He is the one who sacks

(Note: Due to the missed deadline last week, I am switching my normal schedule of “On the Tabletop” on Tuesday and “Digital Playground on Thursday. Today, I will Break Madden in the digital playground and Thursday I will pit DC vs. Marvel Heroclix on the tabletop. This change is also necessitated by the fact that I will not own the Heroclix until tomorrow.)

As with most information over the last four years, I learned about Breaking Madden from a podcast. It was either a slow news cycle or they were trying to lighten things because of the heavy news out of the NFL. Either way, Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen did a segment on the series a couple of weeks ago. If they were trying to add more fun and humor to a suddenly morbid sports world, then they succeeded. I laughed through the entire segment, went to visit the page, and mentioned it to Chris during our nightly Facebook conversation.

Always on the lookout for new and fresh entertainment options since jettisoning cable, I still wasn’t sure that Breaking Madden would become regular viewing for me. Last year’s Super Bowl was an absolute abortion from the first snap, but do you wonder how bad it could have gotten if the Seahawks were 7 foot tall, 400 pound behemoths against 5 foot, 160 pound stick men Denver Broncos? Of course you do and so do I, but is that really enough to sustain over the long run? The Seahawks will destroy the Broncos even more, probably to the point where the game can no longer tally the score because the name of the series is Breaking Madden after all.

Aside from a title that pays homage to my favorite television show and the promise of an even bigger butt whipping in the Super Bowl, Breaking Madden did not seem to offer enough to warrant more than the few laughs elicited by the podcast segment. Then came the piece de resistance, the coup de grace, the “insert inappropriate French saying that clearly doesn’t mean what I think it means” of the segment. This Super Bowl of epic proportions broke Madden to such a degree that I need to keep watching now to see if it can ever be topped. Before I discuss that, though, and you go to the page to see it (and you will because nothing I say to describe it will do it any justice. You have to see it to fully experience the joyrror – a term that I just coined to describe both joy and terror), I will give you some background on the games and my experience breaking them.

In case you don’t already know, Madden is the increasingly realistic NFL game from EA Sports. Thy have also made a NASCAR, NBA, NHL, MLB, and golf game. Their slogan is, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.” Even with the focus on realism, it is still a computer program and subject to bugs and glitches. As the years have passed, the glitches have become less game breaking and more graphical or situational, but part of the fun of video games is finding the weird exploits and glitches.

I remember a football game, probably on the Atari 2600, that allowed you run through your own end zone to circle back onto the opposing end zone for an easy touchdown. Playing Monday Night Football on my Commodore 64, I discovered a similar issue where during kick returns, you could run your player 10 or 20 yards behind where he caught the ball and then rush to and up the sidelines for a touchdown every single time. If you ever played Mutant League Football, you know that you could win every game without scoring a point by tackling the opposing quarterbacks until they exploded and the other team had to forfeit. Madden, and EA’s other sports titles, have heralded a new age in realism in computer sports games. As a result, it became more of a challenge to find those oddities like Bo Jackson being able to run twice as fast as every other player in the game. More often than not, you have to manufacture those results through manipulation of the settings in the game.

I don’t have much experience in that aspect. Sure, as the Noob of All Trades, I play against the game on Rookie level and turn the more boring penalties down to make the games as easy and quick as possible. As a result, most of the glitches that I’ve witnessed in the game revolve around a polygon arm or leg reflected across the wrong axis or a ball being magically attracted to a receiver’s hand due to a faulty collision system. I haven’t figured out how to replicate the strange happenings of Monday Night Football or the Atari game that allowed you to wrap the whole screen. I’ve certainly never been a part of the bizarre behavior in Breaking Madden.

I said that I would never be able to describe it to give you the appropriate level of joyrror. The guys on Hang Up and Listen used the word totem, an offering by the game to the player that it had been well and truly broken. Earlier I described the game as an abortion. I worried about using that word for obvious reasons, but it is the only appropriate word given the outcome. During the game, an abortion appeared at midfield. It looked like the game birthed a half Seahawk/half Bronco fetus like figure at the 50-yard line. The thing is an absolute abomination and it stalks my nightmares to this day. My curiosity proved too strong. So may yours. You have been warned.

Life has gotten in the way and I have to catch up on the latest episodes to see what comes next. Breaking Madden has definitely found a place into my schedule as regular viewing. I recommend that you check it out, too, just avoid last year’s Super Bowl. In addition to the monstrosity at midfield, the page should be investigated by Amnesty International for crimes against humanity for what the virtual Seahawks did even though they are computer models.

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