Philadelphia gamers reflect on how John Madden provided inspiration, opportunity

"That was the only football game we played for a long time," Eric Destina said. "Madden was always the game I played."

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Gamers reflect on how Madden provided inspiration, opportunity
Like many gamers around the world, esports lovers in Philadelphia were saddened by the news of John Madden's death.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A blue light glows around the check-in desk at TAP Esports Center in Chinatown as a group of people checks in to the otherwise dimly-lit room. It's the perfect setting to focus on one of their favorite hobbies: playing video games.

"A lot of students like to come here after school to play games too. It's a great place to come with all your friends," said Yuting Sun, who works at the front desk of TAP Esports Center.

Not far from her, Eric Destina from West Philadelphia sits and plays the game Overwatch. Though there's another game not far from his mind.

"That was the only football game we played for a long time," he said. "Madden was always the game I played."

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles drafted John Madden and his legendary NFL career began

Like many gamers around the world, Destina was saddened by the news of John Madden's death. The legendary football player-turned-coach-turned NFL commentator-turned video game maker was a legend in the eyes of those who loved the game.

When the first Madden video game was created in 1988, Adam Nelson, CEO and founder of Philly Esports says there was nothing like it.

"They had more money, more time, to build a game that was going to nail what the experience was going to be with a football game," said Nelson adding that the Madden franchise is one of the most popular football games ever created.

While kids and young adults may know Madden strictly for his video game status, previous generations know him more for his playing, coaching and commentating. Nelson says it's a nice multi-generation connection.

"I think that is a nice string that can attach multiple generations, someone who knows who that is and can recognize a video game that has his name on it," he said.

Madden games quickly became part of the gaming culture.

"With the new generation growing up, everyone's been playing games since they were born, essentially," he said.

That includes some of today's NFL pros.

"(The game) stays up with all the current rosters of the teams," said Nelson. "Even NFL players play the game when they come home and they tweet about how their characters don't have the right stats."

But it's not just about one game.

"I would say that Madden definitely started the competitiveness in video games," said Destina.

Lots of gamers credit Madden with helping to pioneer competitive esports.

"I feel like madden games will always matter," said Sun. "It's one of the most famous esports games, especially for sports itself incorporating into the game."

The evolution of esports has led to inspiration and opportunity for kids who embrace it, including the ones that Nelson sees in his after-school program.

"Career opportunities to become a graphic artist, video editor, broadcaster a multitude of different opportunities that come through playing video games and being passionate about the industry," he said.

For many, that's what made Madden a true game-changer.

"I will always think about madden and how he changed everything," said Destina.