Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Football as Madden 07

Jon Schnaars | 24 Oct 2006 08:01
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Superstar mode might serve as the strongest example of the convergence at work, but the Franchise mode illustrates more effectively how those convergences are working to redefine fandom. Individual players might get the headlines and help sell papers, but today's fan knows that the real stories are in the game's nuts and bolts. Blocking schemes, using the run to set up the pass, dropping lineman back on a zone blitz - these are concepts bantered about on pre-game shows and in beat writers' columns, but in Madden, they are game plans and strategies to be utilized or ignored.

In Franchise mode, though, you can go beyond the depth of on the field action to micromanage every aspect of your team. Everything from the salary cap to the price of parking has now become your concern, and this is reflected in the NFL-centric coverage that we find across other media. Even the recent fetishization of the amateur draft shows up in the game. ESPN has made a star of Mel Kiper Jr., a man whose entire year is spent researching and reporting on the NFL Draft that takes place over two days in April. He's in the game, and he's going to help you through your team's draft. Get familiar, because ESPN hopes that you'll seek out his real-life contributions and analysis when draft day rolls around.

These elements are no mere sideshow to the football action, either. I often find myself allowing the AI to simulate my games so I can focus more attention on the management aspects of the game. This spotlighting of the business serves to establish yet another potential niche of football that can be marketed and sold. The NFL Network stays on the air in the off season, and ESPN senior writers Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton need something to talk about as they make their daily reports over those long spring and summer months. Madden and EA's partnership with ESPN has also helped springboard the latter's newest web venture, ESPN Video Games, the fruit of another partnership with 1up.com that ESPN hopes will become your one stop shop for all things sports gaming. And what might you find there? How about write-ups of simulations of this week's games run through Madden 07?

As has been their charge ever since John Madden lent his name to Electronics Arts, the game's developers strive for realism, and that pays off in a football simulation that now so closely approximates the true NFL experience that Dan Shanoff can declare "Virtual is the new reality," and ESPN can use simple game simulations as content. It shouldn't come as a surprise that many of us take our Madden Franchises or Superstars so seriously - we're just well informed consumers getting our football fix. Besides, in the real world, when my Eagles screw up, all I can do is scream myself hoarse at Andy Reid. Madden 07 offers me the chance to send him packing. It might be virtual, but it can still be therapeutic.

Jon Schnaars is a freelance writer with interests in genre and representation in gaming. He blogs full-time about issues in psychology and mental health for Treatment Online.

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