Ryan Kesler is the cover athlete for the new NHL 2K11 game. This strikes me as interesting.
At first, I didn’t really get it. Video games are by their very nature all about creating a flashiness and hyperbole that isn’t quite captured by the reality they are meant to represent. There are loads of things about real hockey that are glossed over, and turned glossy, when it comes to their video game depiction. It is fitting, after all, that the last four cover athletes on NHL 2K are Thornton, Spezza, Nash and Ovechkin – appropriate symbols, it seems to me, for just that kind of gloss.
So why Kesler then? This is not the sort of flashy, one-dimensional kind of player easily suited to, and represented by, the video game format. Nor is it someone who has the stature and selling power of the four other cover stars. So what’s going on?
It speaks, I think, to an increasing hockey awareness. Today’s hockey audience is more educated and discriminating than it used to be. We recognize far more than we ever have all the intangibles, versatilities and quieter skills that go together to make up a good player. So much has this become a part of our awareness that we don’t bat an eyelash at seeing Kesler on the cover of one the two largest hockey video games on the market.
This is all the more reflected in the video games themselves. Subtle but important features that relate to the sport itself are being added all the time. All the things in Kesler’s game that he takes pride in – and which we appreciate and applaud him for – are now more and more represented in the video game, a game whose cover the Canuck now rightfully graces.