This is my second excursion into areas of gaming I’m fairly clueless about. For this one I really wanted to get lost, to really get out of my depth; where better to do that than sport? I’m not a sporty person in fact I don’t even fully know the rules of any sport. I was the teenager who always brought a note to P.E explaining I couldn’t take part, I had to go do extra computer work and had a noted signed by my IT teacher to prove it. It was only sometimes forged, promise. Laziness and health issues weren’t the reasons for my distaste. My issue was competitive play, I’m just not bothered about winning or losing. Everyone else it seems was, especially when it came to the mainstream Football (soccer). In the UK, and many counties around the world, being a young lad not wanting to play football was considered weird, I quickly got tired of being labelled as such and came to resent the sport. Shortly after I ceased to care about sport at all.
Raised in a culture obsessed with Football I couldn’t help but accumulate some knowledge along the way, even now I know more about football than any other sport. In my younger years I even played the odd round of Fifa with friends, mostly because that’s all they’d play. When I thought about playing a sports game my mind immediately jumped to Fifa ’15. It’s been years since I played; I would undoubtedly suck and know startlingly little – I still don’t understand the offside rule. But for this to be an adventure I felt I really needed to get lost in the weeds, I wanted to know nothing of where I’m going. That’s why I decided not to take up Fifa, but rather Madden – it’s American Football (just football to my American pals) counterpart. Americans reading this will probably find my ignorance hilarious, my fellow Europeans will be as lost me; regardless this should be a good laugh for everyone involved.
Madden ’15 provided me its first challenge before I’d even started playing, trying to get my hands on a copy in the UK. No one really acknowledges American Football’s existence so Madden is a rarity. Every shop near my home in Newcastle elected to either not stock it or keep one “just in case an odd ball comes in” copy for a pretty hefty price. Eventually I coughed up the money finding one for the reasonable cost of RRP. I bought it from a shop assistant who looked at me with eyes that said “really!?” If I do inspire you to take up this challenge be mindful Madden ’15 is on sale on the PlayStation store for just £25 right now. Copy in hand I booted it up, ready to play my first sports game in over ten years. At least it wasn’t flipping Fifa.
A loading screen popped up with some friendly advice as I waited patiently, “press ‘x’ to grab in scrimmage range” it read. Scrimmage? What the hell did that even mean? To me, someone who knows literally not even the first thing about American football I was daunted. I’d been immediately confronted by a word that looked make believe, it read like a toddler trying to say rib cage. Evidently this was going to be a longer road than I had thought. Madden then sought to pump me up. It played a motivational video, players clad in their armour making impossible catches, charging through rivals and just generally being bad ass. All of this narrated by giants of the game, legendary players. At least that’s what I assume really I didn’t know. I just felt confused, that probably wasn’t their intention. May bad.
The next load screen came to an end; I was standing in a stadium ready to take part in my first ever match: Seahawks vs Patriots. I was thankful I knew the two teams involved, even if admittedly that’s because they were mentioned around gifs of dancing sharks. Oh, and movie star bets between Captain America and Star Lord. This must be the first tutorial I thought. I was wrong, Madden ’15 assumed I knew the gig already, presuming I’d played one of the 1,000 earlier iterations. Okay, that’s probably a fair assumption. Picture this, if you will. Crowds cheering in admiration, the final minutes of the game, all or nothing. They approach me, “Dan, it’s up to you” they say “only you can win the match and bring the trophy home to us, which ever side we are. You’ve not really looked have you?”. I confess I hadn’t properly paid attention. Mostly because I was too busy panicking that I didn’t know the rules.
I won’t go into details; suffice it to say we didn’t win the cup, and I haven’t really got an idea of what happened. I was glad that initial embarrassment was over. Now though Madden wanted know just who was my favourite team. Like I said, I only really know two teams and neither of their logo’s where particularly cool. Selecting off logo alone I ended up at the bird one, my favorite team was now the Baltimore Ravens. Go Ravens! When the main menu loaded for the first time I headed straight over to the practice drills to actually learn what I was doing. Also maybe I’d learn what scrimmage was.
For my first lesson I was going to learn how to pass, seems like a natural starting point. First up a lob pass. Tap the button to pass to the relevant player, no problems. Next the bullet pass, hold the button to pass to the relevant player, easy. My gaming side find this laughable, the sports side couldn’t really figure out the difference between passes. I was getting gold medals though after a couple of attempts, so I didn’t care. At one point I lobbed the ball down field, the pass connected and the player ran straight in for a touch down. I instinctively fist pumped, I was already getting into Madden more than I’d anticipated. I had passing was in the bag, next up was attacking.
Now I was actually attacking defensive lines. Learning how to control and use the acceleration burst feature to make a touch down. It strangely rewarding and more visceral than I’d imagined. In the UK we have a tendency to scoff at the idea American football. We mock their armour saying “rugby players don’t need that, Americans are soft”. But I was beginning to understand, if they went on without the gear with the frequency and ferocity of which the teams clash, well some one would be hospitalized every game. Moving on to defense my new found respect was further cemented, I was tackling rivals with ruthless intent. Hours of practice passed by and I was starting to find a strange fondness for the NFL. Learning tactics and field positions was, and still is, beyond my mental limit. But I enjoyed the tactics and urgency of the game.
Playing Madden really surprised me. I was quite taken by the sport of American Football, that in itself is just really unusual. There’s an intense level of tactics and a suffocating urgency to make decisions that makes games really enjoyable compared to the comparatively leisurely pace of football. I’ve went on long enough, you’ve seem my impressions of the sport change. You’ve heard me struggle to get to grips. Next time I’ll be talking about my first ever tournament and playing real games. Oh and how I know what scrimmage is now.
In the meantime if your from Europe or the UK and want to play some games, or I’ve inspired you to maybe give Madden a go then leave a comment here. We could arrange a clueless championship. May the team with the coolest logo win.