Fifteen days ago, the NBA took the lead in suspending operations due the coronavirus pandemic. Exactly two weeks ago, college basketball followed the NBA in postponing remaining games in conference tournaments and ultimately the sports highlight of March – the NCAA tournament.
Since sports shut down, fans are getting their fix through replays of classic games on regional sports networks and on national sports networks. For example, CBS has filled the void by replaying championship games in two-hour blocks on the weekends while Westwood One radio is replaying broadcasts on its extensive network.
Then there are the simulations which are based on possible NCAA tournament bracket such as ones composed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and simulations run in local newspapers, including the New York Post, which had Seton Hall beating Duke for the national championship.
Other simulations can be done via Xbox and PlayStation 4. Then there are ones that let users be a significant part of the team building process and one is Wolverine Studios, founded by Gary Gorski in 2006.
“I think there are two key things our games are offering during this time,” Gorski said in an email interview earlier this week. “First, they are a fantastic replacement for sports. So many people rely on sports as part of their daily routine – whether it gives them something they do each day or talk about each day or even make their livelihood on each day.
“The second big thing is that our sports games are so detailed and are focused on being a career based simulation experience which is the perfect recipe for sinking hours upon hours into a game. The best games I have ever played are those that leave me wanting just one more turn and that is what we strive for with our games.
Gorski used his enjoyment of Nintendo games and desire to create a team-building feature in a game. After learning how to program games, he created the company in 2006 with a focus on a game that relies less on hand-eye coordination and more on building a team from the ground up like a PC gaming version of a startup company.
“Our games are for people who love the sport itself and the idea of building a team,” Gorski said. “We focus on realism and accuracy and making the gamer have a direct impact on the results by the choices he or she makes.”
According to Gorski, the difference between his concept and regular video games comes down to ratings and the desire to get the highest rated players together, especially in NBA games. In Wolverine Studios games, it comes down to coaching and figuring out the best lineup combinations, something real NBA coaches can relate to on a nightly basis.
“In our games we want you to have a realistic team building experience so maybe in some cases you don’t want to add a player simply because he’s a highly rated overall player – you want to add a player who fits how your team is constructed,” Gorski said. “If you have a point guard who likes to drive most of the time then you will want to find players who like to play outside and shoot threes in order to create the proper spacing for the point guard to be effective. Our simulations take into effect the reality of what would happen on the court or field given the players that are out there and not just allow players to produce a certain stat level simply because of a rating.”
There are various ways to actually see the simulation unfold and according to Gorski, each game adheres to the various sports calendar. That means users of the college football game would be getting ready for spring practice and users of the college basketball game would be getting ready for the NCAA tournament if their strategies worked out and led to enough success in the regular season.
And on the pro side, users can engage in the usual processes of team building such as free agency and going through a draft.
“The best games I have ever played are those that leave me wanting just one more turn and that is what we strive for with our games,” Gorski said. “That feeling of “one more game” or “one more season” is present in our products and I think with this virus outbreak it is so easy to be inundated with the bad news that having an outlet to escape to for a few hours is vital. Our favorite compliment from reviewers or gamers is when they tell us they get lost in the game world and then they start sharing their gameplay on social media or on Twitch or YouTube.
“The game world becomes so real that they find themselves thinking about their team and league when they aren’t playing. That’s a really powerful experience right now when so many are not only stuck at home but really looking for something to take their mind off things right now.”
While users are noticing Wolverine for its attempt to fill the void from canceled sports, Gorski said he is getting positive feedback from new users, who never knew video games in this format were on the market.
“I think with this virus outbreak it is so easy to be inundated with the bad news that having an outlet to escape to for a few hours is vital,” Gorski said. “Our favorite compliment from reviewers or gamers is when they tell us they get lost in the game world and then they start sharing their gameplay on social media or on Twitch or YouTube. The game world becomes so real that they find themselves thinking about their team and league when they aren’t playing. That’s a really powerful experience right now when so many are not only stuck at home but really looking for something to take their mind off things right now.”