On Tuesday, Electronic Arts
released Madden NFL 13, the latest annual version of their long-running
and best-selling video game. Like every year, the company tried to build hype
for the game by hosting midnight release parties at stores, sponsoring
tournaments and celebrating "Maddenoliday,"
a day upon which people call in sick to work or school to play the game.
And, like every year, the company
touts a series of new features and modifications to the game, all of which are
designed to make the people who shelled out $60 for last year's game do the
same this year.
This year's game is supposedly all-new, replacing the much-despised announcing team of Gus
Johnson and Cris Collinsworth with Jim Nantz and Phil
Simms and adding new animations, menus and game modes.
Having played an early release
version, it's hard to notice the changes to the game. The commentary repeats
itself, the new modes are incomprehensible and the action looks and feels
exactly like Madden NFL 12. Someone who hated that game is unlikely to
be swayed by the new one.
However, the game seems likely to
retain its main reason for existence: to give our nation's unemployed
stay-at-home stoner dads something to do all day while watching their kids.
During several periods of
convalescence or involuntary unemployment over the past 10 years, I was a
member of their ranks, playing a dozen or more games per day while chatting
with my opponent over a Bluetooth headset.
Retailers will take in millions
of dollars from unemployment and welfare checks for the game, as it seems to be
an essential coping tool for our country's long-term jobless people. During
hundreds of game sessions, I've listened as my opponent asked permission to
pause the game in order to roll a joint, scold misbehaving children, take phone calls from an irate spouse or all of those
Nothing on the game cover
explicitly states "Best Played While Stoned," but the majority of
players I've encountered have told me the game works well with a chronic
Any researcher looking to probe
the minds of the chronically unemployed would be better off playing a few
hundred online games of Madden than conducting field interviews. And any
marketer of products aimed at the poor, the disaffected and the stoned should
consider the game as a perfect tool to reach that audience.
Madden fans come from all regions, span all male demographic groups
and share two critical attributes: a devotion to the intricacies of NFL
football and hours of spare time. Our men may not be able to name more than two
presidents or any members of the Supreme Court but, thanks to this game, are
able to debate the effectiveness of the cover-2 defense or the play-action
The other chief attribute of Madden is its utter and complete
effectiveness as an anti-girlfriend device. If you're looking to alienate
and/or annoy your wife or girlfriend, developing a serious Madden habit is the
While that's true of NFL football
and video games in general, the annoyance factor of Madden among females
is exponentially multiplied. It's not hard to see why. A typical online game
lasts about an hour, not counting drug or alcohol breaks. It's also an hour
where no communication is allowed, since the game requires complete
It's also an hour during which
nothing else can be done: no household chores, no online searches for jobs, no
changing of the baby. The game is responsible for at least three breakups I
know personally and probably millions over its 20-year existence.
The first thing I had to give up
when I got married was my Madden
addiction. Our marriage is strong and could survive any number of other forms
of adversity, but even my wife draws the line at Madden. She will endure
a four-hour game on TV under protest but, quite reasonably, will not tolerate
the same amount of video-game football.
In summary, any discussion of Madden NFL 13 must be divided into two
sections, one for males and one for females. For the men: Madden NFL 13 is a very slight improvement over last year's game.
The menus are simplified and the onfield action is more fluid and realistic.
For the women: Yes, he really is
paying $60 for a game whose trade-in value will be less than $5 in six months.
It still takes forever to play a game and, no, he still won't be able to listen
to you, pay attention to you or help you with the house while he's playing it.