Want more fun? It's in the game!
By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

After a recent string of high-profile helmet-hit infractions, the NFL reportedly is talking with video game makers to ensure that football games endorsed by the league and the players association don't feature excessive violence.

Madden 2003
Video games like "Madden 2002" are even more hard-hitting than the real thing.
Many of the games sanctioned by the NFL -- including "Madden 2003" and "NFL 2k3" -- allow gamers to play without penalties, the better to let virtual, on-screen players deliver outlandish blows and illegal hits.

One game, "NFL Blitz 2003," even permits gamers to end every play with a virtual bodyslam -- or kick to the digital groin -- of their already-tackled opponent.

"What is happening on the field and what is happening in the video games is different right now," Mark Holtzman, the NFL's senior vice president of consumer products, told ESPN.com. "We're taking a very close look at this, since we have to walk the fine line. We know what sells, but we also want to do our best to maintain the integrity of the game."

With the integrity of the game in mind, Page 2 presents some other common video football game features the NFL would be wise to look into:

Speed Burst
The feature: By tapping a button on a control pad, gamers can make the on-screen player run faster.

Madden 2003
Is there something we can do to make the fat guys jump a little higher?
Integrity problem: "Speed" burst assumes that the Ted Washingtons of the league have speed to begin with. And in real life, no amount of outside cajoling -- joystick or otherwise -- will make Randy Moss run faster. You wanna go?

The fix: Disable the button for fat linemen; take Moss out of the gamer's control entirely.

The feature: Gamers are allowed to build an NFL player from scratch, customizing both appearance and skills.

Integrity problem: Even with recent advances in bioengineering, creating a pitch-perfect football Frankenstein remains beyond the reach of science. Unless, of course, you're Marv Marinovich.

The fix: Replace with "Enhance-a-Player" mode, in which gamers can boost their digital player's stats by feeding them virtual steroids, stimulants and, er, "nutritional supplements."

Mini-Camp Mode
The feature: In Madden 2003, gamers can take control of virtual players in a training camp setting in order to practice individual skills.

Integrity problem: Mini-Camp Mode is fun. Unlike actual training camp.

Madden 2003
Gamers should be able to feel the full vibration from a mid-air collision.
The fix: Reprogram Mini-Camp Mode so that it causes the game console to overheat, thereby simulating real-life training camp temperatures; charge gamers an extra $10 to play the mode (Washington Redskins only).

Watch Mode
The feature: Allows gamers to set up and view a complete game between two computer-controlled teams.

Integrity problem: Unless they have DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket, real-world viewers aren't given too many choices when it comes to watching football. You'll sit through Bengals-Cardinals, and you'll like it!

The fix: Force gamers to watch digital duds like Vikings-Panthers. Just for fun, run virtual ticker featuring scores from games like 49ers-Packers at the bottom of the screen.

Franchise Mode
The feature: Gamers draft players, hire and fire coaches, court free agents and run a team's front office over a series of virtual seasons.

Integrity problem: Gamers are not allowed to tamper with coaches from other teams. Nor are they permitted to circumvent the salary cap, fire their club's longtime secretary, demand a new, publicly-funded stadium or undergo conspicuous plastic surgery.

The fix: Either remove this mode completely, or release a stand-alone game that includes the above options for Dan Snyder and his pals.

Injuries On/Off
The feature: Gamers can choose whether their virtual players get hurt or not.

Madden 2003
Curtis Martin would like you to turn off the injury button about now.
Integrity problem: Unfortunately, real-world NFL clubs don't have the same luxury. Not even the Philadelphia Eagles.

The fix: Expand injury options so that gamers can choose to send injured players back on the field after a shot of digital cortisone, a la "Any Given Sunday."

The feature: Permits gamers to create their own NFL franchise, right down to the uniform color.

Integrity problem: Gamers can place their virtual franchise in any city they want, including Los Angeles.

The fix: Replace Create-a-Team with "Move-a-Team," in which the gamer is allowed to threaten a move to another city in order to obtain a better virtual stadium lease.

"Powered by ESPN"
The feature: NFL 2K3 features ESPN presentation elements, including game highlights, weekly wrap-ups, on-screen fonts and the theme music from "SportsCenter."

Integrity problem: Game features fictional announcers Dan Stevens, Peter O'Keefe and Michelle Westphal.

The fix: Get Paul McGuire in the game! Or at least sideline updates from Suzy Kolber.

Controller Vibration
The feature: The control pad vibrates in the gamer's hands whenever the virtual player under their control absorbs a big hit.

Integrity problem: Real NFL players feel major collisions in more than just their fingers and wrists.

The fix: Introduce a control pad that administers a jarring electric shock upon on-screen player contact, the better to simulate helmet-to-helmet collisions.

Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at phrub@yahoo.com.


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