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Opinion

Why the next AFL video game must be mobile

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Roar Guru
29th September, 2020
12

All popular sports are widely represented in the gaming community, but how about AFL?

We’ve had various games over the last 25 years that have met with mixed success. A big problem is that Australian rules is a hard sport to capture, compartmentalise and express. Another problem is that the licensing rarely stays with a single software house so that they can continue building on a franchise.

Something else I wonder about is how easily an outsider could pick up the sport’s rules and thus want to play a game representing a sport they know little about.

I’ve never played ice hockey and have only sparingly played basketball and soccer, but I can play their gaming incarnations and work out the rules through trial and error. They’re not that complicated.

AFL, though? The rules are complex. The strategies are varied. It’s dimensionality unique.

AFL generic

(Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

This would make the game difficult to sell to people who don’t grow up with it. Former NFL punter Pat McAfee fell in love with the game through a single random viewing, but not everybody is fanatical.

Then you have those American ‘reactors’ on YouTube – people who watch something and react to it as a spectacle. Often they ask to be educated about rules in the comments.

Sometimes what’s needed – and what works better – is a taster.

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That’s something I think gaming is great at doing – introducing us to something interactively so we have to stay involved.

As far as Australian rules is concerned, the facet of goal kicking would be the perfect taster for a mobile gaming app.

Already you have games like Stick Cricket, Golf Clash, and Homerun Clash, which simplify those sports to a single component and allow online competition. They all follow a simple structure: you start at the bottom with the most basic equipment. When you win you’re rewarded with a chest. The chest contains cards that pertain to equipment. When you pick up enough cards for that particular item you can upgrade. Those upgrades mean you get better skills in certain areas.

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In Stick Cricket you can upgrade different bats, each with different advantages, and bowlers – you have pace, swing, medium and spin bowlers. In Golf Clash it’s clubs and balls. In baseball, it’s bats and various tokens that help you in different ways.

You can only use a limited number of these too, so you can never become super-powered. Choosing one item benefits you in certain areas but not in others. It becomes a case of finding what works best for you.

As you progress you get to play at different locations, which come with their own idiosyncrasies. In Stick Cricket and Homerun Clash it’s different stadiums with different boundaries. In Golf Clash it’s different courses, each introducing greater distances and hazards.

It’s such a simple template – surely some smart gaming manufacturer could apply it to AFL.

You would start at a suburban oval and have five to ten shots from various positions on the ground, each ranging in difficulty regarding distance and angle. Wind and rain would also be contributing factors.

You would have a meter to time accuracy and distance. Trying to kick it too hard, as occurs in Golf Clash when you try to swing too hard, will exacerbate any inaccuracy.

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As you progress you can upgrade equipment, such as football boots, mouthguards and strapping. Because Australian rules isn’t an equipment-heavy sport, you would have to treat it like baseball and bring in various tokens that give you benefits – for example, you might have laces that improve banana kicking but don’t do well with snaps.

These upgrades can look at the different skills: banana kicks, snaps, dribbling the ball through, torpedo punts, kicking on the opposite foot et cetera.

As you improve, new stadiums open up to you. You might start at a suburban oval, progress to a VFL oval and then do the various grounds around the country, ending with kicking at the MCG.

With the AFL constantly looking for promotional opportunities, it would seem a simple game to create, and it could draw interest from people outside of Australia, introducing Australian rules to people from all around the world without the complexity of having to learn all the rules, strategies and positional requirements.

And it’ll be a great way to kill time come the next lockdown.