"Who Makes These Kinds of Things?" Dynamics of Power in Madden NFL
by Elysia Galindo-Ramirez — Pennsylvania State University
March 25, 2017 – 09:55
Madden NFL is currently one of the most successful sport video game series on the market, with new games released on a yearly basis. In selling a franchise where new entries features gameplay that is rarely all that different from the previous year’s game, promo videos released in support of it place a heavy emphasis on its authenticity (the game includes real players and teams) and dramatic potential. In the linked video, rookie NFL players are asked to guess their specific numerical ratings on a variety of factors (for example throw accuracy or throw power) and then, in the latter half of the video, told their actual rating. In all cases, the guesses were too high, although multiple players come very close. However, near accurate guesses are not framed any differently than much further off ones. The players featured all take offense in ways that are humorously framed—“Y’all came in here to make fun of me”, “That’s fucked up”, and, one of the most frequently heard responses, “Who makes these kind of things?”This video may be but one of many promotional videos released in support of the game (others include one in which Von Miller, over a musical track reminiscent of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”, encourages players to “Start Me” and build their defense around him), but in asking “who makes these kind of things”, it touches upon a trend within physical, offline sport that is taken to an even greater extreme within the sports video game. The numbers used in the game are collected from a variety of sources, including the NFL scouting combine. This event, in which players are identified by numbers rather their names and in which their performance in a variety of physical challenges is meticulously recorded has been described by Thomas P. Oates and Meenakshi Gigi Durham in “The Mismeasure of Masculinity” as a key component in a draft system that transforms the athletic body into a commodity that can be bought, sold, and traded. In a game world where players are invited to not simply play professional football, but to become both player and manager, to trade players and to train them, it is difficult not to see this as the ultimate extension of the draft itself, as a mechanism through which fans are taught to accept and embrace the corporate logics that govern the lives of actual athletes within the NFL.