Illustration by Andy Potts


Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden is known to generations of gridiron fans as the man behind EA SPORTS’ MADDEN video game franchise.

It’s an annual rite of late summer: fans dressed in ​assorted jerseys and merchandise from their favorite teams stand in line, waiting to experience a new season of NFL football. But these fans aren’t tailgating outside of an NFL stadium. They’re lined up in front of video game retailers like ­GameStop or Best Buy, waiting for the clock to strike ­midnight. Madden NFL 25 came out on Aug. 27, and many people took a ­“Maddenoliday” or called in sick so they could start the season early.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Electronic Arts Inc.’s John Madden NFL Football franchise, which has sold more than 100 million copies since Madden and EA founder Trip Hawkins first conceived turning the sport into a PC game.

“Our original idea for this game was that, some day, everyone was going to have a computer, and they were going to want to do other things on the computer beyond word processing and the few things that you could do back then,” says Madden, who remains active in developing the perennial best-seller. “There were virtually no video game consoles when we started, and video games weren’t even popular back then like they are today.”

Madden, who was a broadcaster at the time, used the hours he spent on trains traveling from city to city drawing up real plays for the game with Hawkins. Madden said his goal with the original John Madden Football game was to create a tool for coaching and teaching.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones is one of many incoming NFL rookies who is using Madden NFL 13 to help prepare for the transition from college to professional football. He says the video game helps players learn the different offensive and defensive schemes of teams. EA Sports Tiburon, the Orlando, Fla.-based developer behind the game, works with NFL coaches, owners and players to incorporate authentic team playbooks into the game (leaving out just enough real information to prevent the game from aiding opposing teams on the real football field).

“Using these playbooks teaches you a lot about the teams and what they run,” Jones explains. “A lot of gamers just pick the team or players because they’re fans, but if you actually know what’s going on, this game is very helpful.”