I don’t know if I can completely put into words how much Madden, as a video game series, means to me. Any single way this comes out, it’s going to sound like moneyhats for all my love for the Wii version of the game for the past five years. I’ve had a long-standing video-game-journalism-morality-concept of “If I sincerely enjoy a game, I will always let people know if I can.” I’ll usually do it in writing, but sometimes it extends past that. And yes, sometimes that gets me great future coverage and trips to California and Florida, but I stick to my guns. If the game disappoints, I won’t beat around the bush. If the game winds up being shitty, I’ll be clear about it (see: Academy of Champions).
But most of those games (Mushroom Men Wii, Mutant Mudds, Bit.Trip Runner) were all things I discovered while writing for Nintendo World Report. For me, Madden goes much further back. I’ve been playing Madden games in some capacity since like 1993. That means I’ve been playing Madden for like 20 years. That also means that the fact that my writing and critique had an impact on the Wii version of the game is probably the coolest thing that could happen to me outside of actually working on the game (or like, interviewing Tony Hawk waitaminute…).
It started off very honest and sincere. I started at NWR in 2008, and I tried my damnedest to reach out to EA on behalf of the site and get on the EA press bandwagon. It was something that was insurmountable. But, I really wanted a Madden review copy. Things didn’t quite work out that way, though. I wound up buying a copy of Madden NFL 2009 and reviewing it that way. I enjoyed it.
At my first EA NYC press event, which I still don’t really remember how we got invited to it (thanks Nick DiMola!), I chatted with someone on Tiburon about the Wii version of Madden, which was a hands-off demo. This was the big redesign year. Everything I heard was music to my ears. I really wanted to play this game.
At E3 2009, my first E3, I did. It tucked away in the Nintendo booth, and most people ignored it. I went there to chill every now and then and just play the demo over and over again. I ended up talking with a producer at EA, exchanged cards, and successfully landed a review copy for the Wii version that year. (Brief side note: Since then, NWR has had consistent contact with EA. Something that, from what I heard previously, was near impossible to obtain.)
At an EA event right before NBA Jam Wii came out, I ran into the Madden PR rep, who made a comment to me about how “we’ll have to get you down to meet the team” regarding Madden 11 on Wii. That sounded awesome, but I doubt it would actually happen.
In May 2010, right after I graduated college, it happened. I was flown down to Orlando, spent a day talking to the team at Tiburon, seeing all kinds of crazy awesome things. It was one of the greatest gaming-related projects I’ve ever worked on. The thrill of seeing everything related to a Wii game of which its predecessor I sincerely loved was awe-inspiring. Dreaming up and putting into action the feature that followed was even better. Ironically, I wound up scoring Madden NFL 11 the harshest out of the four Madden Wii games I reviewed. My quote is still on the second run of the box art, though. :)
To cap that Madden feature off, my beloved Packers won the Super Bowl that ensuing year.
In 2011, I still had my chance to talk with a Madden developer and see how they really listened to my critiques, as I had a phone interview with the lead designer of Madden 12, which was still a fantastic game. Madden 13 on Wii wound up being almost the same game as the previous edition, but even still, NWR’s Andy Goergen dug it, which was wonderful to see. I now look forward to seeing what the Wii U game turns out to be.
I have a sappy postscript to all this voracious Madden Wii love. If you got this far, cool. I visited my grandma with my dad during the summer of 2011. It was, sadly, the last time I visited my grandma in such a fashion before she died (I still saw her, but at family gatherings and such). I had the opportunity, when we were at a Best Buy entertaining the possibility of getting her a new TV, to show her my quote on the back of the box of Madden 11 on Wii. My grandma was a wonderful person, though she was stubborn as all hell and thought my brother might be gay because he worked at a library. Needless to say, telling her I was real passionate about writing about video games wasn’t a big selling point. Being able to show her that tangible product that said “hey, what you’re doing might not be that important, but some folks actually give a shit about what you say and think” was wonderful.
So yea, Madden on Wii reminds me of grandma in a really weird way. The world is very weird.