How Video Games Crept Into Professional Sports

Video games have changed the way we watch sports forever.

How Video Games Crept Into Professional Sports
[Cover Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images]

How many times have you heard about a new movie that “is like a video game”? Sure, video games have influenced film and TV. But you’ll see even more crossover in sports.


Over the past 40 odd years, the UI of sports video games has very directly bled into broadcast television. Now, the experience of playing a sports video game isn’t so different from watching a sports broadcast, as the two are slowly blending into one hybrid experience.

Okay, so arguably the first sports game, Pong, didn’t exactly take television by storm.

But I ask you, is Tecmo Bowl’s dotted first yard line…

via Youtube

…much different from what the NFL’s been using now for years?

via Wiki Commons

And as absurd as this hit by a monkey in Super Mario Baseball may seem…

via Youtube

…is it really any different from this “real” MLB catch?

via MLB Statcast

How is the visual commentary of TNT’s Inside the NBA

via Youtube

…any different from this screengrab from NBA 2K15


…or even this gem from 1996’s SpaceJam?

via Wiki

Is teeing off in Tiger Woods 2009

EA Sports

…all that distinguishable from NBC Golf?

These comparisons aren’t apples to apples. Some of these television graphics are occurring real time during the live game. Some of them are added in a rapid post production process, made possible through a new wave of high-resolution cameras and smart algorithms.


But how long will it be until these two formats merge entirely–when video game fidelity gets higher, and broadcast graphics are as bold as video games?

Imagine watching the NBA playoffs with your Xbox controller in-hand, and then with the flick of the D-Pad, you to take control of your team. Will we even notice where the sport ends and the game begins?

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.