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Finding the right competition makes a big difference in Madden NFL.

 

Of all the reasons to play Madden NFL, the number of competitors might be the most attractive. Bragging rights and the thrill of victory are a huge draw. Think about it.  What good is it to be the best at something no one plays? There's no glory in that, but there is glory in being the best at the most popular sports video game series in American history.  The trick is finding the optimum matchup. 

EA's matchmaking system isn't the best tool to determine the most fun matchups. With so many people playing, participants are bound to have wide ranging skill variations. Equally matched opponents are likely to have a pleasant Madden experience, but when opponents are not equally matched lesser skilled players are less likely to enjoy themselves.  Madden players would be wise to consider these thoughts before entering a game:

Madden players don't always see eye-to-eye. In fact, it's closer to eye-to-elbow.  A philosophy similar to the yin and yang perpetually chasing the other.  Debates about cheese, SIM, and ethics never cease, and have cyclically repeated since Madden NFL '03 went online. With every incarnation since, we again face the same questions we've asked and answered annually for years - How can we compete and still have fun no matter what our skills, dedication, or philosophy?

It's the multi-million dollar question for EA Sports game developers. In the video game football arena Madden is the only real player, but the field of players is crowded. Players that love Madden NFL are cast alongside those who despise the game, skilled and unskilled; each forced to play together in the same arena. Noob players with no experience jockey for position among players with decades of knowledge. It doesn't seem fair because it's not.

Let's step back to our youth.  Throughout a child's development there competitive separation. High school kids typically don't play with preschoolers, nor do professional athletes compete with 5th graders. When we were children we stood on the sidelines to watch the big kids while eagerly awaiting being big, strong, and fast enough to play with them.  We all had to wait our turn. If we didn't, we ran the risk of getting physically hurt or damaging our mental and emotional well being while it was still fragile. What if we had broken a bone? We might never want to put ourselves through the punishment again. Even worse, we might abandon a sport that we ultimately grew to love. Fortunately, we  developed the necessary skills and mentality by playing with peers first. 

In Madden NFL guppies and sharks swim the same waters. Ranked games take place on a single difficulty level, All-Pro.  This creates a competitive imbalance as players who are best suited to the Rookie and Pro difficulty levels move up to compete, meanwhile seasoned veterans drop down to an easier level to play against them. It's a prime example of what we've avoided our whole lives; children running with the adults. While this might not seem like such a bad idea initially, it is bound to quickly turn ugly as soon as the first 10-year old gets a hit-stick from a 240 pound man.  While it might be a viral smash on YouTube, seeing grown men knock the tar out of children is going to draw frowns on a few faces.  Don't even think about what happens after his celebratory sack dance.

If the adults play hard, the children aren't going to have any fun.  The adults that enjoy playing with nice with the kids are going to question the judgment of the guy going all out. On the one hand, both sides would be right. The child getting punished for his lack of physical development would be right if he felt taken advantage of and the grown man lowering the boom would be right if he said playing with the big boys meant getting hit by the big boys.  

For years Madden NFL communities have been separating themselves to prevent just such an event. 

The players we play make a difference.  Some players attack with an aggressive no-holds barred style of play.  Others use a more recognizable classic football game plan.  And so we go through the grind of another Madden season, dodging blowouts and anticipating tight battles; hoping we get matched up with players of similar skills.

Check out the Links section for more details on communities of like minded players that will give you the best chance to play games at your level of experience. 

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