Video Generation — Computer Games Help Players On The Field

SANDY SUMMERS/Yakima Herald-Republic Selah
Quarterback Kyle Washut plays a football video game after school Thursday. He thinks gaming helps his game in real life too. "You kind of get a feel for how the defense plays. And some of the reads are the same too." The high school quarterback steps to the line facing a third and eight and surveys what the defense is throwing at him. Nothing looks good, but something looks familiar.
Despite the obvious passing down, the defense is in its usual 3-4 scheme with the far left linebacker edging closer to line and rocking back and forth. Meanwhile the corners are moving toward the wide receivers to jam them at the line.
Three thoughts go through the quarterback's head: They're blitzing, we're running a play-action pass that's going to take time to develop and I'm going to taste the turf in a few seconds.
So what does the quarterback do? He doesn't panic because he's seen this before. And while in "Madden NFL 06" the video game he didn't have to worry about absorbing a hit from 200 pounds of linebacker, the game taught him a few things about how to recognize and beat this defense.
This is when the skepticism sets in with non-gamers wondering, "Wait a minute, a video game taught him how to read a blitz package and figure out a way to beat it? What about film study? What about practice? Video games are supposed to rot brains, not improve them."
Sure most parents would prefer their children picking up a book instead of a video game controller, but a lot of high school football coaches around the Valley don't mind their players heading home and switching on their video game consoles. Well, as long as the kids have done their homework first and they'd prefer that either "Madden NFL 06" or "NCAA Football 06" is the game of choice.
"I've heard of kids at high schools who run the option where the kids finally figure out the option based on playing ("NCAA Football")," said Selah football coach Jeff Jamieson, who got one of his team's blitz packages from a football video game. "It helps them understand how to read the defensive end to decide to give it or pull it."
As for the passing attack, the video game's realism impressed Prosser football coach Tom Moore, who claims when it comes to video game consoles "I can't even turn them on." He gets his exposure when watching his son, Mustang junior quarterback Kellen Moore, play.
"I've watched him play (the games) and it's real football," Tom Moore said. "They show cover 2 and cover 3 and they show real football coverages and you can really learn from watching it."
This can be a hard sell to some parents. Selah quarterback Kyle Washut said Jamieson had to explain to his mother that a video game actually can help him in real life.
"I can see the whole field and see what the different (defensive backs) are doing and what linebackers are blitzing," Washut said. "I don't know, it gets my mind on the game, making the reads and that kind of deal."
Football video games just have become another way for football players to supplement their football IQs. The Madden series is one of the most successful game franchises of all time with 46 million sold the past 16 years, said Chris Erb, the senior product manager for the Electronic Art's game.
The long-standing popularity means many current high school football players have grown up playing either the "Madden NFL" video games or the college version, "NCAA Football."
"My brother and I have played since we were pretty young and we've always been playing the game off and on," Kellen Moore said. "During the summer after a long day we might be playing the whole night."
This "Madden Generation" has developed alongside the video games. While they learn about different defenses, offenses and the football jargon that comes with them, the video game developers have worked toward making game play more and more realistic thanks to better technology.
The newest wrinkle to this year's Madden game is something Erb calls "vision and precision." Designed to replicate a quarterback's awareness in a game, a cone of lights shows the person playing the game where the quarterback is looking.
While a player can control things like pump fakes, audibles and even where the quarterback looks, the game still can't bring the smaller parts of the game — like the footwork and arm angle of a strong pass — that high school players work on each day. The people over at Electronic Arts, however, are trying their hardest to make sure the only difference between video games and the real thing is the power button.
"Everything we do every day is going toward making the most authentic NFL experience you can have," Erb said. "Everything from player models to stadium models to signs in the stands to pregame and postgame, we bring the authentic feel into the game as much as possible.
"Anytime we do something it's based on how something really is in NFL."

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