Madden VG Legal To Drive, But Cannot Buy Cigarettes Or Alcohol: A Somewhat Tangent-Laden Retrospective
My first copy of Madden was the 1995 edition for the Sega Genesis. Remember the Sega Genesis, Grandpa? I was in the dorms at Eastern Michigan, hours from home, didn't know anybody. It was the only game I could play with the other guys on the floor, even though they were more of a Tecmo Bowl and Bill Walsh College Football crowd. I always wanted to play Madden. This was the first time you could see the numbers on the players' jerseys, but only when they were parallel with the goal line. Outside linebackers often ran away from the quarterback, and the sound effects were so bad, they were mocked by 386 PCs and even some TANDY models. But, between not going to class and trying to get laid, the game was a nice reprieve, and probably my only chance at breaking the ice with the black kids on my floor (that's just how it is).
I didn't buy another version for three years, when I picked up Madden 98 for the PlayStation, back when it was THE PlayStation, and the centerpiece of the Family Basement. The Maddenisms were fresh and actually enjoyable. Pictures of the players appeared with the descriptions of the plays.
J. BLAKE PASS INTERCEPTED.
R. WOODSON INTERCEPTION RETURNED 98 YARDS.
I would play my little brother, who was a total Reset Button Bitch, and would absolutely destroy him regularly, to the point where I had to guard the Reset button every time I scored, but then he would start walking away or, worse, crying like some Little League right fielder (He would eventually enlist in the Army and knock up some girl. Where's your Reset button now, little brother?).
The next millenium, and newer game consoles, would bring even more sweetness to Madden. I was stuck in Real Life for awhile and wouldn't pick up another copy until late 2003, when I got Madden 03 for the PC (yes, nearly a year behind, but it was only 5 bucks), and then the same copy for PS-Uno. I would eventually own or play every subsequent version of Madden from there.
I've hosted and played in tournaments, had Madden parties. We've discussed Madden at work, contemplated the overpricing of the game, compared it to NFL 2k5 (which I contend is superior to M-05 in every significant way) and even played out entire seasons using redrafted rosters. Madden has often been the bridge to friendships and conversations I may not have enjoyed otherwise.
Which is why I get just a little pissed off when people point to the game as an example of the demise of society. Jeff MacGregor was critical of the game in his SI piece last week. A quote:
Without real-world consequences, video games make us no smarter emotionally, and intellect unleavened by empathy is the empty triumph of the technocrat.
And now the English version:
Take the violence out of football, erase the pain given and taken, reduce the grunt and the struggle to the push of a button, eliminate the magnificent inconsistencies of the human heart and its capacity for courage or cowardice, and the game, the war, is no more than a fast-twitch exercise -- a battle fought without personal cost. It is cause without effect, a victory only for technology and opposable thumbs.
So it was the best of chode, the worst of chode? Erase the pain and struggle? Jeff, have you never tried to pin a punt inside your opponent's 5-yard line? Never dodged those little softballs that come after you in the Precision Passing camp drill? Never had to play a whole season with Kenny Watson as your starting tailback? Tried to use that motherfucking passing cone? That, my man, is the essesnce of pain.
What bullshit that is. Everything is push-button these days. This is 2006. Do you wash your clothes in a wooden tub, over one of those boards you see in bluegrass shows? Hell no, you don't. Once technology advances, the skills that that technology replaced are obsolete. You wash your car by hand? Great, I guess, if you have the time. So you can throw a perfect spiral with a real football? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids.
My one gripe about it all may be that Electronic Arts, the caretaker of this noble institution, insists on ass-raping us every year with what amounts to a fifty-dollar roster update. For those of us stuck with our now-obsolete PS2s and XBOXs (XBOXes?), we may not see another significant game improvement for our systems. The XBOX 360 version looks awesome, and after having played the demo in Meijer, functions same. Is $50 too much to pay to finance and partake in this fraternity? It may seem so in terms of up-front cost, but in the greater scheme of things, at least for me, probably not. I have a real job now, I can afford it.
It's not football, but it's close enough. Besides, how else are we going to get close to that real football experience? By going outside?