Thanks to fans and foes


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

marijuana habit.

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

quickest path.

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.


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