Rarely does the discrepancy in skill or comfort playing Madden NFL factored into "Chess vs. Cheese" discussions.

 

Many factors combine to determine a player's stance on the subject including, but not limited to; football experience, Madden NFL experience, awareness, decisiveness, and mental fortitude. With all the swirling opinions, accusations, and rationalization someone must be right, right? Whom, among ethical Madden players, remains to be the question with which we wrestle.

Since online play was introduced for Madden in August of 2002, the Madden community has been split on the subject of philosophy. There are those who seek the "chess match" that fervent football fans term SIM to illustrate a likeness of real NFL football. On the other side of the fence are those with a competitive drive so high they will do whatever it takes to win, even if it blurs the lines of football convention. Tactics that seemed overwhelming to some have been considered heavy on the antics and light on the strategy, while others purposely build these frustrating tactics into their game plan.

Madden players come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Each with its advantages and disadvantages that combine to hamper or enhance a players Madden development - depending on their temperament.

There are players with a through knowledge of real football tactics and techniques who seem to have the upper hand, and indeed they would if they also have the ability to translate those concepts into finger movements on an 18-button game controller. These players are likely to know what to do, even if they don't know how to do it. Like real football, knowing the plan and having mastery of technique is only part of the equation. The other parts, strategy and execution, are also vitally important in Madden.

There are players with a through knowledge of Madden tactics and techniques that sometimes seem to have the upper hand. These players are not as football savvy as their counterparts, but spend ample amounts of time developing foolproof ways of executing a handful of plays against a variety of counters. When they get a recipe that works they stick to it. These players may not know what to do, by they know how to do it. While this may seem to be a poor strategic ploy, it can actually work to a player's advantage when his execution frustrates opponents.

There are still other players with a knowledge of both football and Madden techniques and tactics. These players are fully aware of how to translate grass football into electronic football. Odds are, they have been playing Madden for years and have developed a large repertoire of plays, even though they may only use a few. These players know what to do, and how to do it.

Last but not least, is the inexperienced player that likes football and Madden, but has neither the time, competitive nature, opportunity, and/or the dedication to improve their football knowledge nor their Madden skills. These players may not know what to do nor how to do it and may also be only vaguely familiar with reading play diagrams, advanced football concepts, or the Madden controls. Despite the inherent strategic weaknesses that come with inexperience, these players feel entitled to some fun, but find fun fleeting. It's hard to have a good time when swimming in the same water as the sharks.

The term "Cheese" has been coined to describe any tactic that is effective, repetitive, or unconventional in an NFL game. Players using 'cheese' could come from any of the above groups. Both new players seeking to gain any competitive advantage they can, old players that pull out all the stops, and anyone in between may use cheese or declare it. Despite the seeming simplicity of the definition, 'cheese' has also come to be synonymous with any tactics that inexperienced players are confused about, savvy veterans believe is too effective, or anything in between.

More often than not, the Artificial Intelligence of the programmed environment is blamed for lopsided losses and seemingly unrealistic results, regardless of whether it is truly the culprit. Very rarely is the discrepancy in an opponent's skill or comfort playing Madden factored into the "Chess vs. Cheese" discussion. Even chess, with it's purity and lack of AI has a cheese tactic equivalent. Players familiar with the "Fools Mate" maneuver might agree it is the cheesiest check-mate in chess.

Unfortunately, the only way to win at chess using "Fool's Mate," is if the opponent paves his own road to destruction. To get a cheesy chess win, the victor needs help from the very person he's attempting to beat; the type of help that comes from inexperience, strategic shortcomings, and lack of commitment to learning the most basic fundamentals like: don't open with a direct path to the king.

While in chess, there is only one 'fastest check-mate,' the number of fastest check-mates in Madden are more robust. Similar to chess, Madden's most popular cheese tactics require cooperation from opponents to work. Whether it's roll out passes that get the QB away from pressure or Nano-blitzes that get the pressure to the QB, there are a wealth of tactics employed to 'mate' (pun intended) an opponent. On the flip side, players that yearn for the 'chess match' but are confounded by cheese may be leaving a figurative path to the king wide open without knowing why their success is derailed time and time again.

The frustration of failure is harsh. The melancholy is compounded when players with obvious holes in their game plan confront players without finding the same chink in their opponent's armor. It's enough to drive the players to abandon the masses in lieu of a safer, more comfortable, less cut-throat environment. Like-minded players, regardless of skill, may agree to conduct themselves with a code of ethics that even the least experienced Madden player can enjoy.

Hardliners, on the other hand, tend to avoid such friendly confines. The thrill of the competition drives them. Not only do hardliners face the harshest of 'cheese' tactics, they use their experience playing Madden to simulate what NFL teams do to defeat them. As a result of the duality, hardliners are most likely to use tactics that are considered 'cheese' to other players. This may put them at odds with players who merely seek friendly games.

While these groups butt heads, caught in the middle are a multitude of players who are neither hardliners nor neophytes who remain conflicted. This group contains the most diverse opinions as they have enough knowledge to handle the most commonly used cheese tactics, but not the patience to be forced to contend with them. They agree that there are many tactics that are cheesy, but finding a consensus about which ones is difficult.

And so the debate rages on. Each year the developers close legitimate holes in the AI and create tools to smooth the learning curve for the new players while maintaining the depth that the hardliners crave. Ultimately, the goal is to allow hardliners going toe-to-toe with the newbies on a relatively level playing field in electronic football utopia.

Without addressing the root causes of cheesy chess matches though, there is little hope of quelling the Chess vs. Cheese argument. Some elements of cheese rest with the individual players themselves. Hopefully, Madden players will embrace their own roles in the chess and cheese equation. Then even the cheesiest football will be chessy instead of the chessiest football being cheesy.