How Madden NFL Made Football Fans Smarter?

When John Madden Football first hit the shelves in the 90s, it paved the way for a different sports gaming experience. Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo gamers knew that something had changed. But little did they know how the game would transform the way fans view and experience football. 

The game has been around for more than three decades, but it’s still the leader in its niche. It’s arguably still the best sports game on the market, period. It’s definitely the highest-grossing franchise, cobbling together a very healthy $3 billion in total. And in 2021, the game is set to hit record numbers.  

With advanced animations and advanced AI, the game is scarily close to the real thing. Football fans who play the game are no longer armchair viewers, but they are the decision-makers that have an in-depth understanding of what happens on the field. Being invested in the game in this manner surely gives another and upgraded perspective to players. Let’s see how. 

How Madden Transformed Football Fans 

In short: Madden has made football fans smarter. They often know more than commentators, who, let’s face it, are mostly full of cliches and superficial information. The game has given them a coach’s perspective of football, an analytical approach that was previously almost impossible. Now, when they talk about football, they can see it more through the professional lens, which is letting them decide what team they will follow, and plan not only their gameplay but their eventual investments as well.  

That being said, Madden not only shaped the minds of the fans and punters but has even changed the sports gambling industry as well, with companies having to employ experts to finely tune football bets, as fans were increasingly able to take advantage of minor discrepancies in odds. Sports betting guides like WSN are now being used in a 1-2 punch alongside Madden to gain an edge. By checking out WSN’s top NFL picks and betting odds combined with understanding football tactics in more depth thanks to the game, punters can ensure a good wager. 

The biggest change arguably came in 2005. This is when Anthony White, one of the game’s designers, introduced the now legendary ‘Football Concepts’ in the Skill Trainer section of Madden. It’s effectively an introduction to coaching, something never seen before in a football game. 

It essentially teaches players how to approach tactical setups, and even how to preempt the opposition’s moves. This is all done through an interactive approach, which is a far more effective way of learning than simply reading a book or watching a YouTube analysis video of an actual game. Just like in real life, here you need to make deliberate decisions that will influence the rest of the game. Players basically ‘train’ their brains to think analytically. 

It was originally developed simply to give the gamer a more enjoyable experience. With Madden becoming more than just a button masher type of game, with advanced options and more buttons, gamers needed to be given a more in-depth tutorial. 

Designers never intended it to become an interactive football coach, but that’s what it’s become. Some football coaches, at the lower levels at least, even encourage their players to use Madden to gain an understanding of football tactics. 

Where Madden Designers Found Inspiration 

When Madden released the first iteration of their Skill Trainer, they realized they were onto a winner. Designers decided they needed to level it up a notch, making it even easier for players to learn complex tactics via the game. 

What’s better than talking to the best coaches in the country? In The Making of NCAA Football, Madden creators got together with Cardinal coach David Shaw, Pep Hamilton (offensive coordinator), and Mike Bloomgren (offensive line coach). 

Madden designers were able to extract how coaches teach complex plays and tactics to players, without filling their heads full of information. By using route concepts first (e.g. the curl-flat combo) and applying them to varying formations, players will digest information far more easily. 

The result? Players are now able to employ offensive plays in Madden 15, by taking the route concepts approach. And that’s just one example. The company is always trying to stay one step ahead, giving players the most realistic experience possible. 

Never Stop Evolving 

The reason Madden is still head and shoulders above the competition is that it has never stopped evolving. Anthony White is still very much involved with the game and is still the best in the business in what he does. With his background in computer technology, he is able to blend his now excellent knowledge of football coaching with gameplay acumen. 

Madden designers now have an entire facility available to develop the game. In the football off-season, the company invites coaches from all over the country to help take the game to the next level. 

The goal that Madden has is to give players the most realistic experience possible, developing AI, tactics, and visuals to make you feel like you’re actually there. If a player decides to go through an entire season, he’ll be able to run the exact plays the pros use. 

This means that through an entire season, a gamer can end up going through over one thousand plays. That’s a heck of a lot of football knowledge being crammed into a single player’s internal database. 

The plays even change every year, keeping up with tactical developments within the game. For example, in 2018, the Browns employed a pre-snap motion, which was then adopted by other teams through that season. Designers quickly updated the game to reflect this change. 

Finishing Line

This means that the average player, as long as they have the latest version of Madden, will have one of the most advanced training systems available. Who knew that a video game could end up being a tactical analysis tool? And it still remains to be seen what kind of game Madden NFL will be developed to be

With all the technical development, and new technologies being used, are we within reach of a game that will officially be used as the valid training tool for NFL players, coaches, and fans, and punters accordingly? Such a sequence of events would definitely add new layers to the overall NFL world and is something many of us would greet with open hands. 

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