In college dorm rooms and basements across the country, football fans and video game enthusiasts alike love nothing more than firing up the Xbox and playing as their favorite National Football League team in a game of Madden, the popular video game franchise.
Any Madden player will testify that the thrill of a last-second touchdown pass to down your opponent while your friends cheer you on can be more exciting than the game’s real-life counterpart.
At the Museum of the Moving Image, you can relive all of those heroic virtual victories and painful defeats at the hands of your trash-talking friends with the new “Madden: 25 Years and Running” exhibit.
With each corner of the exhibit set up like a living room dating back to the time period when the five different playable versions of Madden NFL came out, visitors have their choice of eras to hark back to.
For those who either weren’t yet born or want to recall what video games a quarter-century ago were like, 1988’s John Madden Football, the series’ first installment, can be played on the Apple II.
Instead of a flat-screen TV, visitors will play the game much like it was played in the 1980s, sitting in lawn chairs while the action unfolds on an old, box television.
Those who want to try Madden NFL 1994 should be careful not to hit the Sega Genesis the game is played on. The cartridge is held in place with strings, reminiscent of the innovation of kids desperate to get their game to work.
For the modern gamer accustomed to balling out in style, the museum has a comfortable leather couch, like ones found in the average living room, that visitors can sit on while playing Madden NFL 25, the newest version of the game, on the state-of-the-art Xbox One console.
Museum Executive Director Carl Goodman thinks the exhibit will be a hit with gamers and football fans, two demographics that normally don’t frequent museums.
“We’ve been collecting and exhibiting games for 25 years when we determined video games were a growing medium that deserves attention,” Goodman said. “We think we can attract attention from people who wouldn’t otherwise go to the museum.”
To help drum up interest in the sports-centric video game exhibit, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk joined Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton, Madden NFL 2004 cover athlete Michael Vick, game developer Dave Swanson and Andrew Anthony, the “voice of EA Sports,” on a panel last week to discuss the history of the franchise, spanning 25 successful years.
Swanson, an EA Sports employee since 1995, never dreamed that the game, which has sold more than 100 million copies, would grow to what it is today.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Swanson said. “I was the eighth person there when I was hired and now we have over 100 people. It’s been an amazing ride.”
Newton and Vick themselves took to the “sticks” to try out the exhibit, dueling in a game of Madden NFL 1994.
Faulk, a Super Bowl champion and Madden NFL 2003’s cover athlete, still remembers seeing himself for the first time in 1996’s version of the game.
“It’s the first thing you go to,” Faulk said. “You want to see what your ratings are and play as yourself. And the minute you fumble, you yell ‘I don’t do that!’”
Like Newton, who joked that his character’s speed in the game should be much higher than 85, Faulk joked that, from a player’s standpoint, there were always some problems with the game.
“Once you get experience, you say ‘OK, these ratings, they have to do something with these damn ratings,’” he said. “Unless it was a 100 rating, you always questioned it.”
While Faulk and Newton were the panel’s primary speakers, Anthony drew a crowd during the interview portion of the event as well.
The man behind the game company’s memorable tagline, “EA Sports, it’s in the game,” when its games are turned on, he, like Swanson, still can’t believe how popular Madden, and his voiceover, have become.
“When I first recorded it 22 years ago, I thought nothing of it,” Anthony said. “Twenty-two years later, it’s a phenomenon.”