SIDELINES: How cool is it to play yourself in a video game? Ask Kelyn Rowe or Benson Henderson
By CASEY OLSON
Federal Way Mirror Sports editor
October 26, 2012 · Updated 5:30 PM
I would assume that it's pretty cool to be a professional athlete. Getting paid a lot of money to play a game has got to be the best job in the world.
Nowadays, you aren't really a bonafide sports star until you can actually grab a joystick and play yourself in a video game.
More so than having a 10-member posse or owning more than three cars, athletes want to be able to play themselves on their X-Box. It's just a fact of life.
In case you didn't know, pro athletes are vain and competitive — a combination perfect for starring in a video game.
Federal Way High School graduate Kelyn Rowe recently received the honor of being able to control himself in a video game. Rowe is now featured on FIFA 13. The soccer game launched late last month and sold a record 4.5 million copies in just five days around the world.
Rowe is finishing his rookie season for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer (MLS). The third-overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Rowe is having an impressive year. He leads the team with five assists and is third with three goals.
The Revolution end their season Saturday on the road against Thomas Jefferson High School grad Lamar Neagle and the Montreal Impact. Neagle has been featured in the past three FIFA video games, so he is an old pro at seeing his likeness on the TV screen.
Rowe was recently featured on the Revolution's official website playing himself on the video game.
"I mean it was pretty cool," Rowe said. "Just to see myself play and all that."
But, being a professional athlete, Rowe was a little disappointed with his "look" on the game.
"The hair is a little long, just a little long," he said with a laugh. "But that's definitely my fault. I'm going to cut it before they do the photos next year."
Rowe and Neagle aren't the only Federal Way natives featured in a sports video game this year. Decatur grad and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion Benson Henderson plays a big role in the UFC Undisputed video game franchise. The game marks the first time Henderson has been a video game character.
It's just a sign of the times. Video games today are a lot different than they were during my youth, pumping quarters into Defender, Galaga, Dig Dug and Asteroids, among others.
It wasn't until Tecmo Bowl came out for the old Nintendo when you could actually play as your favorite NFL football player.
Remember trying to get an extra-point off against the New York Giants and Lawrence Taylor, or trying to tackle Bo Jackson? Impossible.
Athletes are now using video games to improve physical and mental skills. This is because the simulation and graphics on today's games are lifelike.
The ultimate video game franchise, Madden NFL, has been a huge hit for years with pro athletes, especially football players. Wired Magazine calls it the "Madden Effect," which means the gameplay is so realistic that players are taking what they learn on the video game and incorporating it on the actual field.
Maybe the best use of Madden as a training tool comes from Chuck Kyle, who is a high school football coach in Ohio. Kyle programs his team's playbook into the game for his players to use as a study tool. Sounds like a coach that has today's athlete in mind. Kyle, who has won 10 state championships, has programmed his playbook into Madden and uses it to teach players their assignments. So have coaches at Colorado State, Penn State and the University of Missouri, among others.
Video game simulations have become huge in the world of auto racing, and are a necessity for most of the top drivers.
Nascar driver Joey Logano has admitted that he gets ready for his races by going to iRacing.com, a simulation site. A lot of other drivers are also doing the same thing. It helps because Nascar has banned drivers from test-driving their cars on the real tracks.
“The graphics are really close to the real thing,” Logano told the New York Times. “You get to experience any turn or bump. You make a few laps on the screen and you think, ‘Oh, I remember this turn.’ And you already have it figured out when you’re really on the track.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently sat out two races after suffering a concussion. During his absence, Earnhardt stayed sharp by playing video games, and will be back behind the real wheel on Sunday.
So, for now, I can "be cool" and play my kids' Xbox 360 as two Federal Way athletes I've covered over the years, Kelyn Rowe and Benson Henderson. That's about as close to being a professional athlete as I'm going to get.Contact Federal Way Mirror Sports editor Casey Olson at email@example.com or (253) 925-5565 ext. 5056.