Madden NFL changes slightly each year, but some things remain constant; like the thrill of the competition that drives players loyalty to the game. To celebrate Madden's diversity, we spotlight passionate Madden players that work to enhance the gaming experience for others.
ShopMaster and I met in Orlando at an EA Community Day a few years back. His passion for Madden was apparent from the beginning but his reputation preceeded him. Founder of one of the most unique leagues, MaddenWars.com once used a team style system where players battle for flags in modes that kept members on their toes. MyMaddenPad.com, also run by Shopmaster, featured a unique social experience for Madden fans. We spoke to ShopMaster about how his passion developed, how family life affects his Madden time, and why SIM players could have an advantage over some tourney players.
TNT713: How long have you been playing Madden?
Shopmaster: I didn't start playing Madden until my Madden '92 which was my first year at Howard University. I've always grown up with video games. I remember having an Atari 2600. I remember having an Atari 5200. I've probably had every system you can think of. TurboGrafix 16, Atari Jaguar. I've had all the systems.
One thing my mother instilled in me and my brother is that we were always very competitive. Video games were always in my household and it was a competitive atmosphere. But I never really played Madden until I got to college. It was always Tecmo Bowl before then. You know, Bo Jackson running down the field. Walter Peyton. Those were great times.
TNT713: When you made the transition from Tecmo Bowl to Madden, was it like an instant thing or did you find he transition was difficult?
Shopmaster: For me, it was instant. It might have taken a couple of games. But because I grew up with gaming systems in my household, the controllers weren't any different than anything I'd played before. I was already playing Sega Genesis. I don't think there was any transition.
In fact, the first time I played Madden, I lost BAD. I'll never forget that time. I was in college, in the dorm and we'd either go play Spades or go play Madden. That's what everybody else was playing. If you wanted to impress the girls, you go play Spades. If there weren't any girls around, you go play Madden.
I remember that first loss I took to a guy, and you would have thought he won the Super Bowl. With me being very competitive, I knew"¦ That WAS NOT going to happen again. I ran through. I got so many burgers bought for me in the Howard University lunchroom off of games I won on Madden.
As we spoke, I recounted my own memories of playing Madden in college. BRUTAL. Unlike Shopmaster, video game systems were only a recent addition to my household, so when I got to college I was much farther behind. But we shared the competitive drive that made us want to win. Now that we're older, life's responsibilities impact how and when we play Madden. I wanted to know what having Madden falls in with his family life.
TNT713: I don't have any kids, so now is Prime Time to be able to focus on learning the football I need to play my Madden game. You're married with kids?
Shopmaster: Yeah, I'm married with 3 kids.
TNT713: How does that affect the way you play Madden?
Shopmaster: One thing is when you're married and have a family, you definitely cannot put in the time that you used to. I used to play ALL THE TIME. Before I got married, me and my friends at my apartment“ That's all we used to do. But when you get married, you have to sit back and spend time with the family. But you always make time for Madden. If you're a passionate Madden fan, you make time for Madden. And my wife will tell you, Madden is my mistress. She calls Madden my other lady. Because I will always try to find time to play Madden.
But the good thing is, my sons also play Madden. So while I'm spending time with my sons playing video games, we can play Madden. It's definitely a part of my life. If you come to my house, you'll see all kinds of Madden trophies, Madden posters, autographed Madden footballs, all kinds of stuff.
My kids are proud to say "My daddy can beat your daddy in Madden."
TNT713: It's nice to hear that Madden can bring fathers and sons together. Do you think there's a place for that on a larger scale?
Shopmaster: I totally agree. You talk about fathers and sons, it brings people together no matter who you are. My son asks to play games together all the time. He'll ask for tips. I'll watch him play his Madden against his friends and he'll ask dad "what should I run here?"
The good thing about Madden, especially if you're playing with your kids - My son has really grown into football. He'll start to pick up on things that I, when I was his age, I didn't pick up on when I was watching football. Like couldn't tell you who the middle linebacker was, what his duties are. My son will say, "He was supposed to be in a yellow route!"? It sorta brings us closer when we watch the real football game. I think Madden plays a big part especially in my family's life.
TNT713: So with the kids, when do you play?
Shopmaster: Usually I play my league games after they go to sleep. Because my youngest son can be distracting. He's like, "Dad you should run the ball."? [Laughs] So most of the time, I get mine in after 9 o'clock.
TNT713: That's when most of the ballers are on.
Shopmaster: Yeah, exactly. My friends are on and most of the people they play are on right at 9:00PM.
As Madden fans think about how to pass the torch to the next generation of Madden fans, we might look no farther than the youth around us. Madden is one of the few things that aged men and young men can both agree is cool enough to pursue with the same vigor, even if we don't have the time we used to. We moved to a more sensitive topic, as if the thought of game time snapped us away from touching thoughts...
ShopMaster has long been a proponent of simulating football strategies in Madden. He's also known for being a good SIM player.
TNT713: We hear a lot about SIM, Tourney, freestyle, cheese"¦ How would you best describe your play?
Shopmaster: You know, I was wrestling with this earlier after seeing one of your interviews. I said, "I know Tim is going to ask me what style of player I am,"? and I am definitely a SIM player. But I have to tell you, I appreciate all forms and facets and styles in the way people play. Through being an EA Sports Community Leader, I've met all kinds of people. Tourney players, casual players, straight simulation players"¦ We're all ballers at the end of the day. It's just a certain way you like to play the game.
Now, I'm in leagues where I play straight SIM, to note "“ I prefer to play SIM BALL. But not everyone plays it that way. I try to play that way even in leagues that don't play that way. I punt on 4th down unless I'm down big. I do all the things I'm supposed to do as a SIM player, but I appreciate how everybody plays Madden. People have different reasons for different things.
I think tournament players are more skilled and more knowledgeable than SIM players give them credit. At the same time, I think SIM ballers are very good also. I've beaten many tourney players playing SIM ball "“ so I prefer SIM.
TNT713: Do you find that it really doesn't matter what style of player or is it more how good you are at adapting and adjusting to your opponent?
Shopmaster: It's kinda hard to explain. It's hard for a SIM guy to beat a Tourney guy because a tourney guy puts in 17 hours a day sometimes. But a SIM baller knows how to adjust very well to different situations. Where I think some guys tourney guys get stuck with a few plays and try to force their will on their opponents. Whereas me, I adjust to you. If you're going to run Dime, I'm going to run on you. If you packing the box, I have plays I know how to do to get past that. Being SIM has it's advantages.
Thanks for reminding me. I saw Shopmaster's skills, up close and personal, in an outright 38-14 beatdown at the hands of his San Diego Chargers at the Community Day tournament. He scored on offense, defense, and special teams... years later, I still see Darren Sproles in my dreams chugging up the left sideline for the kickoff return TD. Upset as I was, I never thought about putting Madden down for a moment. My only thought was to not lose like that again. We asked ShopMaster about what makes Madden so special.
TNT713: What is it about Madden that makes us want to play it all the time?
Shopmaster: For me, it's all about competition. You said it earlier. You don't like to lose. Nothing is worse than playing Madden and going to bed on a loss. There's nothing worse than that.
My wife will tell you, Sometimes I don't come to bed til 2 o'clock in the morning. I'm trying to get that win before I go to bed.
TNT713: [Laughs] It does feel better?
Shopmaster: It feels a lot better. You know how good I can sleep at night? Because after every game that I lose, you know "“ I started recording my games. It has made me such a better Madden player. Because I can go back and look and be like, "Man, I cannot do anything against his defense. Then I look and say, I had a guy open there.
What makes us play? It's competition. You can say it's the competition, but there's competition in every game that you play, YEAH"¦ But it's something about football. It's something about playing football with your friends... They say baseball is the great American past time"¦ Nah"¦ Not for me.
Football is the great American pastime.
I couldn't agree more. Football has a special place in the mind of a young man. The nature of the sport speaks to the testosterone in all of us. Through our conversation, I learned a bit more about myself and how I approach playing Madden. But it's always the same feeling when Madden players talk shop, no pun intended. We always seem to come away with a nugget of truth that makes us all the more a fan of the game and the ways it can be played.