Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Fan 590's Bryan Calhoun has Got Game - Do You?

This article was first published in the August 20th edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

From the arcades of the seventies and early eighties, to the high definition, multi-purpose systems of today, the gaming industry has witnessed astounding growth in recent years. As part of the “Atari Generation” of the 1980’s, the first time I played a hockey video game, it involved two stick figures shooting a dot back and forth. When I picked up a controller again on a Sony PlayStation 2 in 2004, I was shocked to see my favourite teams and players in all their glory; it was almost as good as the real thing.

Every week, Bryan Calhoun, along with Zack Cooper, Momin Qureshi, and Ken Rodney host Got Game on Toronto sports station, the Fan 590. On the show, they explore the world of gaming from several angles; game reviews, industry news, and interviews with game designers. It is an extremely entertaining and informative show, even for the casual game player.

“In this technological age, the four of us have always been interested in gadgets and stuff like that,” explained Calhoun on the telephone from Toronto. “When we first started the show, we thought - this is how the industry was, but when you show up at the meetings or press events, you get a better look. You see a level that no one would think to look at, or even imagine is there until you are actually knee deep in that world.”

From its early days, the gaming industry has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that reaches around the globe, and sports games are a large part of the overall market. The newer systems allow users to surf the Internet, watch movies, or take their game playing skills online; challenging their friends down the street or friends on the other side of the world. What has fuelled this ever-expanding industry?

“I think society has always been interested in entertainment,” said Calhoun. “It’s like, why do we like TV or why do we like radio? We want to be entertained and video games are a form of entertainment. In fact, it is more of an interactive form of entertainment but the premises are the same, and that makes video games unique in my mind. I see video games as another way to tell a story.”

The companies producing sports games feature professional athletes in their marketing and they change the “cover” athlete on a yearly basis (EA Sports Hockey or Madden Football for example), while some games will rely on the name-brand recognition of one specific athlete, which is the case with EA’s Tiger Woods Golf. The recent difficulties of Tiger Woods are well known, and John Madden, a former NFL coach and announcer, recently retired from the broadcast booth; will this slow the sales of their games? Is there a risk involved in relying on one specific athlete to promote a game?

“I had always been of the opinion that the athlete on the cover does not matter, but that was before we started Got Game. Many people idolize John Madden and we tie or relationship with the game to that person. I do think that if you are really that into Tiger Woods, John Madden, Drew Brees, or whoever it is, and those guys do something monumentally unfound; then yeah, I think a portion of society will no longer wish to be associated with them. There are also parents as well, that might not want their kids associated with that person. Does it affect it, yes - does it affect the entire market, no.”

Whether you are a casual or fanatical game player, you will not want to miss Got Game every Saturday on the Fan 590. If you are not in the Toronto area, you can also listen online or check out the show’s podcast and blog at Fan590.com. A special thanks to Bryan for sharing some time with Main Street and shedding some light on this expanding industry. Have a great sports day everyone.