This year’s edition of the NFL’s carefully controlled videogame product focuses on QB1, a thin story concerning a college player pushed into a starting spot in his senior year – one game before the National Championship. Then, into the NFL, of course.
It’s sports fantasy drivel, thinly formed but allowing people to live vicariously through a videogame avatar. There’s a reason no videogame sports adaptation focuses on say, an aging player near retirement, dealing with the health impacts, injuries, and slowly eroding skills. That’s too real, and despite EA’s longtime branding, not really in the game.
Madden 20’s aim is the power fantasy, the flash, the style that makes the NFL – the brand – appeal to mass audiences. Newly added signature skills – X-Factors, joining jargon like Vision Cone passing from prior years – further enhance skillsets. On the official roster, only a few players in the whole of the NFL have them; QB1 offers one to your rookie at the onset of his NFL playing days. It’s equivalent to pacifying the angry dad spewing verbal bile on the sidelines of a pee-wee football game – never note his kid made a mistake, because he’s perfect. Dad said so, because in reality, dad wanted that dream.
In that sense, even with a thin connective tissue of between game text message exchanges and a cancer-stricken girl idolizing Mr. QB1, Madden 20 becomes comically sappy.