How Do Sets Of Pixels Get Concussions, Anyway?

04.06.11 7 years ago 39 Comments

It’s probably premature to be discussing Madden NFL 12 amid all of the lawsuits and injunctions that we just know aren’t going to be in that year’s game, but there’s one new “feature” coming out that, in its own special way, kinda p:sses me off. In the new game, players will be able to get concussions during games, and will not be able to return, as players with other injuries could.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re worried about all of those other video game athletes that hadn’t paid attention to the new information in the news about head injuries in football. Whatever happened to those poor sets of pixels that continued to “play” through their “head” “injuries” in games of yore? Did they just wander over to “Hospital Tycoon” and run up a bunch of medical debt?

This really should not be that big a deal. Even players in this year’s game got career-ending concussions, and most of us can even shut injuries off entirely. The effect on the game-as described in the post-will be minimal. So why make a big deal about it now?

But this really just feels like another battle in the showdown between the “new math” camp and the Let’s Just Make Everybody Play Touch Football set. It’s a slice of PR wedged into our regular entertainment, and I have mixed feelings about that. Nobody could dispute that fewer concussions–and better attention to those that do happen–would be better for the game. And while big hits in football are enjoyable and awesome, watching a guy die on the field would probably be the opposite of that.

But the talk of “culture change” in football is like a bad joke, and adding the punchline into the NFL’s video game franchise doesn’t improve the punchline. Could this be the beginning of a trend? Will we have warning messages in future Call Of Duty games regarding gun safety? What about practicing safe coitus in The Sims? Will we be instructing players in future Super Mario Bros. installments to NOT CLIMB THROUGH THE PIPES IN THEIR HOUSE?

Concussions are bad. We get it. Some players decide to put their lives in their own hands and play through concussions. We get it. Former players often suffer brain damage even if repeated head trauma wasn’t terribly severe, and even suffer dementia and die.

We don’t need this message beaten into our brains any more than we already have. Pun intended.

And it’s even worse since there’s plenty of other shit to fix in that game. What about that kickoff animation that looks like something out of Black Swan? That kicker doesn’t need a tee, he needs a tutu. Make GameFlow mandatory on first and second downs for online play in the first three quarters (how does it save me any time IF NOBODY ELSE USES IT). And the presentation still pales in comparison to NFL 2k5. GET YOUR LITTLE NERDY ASSES IN GEAR, TIBURON! DO NOT FAIL ME AGAIN!

While the series has been successful in promoting the identities and properties of the league, the Madden games, above all else, are entertainment. Extending the facade of head safety to my Xbox won’t change the attitudes about real-life players, but it might be enough for me to give “Backbreaker” another look. The NFL and EA both have plenty of more important things to clean up in their respective backyards. They should start there.

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