image.  It’s possible they have weighed all the evidence and consequences and decided that the royalty fees from EA Sports are more important than attracting new fans.  And I’m talking about developing new hockey fans that appreciate the game versus those who are disappointed if too marginal hockey players don’t bloody each other before the 3 minute mark of the 1st period.

I’m sure the league and association executives keep telling themselves, “it’s only a video game”.

No comments:

Post a Comment