When Denver's Brandon Stokely caught a game-winning pass against Cincinnati earlier this year, he veered parallel to the goal line en route to the end zone, to both burn time and celebrate. He told Wired it was a Madden-inspired move.
It's one of the more jaw-dropping anecdotal instances of how sports video games - specifically Madden - have raised a different generation of competitor, especially in American football. Increasingly, kids are reporting to the gridiron better versed in football terminology and more perceptive of circumstances on field, like disguised coverages and tricks to expose them.
And it's not just innate knowledge. Madden and other sims are increasingly used in preparation for actual games, Wired says:
At the Pop Warner Super Bowl in 2006, the winning team had 30 offensive plays, which it had learned through Madden. ("I programmed our offense into Madden to help me memorize our plays," one 11-year-old told Sports Illustrated. "It was easier than homework.") Dezmon Briscoe, an all-conference wide receiver for the University of Kansas, credited Madden 2009 with teaching him how to read when defenses "roll their coverages" - move their defensive backs to disguise their strategy. Chuck Kyle, a high school coach who has won 10 state championships in football-mad Ohio, has programmed his team USA playbook into Madden and uses it to teach players their assignments. So have coaches at Colorado State, Penn State, and the University of Missouri, among other schools.
I can tell you that Madden's effect isn't limited to performers. Simulation-quality Madden taught me to recognize certain formations and coverages, and how I wrote about high school football is noticeably different before and after my exposure to the game. It may not have as profound an impact as 22 players on the field, all growing up playing Madden, but it too influences the public's knowledge and appreciation of a very complicated sport.