I continue to crank away at my book chapter on the topic of sports videogames and the televisual (book available for pre-order, by the way). One topic has come up in my research and writing that I wanted to write a little bit about here: the bottomline ticker.
For those not familiar, the bottom line ticker is like a stock ticker for news and sports scores. It has been widely adopted by sports broadcasters since the BottomLine debuted on ESPN2 in 1996. News tickers on braodcasts go way back historically, with a primitive version showing up even on the Today Show as early as 1952. Now, tickers are everywhere supposed “news” shows are being broadcast, from all the 24-hour cable news providers (MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, HLN) to all the sports channels where they will often continue to run even under commercials, so that the engaged sports fan will not miss a single update as soon as the score changes.
It is no surprise that as sports videogames continue to channel a televisual aesthetic in the game design, that tickers show up superimposed over the bottom of the videogame screen. This has most recently come to my attention with the release of NCAA Football 13 which features an ESPNHD branded ticker running underneath my football games. It is a subtle feature that reinforces the convergence of mediated sports, from television to game. Sports fans, familiar with the ticker from watching televised sports, will immediately recognize the BottomLine ticker which will reinforce the connection between the two forms of the game – the videogame and the televised.
Tickers in videogames are not, in fact, new. Even in the short lived MVP NCAA Baseball series there was an ESPN BottomLine ticker. The case of the MVP ticker presents an interesting example that highlights the uniquely convergent nature of the BottomLine ticker. As players engage in the baseball videogame, scores from live or current sporting events occurring outside of the game world would be highlighted in the ticker. A player might receive news and scores from the NHL or from college basketball games being played as the simulated baseball game is in progress. This feature leverages networked consoles, and the readily available aggregated sports score data that BottomLine tickers on television already use. This use of real news and scores on the BottomLine ticker in a sports videogames contrasts the running of fictionalized, or simulated events from the game world like a player might find populating the ticker in a dynasty mode of NCAA Football 13.
This blending of real and simulated in the BottomLine, this collapse of the sports world of television and internet, and the worlds of sports videogames emphasizes not only the remediation of television playing out in sports videogames, but also the uniquely convergent nature of the genre. The feature calls to our attention the already hyperreal quality of mediated sports experiences, and by bringing current real world news and scores into the world of sports videogames, reinforces the dialogic relationship between sports videogames and other forms of sports media. Sports videogames are situated squarely in the complicated sports media complex, and bring affordances of the medium that other forms like internet and television do not offer. To be able to play a simulation of a real event, while information about real world sports events flash across the bottom of the screen, thereby invoking a collapse of the real and the simulated, is a unique experience made available by modern sports videogames. Such a feature simply reinforces the notion, obvious though it may seem at this point, that sports vidoegames are fundamentally contextual experiences catered and designed for sports fans, and speaking to their specific interpretive community.