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OS Roundtable: The 'Unwritten Rules' of Sports Gaming

unwritten rules of sports gaming

Operation Sports

OS Roundtable: The 'Unwritten Rules' of Sports Gaming

Fernando Tatis got into some “trouble” for breaking an unwritten rule of baseball. There’s about 2,000 different unwritten rules in baseball, and many of them are dumb, but it still got us thinking what are some unwritten rules of sports gaming?

Kevin Scott: From the past: No “tuck-in” glitch goals in NHL 94 — this after wraparound shenanigans were off-limits in NHL 93. My brother and I went as far as to disallow all of these goals when we played each other and treated them as if they weren’t on the scoreboard.

From now: You must play on-ball D in NBA 2K. Otherwise, you might as well just be facing the CPU. This of course is disputed depending on the league, and it’s easy enough to argue you have to off ball at times to make the defense do what you want. But, hey, that’s what makes this an even better unwritten rule — it’s flawed!

unwritten rules of sports gaming

Scott Funk: Separating the unwritten rules in a professional sport and a video game can be tough. It also depends on who you are playing, and whether it’s a ranked game or an organized event. That being said, I think there are several unwritten rules in different games:

  • NBA 2K – Don’t steal the ball off a sideline inbound. Don’t sit at the half-court line and cause a backcourt violation. Don’t score as the time is running out when the game is over.
  • Madden – When up big, late in the game, run the ball and don’t throw deep to run up the score. This probably fits as an unwritten rule in both video games and real life, but it’s broken more and more these days I would say.
  • MLB The Show – Don’t swing on a 3-0 count with the bases loaded up 10-3. I kid, I kid, swing away.

unwritten rules of sports gaming

Joel Smith: There’s definitely unwritten rules in sports gaming. Some I feel were created by my friends and me, and some I think are legit that a lot of people use. Some of the current rules we go by:

  • FIFA – No scoring on penalty kicks. If you give up a PK, you miss on purpose. If we hit a shootout, we restart the game and play “Golden Goal” until someone scores. If a person allows three goals and is down 3-0 by half they lose automatically (skunk rule).
  • NBA 2K – I echo Kevin with the on-ball defense only rule. When we run “play now” games, each person hits three random teams, and the other person takes a team out and you choose from the remaining two. If you go down by 20 points, then you automatically lose (skunk rule).
  • Madden – You have to punt on 4th down unless the situation is legit that you go for it. Both players have to be on All-Madden difficulty.

These are just some of the rules that my friends and I go by now. Of course, like some of the guys have mentioned, you have your old-school classics where certain exploits were avoided, and I for sure remember the “No Mike Vick” rule from Madden 04. Unwritten rules in sports gaming have been a thing for years and will always be around.


TJ Henderson: No Oddjob.

Kidding, but really there are unwritten rules in several titles. What mostly comes to mind is the WWE series, even before 2K. When rolling into the ring, you can almost certainly get cheap shotted by whoever is already standing in the ring if timed correctly. Virtually any situation that takes advantage of something you don’t have full control over, and your opponent knows that, should be honored as off limits.


Phil Varckette: Going for it on 4th down. Back in the day when my friends and I would play various football game — mostly PS1 Madden and NFL 2K games — we had a house rule where you could only go for it on less than 4th and 5. The exception was you could go for it if you were down at the end of the half or the end of the game. None of us had an issue following the rule because we were all pretty much sim players. Now that I mostly play football games alone, I still hold myself to that rule.

In baseball games, my buddy and I had only a couple unwritten rules back in the day. The major one was you couldn’t spam the same pitch over and over. It was basically impossible for him to hit low pitches, so I didn’t just keep throwing them. It just didn’t make for a very good spirited and fun game. Obviously, if this were the case in real life, that pitcher would throw everything in the dirt.

And no corner 3s in Double Dribble. Yep, it’s a thing for all you young punks out there.

The unwritten rules of sports gaming are complicated and intricate — and mostly very dumb. What were some of your unwritten rules back in the day? What unwritten rules of sports gaming do you think still live on today?

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  1. My unwritten rules:
    NHL- No cheap goals. In some older NHL games you could often score if you skate to the right side and then right before you get to the goalie you go left and shoot.
    MLB- Don't throw multiple pick offs. No constant curveballs or sliders below the knees.
    WWE- No cheap wins. If wrestling was real then guys would take every shortcut possible to win. Beat your opponent outside the ring, Irish whip him to the stage, then run back in the ring before the 10 count.
    Also for all games, make matchups fair. If you choose some average team, don't constantly choose the Yankees or LeBrons team or anything like that.
    no 3/4 shot (from the opposing foul line) in double dribble. the double dribble in the arcades, some guys would just inbound and continuously bomb away from that range.
    before the Michal vick rule there was the randal cunningham rule.
    We used this in the NHL series, in college but we used this for others too. On team select: hit random 3 times. You pick one of the 3. If you were unhappy with the three you could random a 4th time but had to take the 4th team.
    For team select on 2k we run you spin random, if you like the team keep them, if not spin again. 
    You get five spins, but you can't go back to one of your previous choices. 
    If you land on a team and stick to them, then the other person lands on the same team, it cancels out that spin. 
    Our Madden rules were the opposite. You were not allowed to run the clock down. You had to keep on scoring, to the point that one game ended in a 91-84 score. No one liked to see the "QB Kneel" play; in fact, one time I did that, it got the whole tournament wiped out.
    Crazy Packers Fan
    Our Madden rules were the opposite. You were not allowed to run the clock down. You had to keep on scoring, to the point that one game ended in a 91-84 score. No one liked to see the "QB Kneel" play; in fact, one time I did that, it got the whole tournament wiped out.

    one year I nearly won a madden tournament by milking the clock. they only played 5 minute quarters. I would have 5/6 minute drives. Id use up a quarter and a half on some drives. I suck at Madden, especially on D, so my game plan was to basically play keep away.
    I got to the finals and the person I went up against used my own game plan against me. final score was 10-7. still won 50 dollars, that was the second place prize.
    All the games I won were low scoring, no one caught on until the finals.
    The following year the same tournament made a rule of no milking the clock.

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