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NCAA roils gamers with funky call
You really have to give it up to the author of the NCAA’s press release for these two sentences: “We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.”
That’s some world-class gobbledygook. The truth is that the NCAA is trying to win a lawsuit and its video game partnerships are helping the plaintiff’s case.
That’s because the plaintiff, Ed O’Bannon, who played basketball at UCLA in the ‘90s, believes he is owed something for the use of his likeness in video games over the years and is arguing the NCAA owes it to him because it made money off the games.
That being the case, the NCAA has decided to terminate its relationship with EA Sports, the outfit that makes the "NCAA Football" video game series that separates the men from the boys on college campuses all over America. Reputations are earned in that game.
Men’s greatest strengths and most embarrassing flaws are exposed on the digital tundra of the "NCAA Football" series. Friendships are forged, broken and welded back stronger than ever.
For millions of American men, the "NCAA Football" series is as much a part of their college experience as studying for finals, chasing girls, playing beer pong and cutting class.
Within the context of that game, most men know their friends’ minds like they know their own (constantly self-analyzed) facial hair, and the memory of trying to humiliate your best friends while surrounded by beer cans and wrappers from places with names like “Burrito King” is something that has a lot of men about my age getting awfully sentimental right now.
This video game is an Important Thing to people, is my point.
Even though, yes, this is technically “just a game,” that’s true of real dirt-and-cleats football too, and nobody says it isn’t pretty freaking culturally significant. And now, the existence of this Important Thing is being threatened because … well, ultimately because of an effort to protect the notion of amateurism in college sports.
Those are not the details of this specific lawsuit, but that’s what this argument is really about. O’Bannon’s lawsuit has the same potential to the idea of the “student-athlete” that a pigeon has to a windshield.
And once the “student-athlete” goes, so does the financial structure of college athletics as we know it. What that would mean for video games is anyone’s guess. College sports games would still exist. The market for them is huge, but they’re expensive to produce and tricky to market. Not just any rich guy can up and make a successful video game.
Gamers are loyal, but they’re also notoriously difficult to please (and no, it’s not the same if the players are generic). EA Sports had gotten it right, and there’s no reason to think EA couldn’t get it right again.
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But, as we can see today with the NCAA, the political climate on this topic might discourage conferences or individual schools from letting their marks get used in video games too. Then you’ve got a real problem, because you kind of need them all for the game to work.
I don’t mean to cast “NCAA Football” as an irreplaceable part of the American Bro Experience or anything. There will always be a fun way for men to humiliate each other without any real-life consequence. But the “NCAA Football” series has been around long enough that there’s some connecting tissue there, and having it ripped off is going to be a bummer, bro.
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