Good paragraphs about Madden

And not just this year’s edition. From ESPN:

Hawkins wanted “Madden” to play out like the NFL. Equivalent stats. Similar play charts. Real football.

By contrast, Lyndon and Knox previously had made a well-received “Monday Night Football” title featuring arcade-style, action-heavy game play. That clicked with Genesis “Madden” producer Rich Hilleman, whose top design priority was fun — a game with more sacks, more bombs, more tackles in the backfield and more 60-yard runs than real-life NFL football. Something akin to an episode of “The Hills,” or what philosopher/author Umberto Eco dubbed the “hyperreal” — seemingly authentic, yet more entertaining than the genuine article.

“I came to the game from making flight simulations,” said Hilleman, who is now EA’s chief creative officer. “If you make an F-16 fighter simulation and it’s very accurate, to fire a single missile takes like 20 procedures. Only that’s not people’s perception of being a pilot. People’s perception is Tom Cruise. Push a button and blow something up. With Genesis ‘Madden,’ we wanted to emphasize what makes football exciting, not perfectly replicate the brutality of a 3.1-yard-per-carry running game.”


“Let me ask,” Madden said. “When we get into the spread, the quarterback in shotgun, do the linemen get in three-point stances?”

“In some sets,” White said. “But largely in two-point.”

“They should all be in two-point stances,” Madden admonished.

Madden is 74, a grandfather and retired from broadcasting. Clad in a black tracksuit and a collared, button-down shirt, he seems smaller in person than on television — voice less booming, movements more ginger. A few years ago, EA removed Madden from in-game color commentary duties. (When Strauser broke the news, Madden replied, “I feel that something is being taken away from me.”) Sipping from a can of diet cola, his enormous cigars long gone, he remains an advocate for real football, for art imitating life.

White flips open a laptop. Using “all 11” Detroit Lions coaching film, shot from the same perspective as Madden’s original pseudo-3-D field, he demonstrates new in-game blocking schemes. Madden nods his approval.

“The quarterback may fake,” White said. “But the guards never lie.”

Another nod.

“Anyway, running the ball wasn’t Detroit’s problem,” White continued. “It was passing.”

“Once they had Daunte Culpepper in [at quarterback], teams just dared him to pass,” Strauser interjected. “He used to be so accurate. What happened to that guy?”

“Wasn’t he on our cover one year?” White asked.

Everyone laughs. Madden gets serious. He breaks down upcoming rules changes. He brings up concussions, helmet-to-helmet hits and gimmick quarterbacks. A digression on how the Dome Patrol-era Saints used to frustrate Bill Walsh’s 49ers teams with short linebacker drops becomes a lecture on the obsolescence of the fullback, which then morphs into a short aside on player character.

Who, Strauser asked, are the hardest players to coach?

“Single guys,” Madden said. “Because they don’t have anyone to report to.”

When Madden left the Raiders, he took a job at the University of California, offering a course called “Football For Fans.” Three decades later, he’s still teaching. In a way, so is his game. Current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris told game producers that playing “Madden” has influenced the way he runs his team. Before scoring a game-winning touchdown last season, Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley killed clock by running parallel to the goal line, an unconventional move familiar only to anyone who has ever picked up a control pad. Years ago, Madden wanted his namesake to resemble a television broadcast; by the late 1990s, network producers were flipping the script, deploying skycams and electronic first-down markers, peddling their own brand of hyperreal entertainment. Life imitating art.

Strauser mentions 3-D televisions and the movie “Avatar.” A compatible version of “Madden,” he said, is already in the works.

Talk turns back to real football. The Super Bowl. Indianapolis versus New Orleans. In the first half, Saints coach Sean Payton went for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal, eschewing a “gimme” field goal. He opened the second half with an onside kick. Madden watched the whole thing from his California studio, incredulous and oddly transfixed. Even now, two months later, the old coach knows exactly what he was seeing.

“I was thinking, ‘S—,'” Madden marveled, “‘this guy is playing a video game!'”

  • Mr.Murder

    Life imitates living. Life is sport. Play hard.

  • Steve

    I want Chris to do all of the playbooks for Madden and NCAA.

  • dazz

    I’m just kinda shocked someone from ESPN read Eco.

  • falcon

    Don’t be too shocked…the “hyperreal” (both term and concept) were coined by Jean Baudrillard, whom Eco draws heavily. Good try for ESPN though.