The matchup—and how the public receives it—also stands to have a massive influence on the future of television as we know it. That's because today Yahoo announced it had landed exclusive rights to broadcast the game, making it the first time a regular-season NFL game will be live-streamed for free to online viewers around the world. And that's significant because, as we've said in the pastlive sports remain one of the most compelling reasons for TV viewers to hold onto their cable bundles. Until now, there haven't been many options for cable cutters to watch live games without it.
The form of football fits TV. It takes place on a big, wide-screen field. It pauses frequently for time-outs or to reset the chain—perfect opportunities for commercial breaks. Televised football is such a big business , too, that all these changes go super-fractal: The game is already ad-friendly, so networks insert even more ads.
I asked them what techniques and camera angles they saw first in the Madden games and that they now see on TV.
The first thing about where the networks have borrowed from video games is: No one is sure. But Young, Murray, and others quickly enumerated a number of features that first appeared in Madden and are now major facets of televised football production.
The first of those? The Cable-Cam In , a cable-cam failed and fell on players.
The cable-cam was introduced by most TV networks in the late s. Murray and Young estimated that Madden players had seen the view or something like it since the game first went three-dimensional in the late s.
Both men added to that player icons are just one facet of how players are highlighted now. The yellow line eluded Madden for a few years. Notice also the icon showing field-direction—an iconic element that appeared in-game before it did on-screen.
Sportsvision One place where TV beat Madden? The yellow line that indicates where teams get a new set of downs.
Young said that major networks had the yellow line about two years before the Madden games did. The Directorial Style? EA But beyond new camera angles or graphics techniques, both men said they wondered if their directorial style was leaking into broadcasts.
Working with Murray, he motion-capture-filmed a cinematographer who could be added to the games. That was important, because the Madden games, by one mode of accounting, have two layers: a play layer, where athlete bodies are simulated and scoring occurs; and a production layer, where the raw facts of the game are made to look like a televised broadcast.
Murray and Young consider it crucial that the camera operators should have simulated bodies in that play layer: If someone playing Madden sees a particular camera shot, then a simulated version of the cameraman who took that shot should be running around the field. In Madden 15, for instance, a Steadicam operator will often follow a quarterback as he stops talking to the coach, walks on to the field, and enters a huddle.
Only as he begins to take his place on the field will the cameraman finally back off.
That was supposed to be something that could only appear in the game. But now, both men have seen Steadicam operators do the same thing on TV.
In particular, Murray said, he wonders if CBS is borrowing certain elements of Madden in its broadcast. I reached out to CBS representatives about how their game producers thought live, televised football related to video games, but did not hear back before publication.
Both men also said live-game producers and directors are jealous of their creative freedom. Talking to Young and Murray, I thought back to another funny episode in sports.
NBA 2K is a console game that updates its players stats through the season , reflecting the changing state and talents of the professional league. Young and Murray are trying both to mimic televised football. Whiteside is playing great in the actual NBA—the real thing!
And maybe it gets at what feels more real to the players, the directors, and everyone involved in professional sports. Maybe playing the video game, where special effects and plays retain their luster, feels more like real life. And it's worth noting, too, that today's professional athletes are young enough that they themselves grew up playing Madden and similar games.
After all, most viewers have never coached an NFL team or played on the field. We want to hear what you think about this article.
Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Robinson Meyer is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers climate change and technology.