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Moving image museum plays ball

Two young visitors play Madden NFL 25 (2013), projected large on a screen, in the exhibition “Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running” on view at Museum of the Moving Image. Photo courtesy Thanassi Karageorgiou for Museum of the Moving Image
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Late last week, Flushing resident Saul Zeitlin and his son, Jeremy, 3 1/2, hunkered down on the third floor of the Museum of the Moving Image to get a jump on Super Bowl XLVIII festivities.

As they fiddled with a video game console’s controls, the latest version of “Madden NFL” exploded in vibrant colors and pumped-up music on the giant screen in front of them.

Zeitlin has played most of the older versions of EA Sports’ “Madden” titles for Xbox and was interested in seeing this 25th edition.

“I’m a sports fan and I like to recreate the season, and to predict the season,” Zeitlin said. “But as I got older, the games got harder.”

A quick glance around the museum’s newest exhibit, “Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running,” confirmed Zeitlin’s theory.

From the first “John Madden Football,” published in 1988 for the Apple II and which required players to use the keyboard and a joystick, the rechristened “Madden NFL” videos have evolved from pixelated, flat “athletes” to life-like figures playing the game.

In fact, said Tomoko Kawamoto, the museum’s public information manager, “Madden NFL” is more than just one of the most successful video game franchises of all time. It has changed the game it once set out to emulate, including how the TV networks opt to show the broadcasts.

“It’s not here’s a game trying to look like a football game, but it is affecting how football is shown on TV,” Kawamoto said.

It has also pushed other video game developers to up their games, said Carl Goodman, executive director of the museum.

“I’ve talked to a lot of smart, experienced people in the video game industry, and they all appreciate its complexity,” Goodman said. “This is really a mirror of the history of technology and history of the game.”

The exhibition includes five versions of the game that can be played on site. Although the early editions allow only one player at a time, later ones were created for two competitors.

Visitors can also check out a timeline detailing the evolution of “Madden NFL.”

After being on the market for two years, EA Sports updated the game in 1990, and made it available for the Sega Genesis system. Since then developers have released a new version every year.

Some of the earlier highlights include the 1992 game, which allowed two-person co-operative play and even had a video ambulance roll out onto the field anytime a player was injured; the 1993 introduction of John Madden’s digital voice; the 1994 introduction of real NFL teams; and the 1995 debut of actual NFL players into the video.

Goodman said as the first museum in the world to collect video games, it made sense to host the current exhibition.

“Eight months ago, the museum was named a member of the Super Bowl host community, and we are proud to represent Queens in that group,” Goodman said. “At that point, we thought, what can we do in conjunction with what is going to be an exciting time? A number of us then decided to take note of what was happening.”

If you Go

Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running

When: Through Sunday, Feb. 23

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria

Cost: $12/adults, $9/seniors and students, $6/children 3-12

Contact: (718) 777-6868

Website: movingimage.us

Posted 12:00 am, January 28, 2014
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