Sports gaming is a very popular video game genre, thanks to the simultaneous appeal of the sports involved and the quality of the video games themselves. Popular video game franchises have become some of the best sellers in recent years, including titles like EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden titles, as well as the NBA 2K games. However, one sport that has not been as successful in its video game recreations is Australian rules football. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there haven’t been some good Australian rules games, but for several reasons they have not been able to emulate the success of other sports games.
Part of the reason for the relatively lower levels of success for games that depict Australian rules football is that the sport has a rule book that is much more complicated than for other sports. Association football (soccer) has one of the best-selling videogaming franchises of all time, thanks to EA’s FIFA games, which have been reliably released every year for more than 2 decades. Part of this success is the simplicity of association football’s rules. Ultimately the aim of the game is to just keep kicking the ball until you can get it into the net of the opposing team. This means that players of FIFA video games only need to understand how to pass, shoot and tackle, and the intricacies of the rules can be picked up along the way. Basketball is similar—you simply move the ball up the court and try to throw it into the basket.
However, Australian rules football is different because there are many more players on the field. Each team has 22 players (although only 18 are allowed on the field at a time), which is double that for association football. Also, these players can be substituted as many times as the team wishes. In association football a goal is always worth 1 “point”. In Australian rules the points earned depends on which posts the ball passes between, as there are different “scoring zones”. There are so many rules to keep an eye on that Australian rules football requires 7 (yes 7) umpires. Most similar sports have 1 referee and a few others playing supporting roles, but never as many as 7.
For this reason, Australian rules football video games find it more difficult to attract casual players who want to start playing and ultimately become the champion, as learning the rules can be more of a challenge.
Despite these difficulties, there have been several AFL and Australian rules video games released.
The newest AFL game to hit shelves is AFL Evolution, which has received mixed reviews. Released in 2017 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, AFL Evolution has regularly elicited the common complaint that it suffers from a lack of contrasting attributes and skills among the different players. Compared to other titles such as FIFA, where strikers have different playing qualities from defenders, AFL Evolution looks quite poor due to its lack of variety. One welcome feature, though, was the career mode, which is another common feature in modern games that allows players to have their character progress through the ranks.
The game’s sequel, AFL Evolution 2, is scheduled to be released in 2019 and will feature all of the current players and teams, including those likely to reach the AFL Grand Final.
KEVIN SHEEDY’S: AFL COACH 2002
Like Formula 1 fans, Australian rules football fans have been blessed with a single “manager” game, where, instead of controlling the players on the field, the game allows the player to control the tactical and strategic decisions of the team’s management instead. Released only for PC, the game allowed for control over playing styles, as well as when to interchange. Despite relative success in sales terms, the game never received a sequel.
AUSSIE RULES FOOTY
Released in 1991 for the NES, Aussie Rules Footy was the first video game to depict the strange rules of Australian Football. It was also probably one of the best, with players deriving strange amusement from the deep voice of the announcer who declared “out of bounds” and “on the full”. Many who played this game back in 1991 still continue to imitate the voice to this day.
Australian rules football is a complicated sport, with many more intricacies compared to other similar games such as association football, basketball or rugby. These complicated rules make it difficult for video game titles that depict the sport to be as successful as other sports titles. FIFA, Madden and NBA 2K have all become hugely-successful franchises, whilst AFL games are yet to find a formula that has stuck. Despite this, some good games have been released that—although lacking in one area or another—are still fun to play, provided you understand how to play.