NCAA Football 10 finds the “cheese”Shawn Drotar

Posted on July 17th, 2009 in Gaming, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

The seedy underbelly of online sports gaming has always revolved around the best teams in the game. Like “taking the chalk” in a sports book, the unskilled or simply unsportsmanlike gamer hedges their bets by grabbing the easiest win in the book and lording it over their weaker siblings despite not having any personal attachment to that team.

These gamers are known as “cheesers”, renowned for their Madden Nationesque preening and reviled by “sim” gamers and, well, grown-ups everywhere.

One of the more interesting features of the newly-released NCAA Football 10 is the Season Showdown mode, which lets gamers attach themselves to a single team and earn (or lose points) for the way they play. Those points are added (or subtracted) to that school’s total score, which is constantly updated online.

Skill-related tasks like tackles and big plays earn points, but in a clever wrinkle, the easiest way to earn points is for sportsmanship. Simply punting on fourth down, for example, earns a gamer 10 points, while a tackle for a loss only earns four. The whole system’s heavily weighted toward gentlemanly play, and the Sportsmanship points are far and away the easiest to earn. Simply kneeling down to run out the clock in a blowout earns 10 points a play, so accruing negative points during a game should almost be impossible… unless you’re a complete and total jerk.

Fortunately, thanks to NCAA’s Season Showdown mode, it’s easy to tell where those social misfits tend to hang out. Not surprisingly, it’s with the game’s best teams in general. The chalk.

As of Friday morning, these were the least sportsmanlike schools, according to the aggregate scores of the gamers that affiliate themselves with them:

  1. Florida Gators: -717,577
  2. Texas Longhorns: -451,276
  3. Ohio State Buckeyes: -255,524
  4. Oklahoma Sooners: -225,467
  5. USC Trojans: -190,832
  6. Miami Hurricanes: -104,481
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions: -101,009
  8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: -87,592
  9. Florida State Seminoles: -81,865
  10. LSU Tigers: -81,178

Florida - and their brilliant running quarterback - provides the Provolone to cover the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 schools combined. Congratulations?

As a corollary, these were the ten most sportsmanlike schools - in other words, feel free to be proud you’re a fan of one of these programs:

  1. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: 17,465
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes: 16,688
  3. Virginia Tech Hokies: 10,291
  4. Clemson Tigers: 5,530
  5. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles: 4,784
  6. Washington State Cougars: 4,579
  7. Wyoming Cowboys: 3,949
  8. Idaho Vandals: 3,443
  9. North Carolina State Wolfpack: 3,404
  10. Cincinnati Bearcats: 3,277

The order of magnitude between the raw numbers in the two categories is staggering, so poor sportsmanship is clearly running rampant, but it’s heartening to know that there’s enough quality gamers in the last list to keep their team in the black.

That said, it’s worth noting that only 38 of the 120 teams tracked had positive scores (32%).

NCAA 10’s Season Showdown’s Sportsmanship tracking is simply fascinating, if only because it confirms what many gamers have known all along, but its remarkable extent still provides a bit of a shock.

It’s clear, given the disparity of talent from team to team, that sports games’ leaderboards need to be completely revamped with a sports version of chess’ Elo ratings to discourage “cheesing”. I devised such a formula years ago for leagues that were run while I was still with Operation Sports, and it was more fair and reasonable for all gamers - even those who weren’t afraid to bring their beloved-if-hapless Akron Zips to Ohio to face the mighty-but-Velveeta-covered Buckeyes. As it stands right now, however, at least gamers can know what to expect when they see a certain team appear on the screen. If it’s the Gators and a random player, you may as well opt out before kickoff.

Think that’s painting with a broad brush? You’re right, but if you’re embarrassed by what the cheesers are doing to sully your alma mater’s good name… do something about it.

Start with punting.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.