Dodgeball has to be the most entertaining yet totally underappreciated team sport. It challenges two teams to eliminate each other by throwing balls at each other’s faces/crotches (I guess you could aim for other body parts, too) until only one is left standing. That’s amazing! What other sport lets you pelt people with objects and get away with it? When you think about it, dodgeball is basically a real-life deathmatch mode but less bloody – most of the time.
I would also argue that dodgeball lends itself to moments of individual badassery more than any other team sport. Any fifth-grader will tell you they never felt like the main character until they caught two balls in a row or swept an entire squad singlehandedly. Even the dodgeball itself is the best ball in sports. That satisfying “bing” sound upon nailing a body part? Try replicating that with a dumb old football or golf ball. The impact is so quiet that all you hear are the pained groans of the recipient. Lame.
These hard facts always begged two questions: how is dodgeball not an Olympic sport yet, and, more importantly, why aren’t there more dodgeball video games? The rules are easy to grasp, challenging to master, and the sport meets the necessary quota of violence while still being family-friendly. Sure, there have been exceptions such as Super Dodge Ball for NES or, if you squint hard enough, Lethal League, but they’re few and far between, and the sport hardly receives any mainstream gaming attention.
I pondered the subject in January, and the Law of Attraction responded by giving me not one but two entertaining dodgeball games: Knockout City and the newly-released Dodgeball Academia. Both games successfully replicate the inherent thrill of dodgeball in similar but also very different ways. As a competitive multiplayer title, Knockout City promotes the teamwork aspect of the sport but dials the wackiness up to 11 with explosive power-ups and wacky arenas to make an already goofy sport even more over-the-top. It’s one of the year’s best surprises, and any dodgeball aficionados that haven’t given it a look are doing it wrong.
Dodgeball Academia, which launched last week for consoles and PC, goes a whole other direction by presenting it as an RPG-style adventure set in a Yu-Gi-Oh GX-style dodgeball academy for gifted youngsters. Despite having role-playing hallmarks such as character leveling and equipment, the actual dodgeball isn’t turn-based. Matches are action-packed, often tense affairs of lobbing balls at opposing players in bouts laden with ridiculous superpowers and special moves. If you’ve been searching for that specific blend of dodgeball with dashes of sports anime and plenty of humor, I can’t recommend it enough.
Both games do a great job reminding me of the joy of dodgeball while exemplifying what I already knew: dodgeball is the perfect sport for video games. It’s worthy of more representation in the medium, and I hope getting two shining examples in one year opens the floodgates for more inventive takes on the sport. Pro Evolution Dodgeball? Dodgeball 2K? Pyre 2: It’s Just Dodgeball Now? Let’s do it.
Now, all that’s left is to penetrate the Olympics. After all, skateboarding made its overdue debut this year, and that sport has a gazillion video games. If we can get more dodgeball titles out the door before 2024, then the sport may earn enough cred to crack that nut. Watch out, Paris.
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