John Madden: A pioneer in sports entertainment

Written by corres2

Football legend John Madden passed away on Tuesday at the age of 85. The former player, coach and broadcaster had an impact on the lives of millions of sports fans across the world. Perhaps Madden will be most remembered for what his smash hit video game franchise did to popularize the sport he loved.

The Madden video game series made its debut on personal computer platforms in 1988. From there, the series then entered the mainstream home entertainment arena in 1990 with the release of “John Madden Football” for the Sega Genesis console.

Being old enough to have played Madden during the early years of series, the game was not only fun, but it was revolutionary when compared to other football simulation games of the era. I can recall playing Madden ’92 and being amazed at how users could now play games in different weather conditions. Football video games prior to Madden did not give gamers the option of playing in snow, rain and wind.

The vast array of available offensive and defensive plays also stood out to me as a pre-teen playing Madden. For the first time ever, I learned what a nickel and dime defense was. Offensive formations such as shotgun, the I-formation and singleback were totally foreign to me as a young football fan before experiencing Madden. Calling audibles at the line of scrimmage added yet another wrinkle to the game that allowed fans to feel like a part of the action. Competing simulation games at the time simply did not feature such intricate details unique to football.

Another innovation of Madden was the fact that the video game reflected the differing ability levels of each player. For example, football fans understand current Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has far more speed and agility than former Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. As a result, Jackson is programmed to move faster than Flacco in Madden. Prior to the Madden franchise, these two players would move at the same pace in most football simulation games of the time.

I also recall in early versions of Madden that historic teams were added to the game for the first time. I found it not only fun, but very educational to play with teams and players before my time. The 1958 Baltimore Colts, the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1972 Miami Dolphins were among the historic teams available to gamers in early 90s Madden editions. I first learned of legendary running back Jim Brown when my father pulverized my defense with No. 32 on the 1964 Cleveland Browns during a game of Madden ’94.

The innovations did not stop there. In Madden ’96, users could create their own player for the first time. In fact, player’s in-game attributes were determined by how well certain drills were performed during the creation of a new player. The 40-yard dash, as well as position specific drills were added to the game.

In later editions of Madden, the popular “franchise mode” gave users the opportunity to play multiple seasons as one team. In an effort to mirror a typical NFL offseason, advanced scouting and yearly drafts were used to replenish the roster. Free agency and player retirements became a staple of the game as well; aspects that were simply overlooked in most other football simulations prior to Madden.

As a Super Bowl winning head coach, Madden used his football insight to add real life elements to the video game world. His trademark charm and charisma was also on full display in the Madden series with phrases such as “boom” and “whap” added in his voice-over role for the game.

Through his work developing the popular simulation franchise, John Madden gave common fans like me an inside look on the sport that was previously unavailable to the public. With decades of enjoyment playing Madden on multiple consoles, I also became a more knowledgable fan in the process. Because the former coach and broadcaster successfully transferred his love of the sport into the home entertainment genre, I can confidently say that the name Madden will forever be synonomous with the game of football.

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