The mission at 7 Bamboos is in some ways to generate interest among the youth in rugby sevens. In many cases interest is already there, so it’s more about training and organisation. But thinking about things in a fundamental way makes one wonder, more broadly: what could boost the sport’s popularity among the youth and in countries abroad that take it less seriously? There are various possible responses to this: fun new tournament events, additional clubs and training programs, and even documentaries or films about the sport. Another that hasn’t been explored particularly thoroughly though is a defining rugby sevens video game.
As of this moment, there are really only a few modern rugby games of note. To give a quick rundown, they are as follows:
Rugby 18 is probably the most prominent rugby video game on the market right now, which unfortunately only demonstrates the relatively sad state of the sport in gaming. Released in 2017 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it features the top teams and national sides from around the world, and is the closest thing in design to competing with major sports titles like FIFA, Madden, and NBA 2K. Some users seem to have enjoyed it, but one of the more noteworthy reviews called it “a woefully inadequate representation of one of the world’s most popular sports.” That’s an extremely harsh review, but it’s hard to really disagree.
Flick Kick Rugby Kickoff
This is a very simple game designed for mobile devices by PikPok, a company with strong experience making similar games for other sports. As simple as it is though, it may actually be the best current rugby video game. Revolving solely around the kicking aspect of the sport, it presents multiple game modes and challenges, realistic rugby pitches, and a swipe- (or flick-) based kicking control that is easy to grasp but difficult to master. It’s not bad at all - it’s just not a full-fledged rugby game.
Rugby Kick Master 3D
This is another kick-based mobile game, and one that’s in some ways similar to Flick Kick Rugby Kickoff. However, there are some bizarre things about it that make it seem poorly made, or at least ill-conceived. For instance, de-site what seem to be largely rugby conditions, the ball at hand is an American football - as are the helmets on the players you see. For that matter the description of the game in the Google Play store even references “your favorite game rugby” and “the football game” in successive sentences. It’s an okay gaming experience, but not quite up to Flick Kick Rugby Kickoff’s standard - and also far form being a complete rugby gaming experience.
Rugby Star Slot
If this sounds a bit strange, you should know that the online casino gaming sector thinks of just about everything. Amid countless websites, and among the numerous structures of bonuses and welcome options that get people to play, they rely mostly on a huge range of gaming themes that can reach just about everyone collectively. Considering this it’s perhaps less surprising that there is in fact a rugby-themed slot machine arcade. Basically, the game is a fun nod to rugby for any fan of the sport who happens to like casino gaming, but it’s very much a slot reel and not a rugby video game.
Setting aside the fact that not one of these games offers a comprehensive vision of rugby, there also isn’t one among them that’s specifically focused on sevens. And this may ultimately be the trick. As an “open letter to game developers” calling for just such a game correctly pointed out, recreating 15 players running different creative lines at one time is no easy task. It’s not like an NFL football game in which there may be a lot of players, but the bulk of them are lined up in a small area against each other. Sevens solves this problem by quite literally cutting the number of players that have to be depicted in half.
This is the route a major sports gaming developer like EA Sports or 2K could take to make a rugby video game that not only represented the sport well, but gained popularity. And there’s every reason to believe this could in turn boost the popularity of the sport itself.