This news about Aaron Rodgers being in the final eight to make the cover of the new Madden video game upset me. No, it didn’t make me angry because I believe in some silly Madden curse and worry about Rodgers breaking his leg or turning into Mark Sanchez, it angered me because Madden isn’t as fun for me as it used to be. I don’t want the QB for my favorite NFL team as the poster boy for a video game that never really does anything to improve year in and year out besides make roster updates.
Before I get to Packers news and links, allow me to pontificate a bit on this topic:
Maybe it’s because I’m 30 years old and growing out of mashing buttons on a controller, but I need more depth in my video games than what Madden offers. Yes, the bells and whistles of Madden are nice and I still buy it every year, but I always feel empty after playing it. The game looks like football. It sounds like football. It’s supposed to be football. But it doesn’t feel like football.
I want to do more in a football video game than just find a few plays that typically work and try to exploit the game’s artificial intelligence. I need player ratings to actually matter, even ratings for interior offensive linemen and backup linebackers. I need an opponent that realistically reacts to my playcalling, allowing me to set up future play calls or adjust on the fly to my opponent’s new strategy. I need realistic statistics and results, not every game ending 45-41 and defensive ends totaling 30 sacks per season.
To be fair, Madden has gotten better in these areas over the last five years. But it’s nowhere near perfect. Perfection may never be achieved, at least in my jaded eyes, but there are football games that come close, much closer than Madden, anyway.
The top two for my money are Front Office Football and Action PC Football. Before explaining why, I need to warn you that both are text-based simulations. This means there are no fancy HD graphics and theater-quality sound effects that make you feel like you’re in an NFL stadium. No button-mashing is required to complete passes or recover a fumble, either. Yet both games feel much more like football than any version of Madden I’ve played.
For both games, the football portion of your brain is much more useful than your thumbs and index fingers. Games are not played out by video game versions of football players that react to whatever you tell them to do by hitting buttons on a controller. The only thing you’ll see on your screen is words, maybe a few diagrams and football-play jargon too. Text-based simulations ( or “text sim”) make you win with strategy and intelligence instead of a strange combination of hand-eye coordination and finger flexibility.
But let’s back up. Now that you have a better understanding of what a text sim is, it’s time to talk about Front Office Football and Action PC Football spcifically, but separately.
Front Office Football is a career-based, general manager type of sim. You’re the GM. You sign and release players, run the draft, make trades, sign free agents and manage the salary cap. Once the season ends, you progress to the next year — players age, regress and retire — and you have to continue building or rebuilding your team like a real-life GM. There’s also a coaching element to the game. You’re allowed to set-up gameplans if you choose to simulate games, or you can call all the plays and watch your games play out.
In Action PC Football, you act more as the coach instead of the GM. There is no career element to the game. Once the season ends, you do not advance to the next year. Action PC is more for players who like historical replays or what-if scenarios. Once you purchase the game, you have the option of buying season disks from any season in the history of the NFL. You can use these season disks to replay any season in league history, or build your own custom dream league. Want to see if you can navigate the Packers to the Super Bowl in 1994, just like in real life? You can do that. Want to build a league featuring the past 30 Super Bowl winners and see who comes out on top? You can do that too. It’s also possible to import players into different eras. How would 1995 Brett Favre fare as the Packers QB in 2011?
Action PC is more about statistical accuracy. The stats generated in the game are usually very close to what happened in real life. Front Office is more about immersing yourself in the GM experience. The stats are still very realistic, but there’s more variation and randomness in order to mimic what a real-life GM deals with.
Both games are awesome and will suck up hours upon hours of your time if you ever get into them. You’ll have to come up with some good excuses when the wife inevitably asks you why you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for 10 straight hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon. If I had to pick between the two, I’d probably go with Action PC. The game is updated regularly and has excellent customer support. The downfall is having to buy season disks, which gets expensive real fast.
Front Office hasn’t been updated in about five years. It’s still a great game, but it’s overdue for a facelift. Community members usually update the rosters every year, but the game could use a new version to inject new life into the franchise.
Yes, I realize Madden has general manager and head coach aspects to it, but it doesn’t do nearly as good a job at either as Front Office or Action PC. Aaron Rodgers should ask to be on the cover of one of the two text sims over Madden. Both are better games, and hey, he would avoid that pesky curse.
Anthony Hargrove, Nick Collins, and Shea McClellin
- Troubled defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove signed with the Packers this week. The Packers need someone to collapse the pocket up the middle and if Hargrove is that guy, great. He is a character risk, but by most accounts, he’s a good teammate on the field and in the locker room. And if he gets arrested or causes some sort of distraction, his contract is reasonable enough that the Packers won’t be hurt much if they have to part ways.
- Nick Collins plans to meet with the Packers next week to discuss his future. I’m crossing my fingers that Collins is able to play, not because I’m a Packers fan and want Collins to help my favorite team win more games, but because if Collins is able to play, it means he’s healthy and the risk for further injury is minimal or non-existent. Meanwhile, the Packers are looking at safeties in the draft just in case.
- Boise St. LB Shea McClellin is rising up draft boards and could be on the Packers’ radar. Make sure to read this piece by Tyler Dunne on McClellin. Anybody that was raised on a farm and nursed baby skunks back to the wild is a welcome addition to the Packers in my book.
In Case you Missed It
- Kevin McCauley at Acme Packing Company has a good summary of Demetress (don’t call him Demetrius) Bell signing with the Eagles. After you’re done reading Kevin’s post, be sure to read this heartbreaking story from Jemele Hill at ESPN about Bell’s famous deadbeat dad.
- Rumors swirled on Wednesday that the Vikings might try and bring in Bill Parcells at coach/GM. I wouldn’t put it past the Vikings to do something like this — owner Zygi Wilf is more of a football fanboy than shrewd NFL owner — but I think this is much ado about nothing. Parcells is trying to leverage a better contract from the Saints, and using the media to do it.
- Brian Carriveau at CheeseheadTV has an interesting post on comments made by Mark Barron at the NFL Combine. The safety prospect had some interesting things to say about commissioner Roger Goodell’s efforts to reduce the amount of violence in the game.
- I was on the fence about seeing Last Day at Lambeau, but Jersey Al’s review convinced me that I need to check it out.
- John Rehor of Eat More Cheese got a glimpse of the seating expansion at Lambeau Field and was not a fan.
- Be sure to add Rahim Tariq’s new blog on the Packers and world affairs to your daily reading list.
Non-Packers Thought of the Week
I wrote 1,000 words about video games to start this post, so why not end it with a few more?
Action PC Football and Front Office Football are the two best NFL text sims. If you’re looking for text sims in other sports, here’s what I’d recommend:
- Baseball: Out of the Park Baseball (maybe my favorite video game ever)
- NBA Basketball: Action PC Basketball, Draft Day Sports Pro Basketball 3, Jump Shot Basketball
- College Basketball: Draft Day Sports College Basketball 2
- College Football: Front Office Football: The College Years, Bowl Bound College Football
- Pro Wrestling: Total Extreme Warfare Revenge
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .