The summer months of June and July are the slowest in the sports world. The NBA season is over, meaningful football games are more than 2 months away, and the boring game of baseball continues to become more unwatchable as time passes. Instead of joining the entitled white male over 50 crowd watching baseball games via an over-priced cable service on a standard definition TV, I am going to take a break from watching sports.
I may sneak in a CFL game on the WatchESPN app, or keep up with the strange collection of international “sports” being played in a disease riddled country known as the Olympics, but other than that, nothing (oh yea, and UFC 200, not much of a sabbatical now that I think about it). Like all of the other overweight, socially awkward kids who love the game of football but were too terrified to play it, I am going to play Madden.
A lot of Madden.
My first exposure to the powerful football simulator can be documented back to August 1998. On my eighth birthday I experienced the overwhelming joy of receiving an Nintendo 64. With it I received one game, Madden 64. I had no idea who the pear shaped man wearing a suit on the cover of the game was, but I assumed his name was Madden and based on what he was holding in his pudgy hand, he liked football.
From my limited recollection, I didn’t care about the cake, other gifts, or attention I was getting from all of my family and friends after opening the 64. I wanted them all to leave so I could hook it up and see what this Madden guy was all about.
I had no idea how to play the game but the graphics were 3D, (I had only played a Game Boy before this) John Madden shouted silly things after big plays, and the Green Bay green jerseys (this game didn’t have the license to use team names) were in the game. Before Super Mario 64, Mario Party 2, Goldeneye, Cruisn’ USA, Beatle Adventure Racing, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, all I played was Madden 64. I received other football games like NFL Quarterback Club (Brett Favre was on the cover of these games for a long stretch) but receiving the new Madden every year for Christmas continued until I was old enough to drive and buy the game on its release date in August.
I didn’t dive deep into the content of game until Madden 2003 when I discovered franchise mode and create a player. Ever since that cold December evening in 2002 in my room listening to the rebellious alternative rock soundtrack in the game and mastering minicamp drills, I was hooked. Every year since then I would get the game, start a franchise and play every game through the end of the career. Drafting rookies, signing free agents, managing cap space, hiring coaches, trading players, building new stadiums, I ran a football team. It was, and still is very addicting.
I played a lot of sports games growing up, NBA Live, MVP Baseball, MLB the Show, NFL Street, NFL Blitz, NCAA football and basketball, and various 2K sports games including the legendary NFL 2K5. As I got older and expanded my video game horizons, I found that I had less time and desire to play all of those sports games. Now I only get one sports game a year, Madden.
I own every mainline Madden game except for the first two which were released on the Apple II computer (this isn’t a difficult feat, they are all extremely cheap). From 1998 through present day I have bought or was given that years’ edition of the game. Before I discovered Amazon and same day delivery, I waited in line at Wal-Mart or Meijer at midnight for the release of the game four years in a row from 2006 – 2009. Six years ago I visited the local used video game stores and bought the Super NES versions of Madden 91’ through 96’.
Annualized video game franchises have a reputation of being exploitative. I irrationally despise franchises with annual releases like Call of Duty and Assassins Creed, but I used to defend the yearly sports games. Nearly every new release within the video game generation saw a few minor changes to game play and roster updates. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s video game consoles didn’t utilize the internet in the way they do now and roster patches were not feasible. Now it is indefensible. The new version of Madden that comes out every year is just a cash grab. I have been brainwashed for the past 17 years and probably won’t stop buying every new installment. Personally I believe a new Madden should be released every two years but that is a topic for another time. For now I am self-aware victim of nostalgia and tradition.
I have never gone back and played the previous versions of Madden after the new one has been released and besides playing with them for a short period of time to make sure they worked, I have never sat down and played the old Super NES Madden games. That is what I plan to do with this dull sports summer, revisit every mainline Madden game and one sentimental spin off game, Madden 64.