‘Mom,’ about to get crushed yet again
One of the lovely things about video games is that, with enough ingenuity and determination, you can sometimes transform a game into something more personal and unexpected. For the 2013-2014 NFL season, Jon Bois at SBNation, in his “Breaking Madden” series, has been demonstrating the bewildering variety of forms that the popular NFL simulation Madden NFL 25 can take, by bending—nay breaking—“rules, injury settings, all manner of player ratings, player dimensions, and anything else the game’s developers have made available to us.” On Wednesday he released his special Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl ultra-mod—and it’s a corker with surprisingly emotional resonance. (Denver fans may want to stop reading about now…..)
A wonderful aspect of a highly refined NFL sim of this type is the ability for the player to intervene. Want to create a Barry Sanders clone that looks just like you and bears your name to boot? Have at it! That’s exactly the type of shit EA Sports, producer of Madden NFL 25, wants you to do—it creates unique user satisfactions, and that translates into brand loyalty and towering revenues for EA Sports.
In essence what Bois is doing resembles something that Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix: “It has the same basic rules, rules like gravity. What you must learn is that these rules are no different that the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken. Understand?” Bois is hammering, hard, on the “rules” of an NFL game by maxing out various variables, such as the size and talent of the players, fatigue factors, and so forth. In one game Bois managed to induce 30 fumbles in a single half. In another, he equipped the Patriots with a team full of Tom Bradys and then engineered a situation whereby “Touchdown Tom” (Brady’s new nickname) could come back from a 74-0 halftime deficit.
For Super Bowl XLVIII, Bois’ goal was to generate a “Super Rout” in which one side scored one thousand points in a single game. With the appropriate caveats (as you will see, he wasn’t able to bring the game to completion), he succeeded in doing that. But along the way, Madden NFL 25 generated something far more poignant than a mere ultra-lopsided machina football game.
Bois’ idea was to create a Seahawks team full of massive, athletically gifted super-behemoths and make the Broncos a squad of puny weaklings. (Worry not, Broncos fans: Bois’ reasons for choosing the Seahawks to be the winning team were scrupulously fair; it just happened to work out that way.) Bois invited readers to submit personal names for all of the players on the two teams (with a real-life charity component), which is why the Broncos’ QB ended up being called “Mom.”
To get the whole picture of what happened, I heartily recommend reading Bois’ piece; it’s crammed with animated graphics, and they really paint a picture. I also recommend watching Bois’ video preview linked below, if you’re having trouble following what’s going on or why it matters, it’s very helpful.
As expected, Bois’ Seahawks dominated every play to a phenomenal degree. Before the first quarter was even over, the Seahawks were winning 366 to zero. Every Broncos play was resulting in a fumble, and every Seahawks play was resulting in a touchdown. The Broncos were outmatched to an extent that would never be imaginable in real life.
But weird things were happening along the way. An inordinate number of the Seahawks kickoffs were striking the hind quarters of the Broncos return personnel—in other words, bouncing off their asses. Beyond that, after a while Madden NFL ceased being able to tally the score accurately. At one point the score was both 255-0 and 266-0 according to different displays, and Bois says neither score was actually the correct one at that juncture. Even weirder, the Broncos players stopped trying (!), which is more or less what you’d expect to happen in real life but not in a computer simulation. At one point Madden NFL 25 called a false start penalty even though Bois had turned off penalties for the game. There’s a reason Bois titled his writeup “The Machine Is Bleeding to Death.”
The magnificent ending to all of this occurred just before the end of the first quarter. Bois called for a replay of that weird shouldn’t-have-been penalty, and instead of a replay the system produced, perched alone on the 50-yard line, a single hybrid fetus player in the center of the field. It was vaguely equine-looking. You can see it above. The ... “player” was wearing both Seahawks and Broncos gear at the same time, and didn’t have the four limbs one expects from a humanoid figure. Madden NFL 25 had coughed up a creature out of any number of David Cronenberg movies, and the experiment’s facile similarities to Videodrome were only part of the eerie, weird beauty Bois had managed to wring out of the game.
At that point, interpreting the odd football fetus-creature as something akin to Madden NFL 25 crying “uncle,” Bois invoked the mercy rule and stopped the game.
Speaking for myself, Bois’ article was the only bit of pre-Super Bowl commentary that induced a surprising reaction in me; I enjoyed the hell out of it. And I’m putting down $50 on a 366-0 Seahawks victory at Vegas…...