NCAA Football 13: Why This Popular Videogame Is More of a Coach Than a Toy

Jeff Jones@jeffjones99Correspondent IIJuly 10, 2012

NCAA Football 13 Cases (courtesy of News 10)
NCAA Football 13 Cases (courtesy of News 10)

JoPa's scowl, Bear Bryant's fedora, and an XBOX 360 controller—could these be the iconic images that come to mind when we hear the word "coach" in the future?

The world’s favorite college football video game is back.  Today, EA Sports’ NCAA Football makes its annual return with its newest installment—NCAA Football 13. 

For years, EA’s NCAA Football series has stood near the top of the sports video game world and remains the only legitimate college football game on popular consoles.

Much is made of the series’ impressive statistics—over 500,000 copies sold several years in a row, offered on the most popular consoles and played all over the world—but what many do not talk about is the educational impact this series has had on those who play.

Many gamers credit the NCAA Football series with increasing their knowledge and understanding of the sport.

Kyle Coats, a Trinity University football coach, describes these games as teaching tools and says that “though those games aren’t completely on target, they have many realistic elements that help players learn the basics.”

Coats continues by saying, "When selecting plays, you scroll through pages of coverages, formations, routes, and blitzes—all named properly and displayed similarly to how any coach would draw things on the board."

In addition to play selection, actual football techniques and fundamentals have also become teaching tools in this new edition of the game.

“Arm tackles” and lunges are much less likely to bring down ball carriers than the traditional hit-wrap-drive technique; pass blockers move their feet and keep their hands in front of defenders; and quarterbacks’ passes flutter in the air when tipped at the line and are off-target when thrown across their bodies.

In the past, valuable football lessons like these have been taught on youth league and Pop Warner practice fields—learned through physical repetitions.  Today, these physical reps are supplemented by the mental reps that gamers experience through the push of a button. 

Now, some are arguing that games like EA Sports' NCAA Football can be a safer, more cost effective alternative to years of youth league play—years intended to teach the same techniques learned in the video games.

Others suggest that video games can be, at most, a compliment to the physical, mental, and social lessons learned on the practice and game fields.

It is doubtful that the subtle tips and teaching points found in video games will ever be solely responsible for creating the next NFL superstar, or will ever carry a great enough impact to put an end to youth football leagues.

Still, whether you prefer a scowl, a fedora, or an XBOX controller, those who play NCAA Football 13 should not be surprised when they learn a thing or two.