The Blog Squad

Friday, August 24, 2007

He's in the Game

I didn’t buy Madden 08 when it was released Aug. 14 and I probably won’t ever. You see, I’ve given up on the video game. No matter how much time I put into it, I’ll never be good. Plus I’m always the Redskins, and I’m sure that doesn’t help much.

One guy who has perfected Madden is Justin Chow of Great Falls, Va. Chow, 22, is considered one of the best in the country and has competed in the $100,000 Madden Challenge and appeared in the first season of Madden Nation on ESPN.

Chow started his video football career by running Bo Jackson wild on Techmo Bowl. His father grew up in Los Angeles, so naturally he learned to love the L.A. Raiders. Techmo Bowl was indeed one of the best games ever produced and Bo Jackson was perhaps the greatest game icon in the history of video sports.

“Then I got a Sega Genesis in 1994,” Chow says. “That’s when I first played Madden.”

Chow would whip his dad but soon gave up the game. It wasn’t until 2004 when he bought PlayStation 2 with an online adapter that he started playing Madden again.

Chow learned playbooks, glitches and cyber opponents on his journey to become an online legend. Madden players across the nation knew who he was.

“I’m a competitive person,” says Chow, who is a senior at Radford University. “I really got into it. I played all the time.”

By 2005, he had heard of tournaments and the circuit. He traveled to Las Vegas for his first tournament and won $10,000. He later qualified for the Madden Challenge by taking the Washington D.C. tournament.

Soon after, EA Sports, the makers of Madden, came calling and picked Chow to appear on a reality television show. The gamers rode cross-country on a bus and played for survival. The winner collected $100,000.

In the eight-episode Madden Nation, Chow lasted until the seventh show. Chow recently entered a tournament in Hawaii but lost in the final eight. He says over the past two years, he’s won about $35,000 in prize money.

But how does he pay for the travel expenses?

“All I need is a plane ticket, and I get that from sponsorships or wherever,” Chow says. “It’s weird, perfect strangers treat me well because I’m good at Madden. I have strangers pick me up at the airport, let me stay at their house, feed me and drive me wherever I need to go.”

During the Madden season, which starts when the game is released and runs until May, Chow says that he can practice up to 12 hours per day. He’ll play online or in practice mode.

As for secrets, he says at his level, it usually comes down to the mental aspect because so many players are equal in their execution.

“Madden is about adjustments,” Chow says. “You need to have in your head every possible play at any given situation that will not be stopped by your opponent.”

But for regular folks like me, Chow offers suggestions like knowing the playbook and just getting in some practice. He also says that perfecting the glitches help a lot.

“There’s a glitch in Madden 08,” Chow says. “There’s a way to make the receiver jump real high. He’ll jump over two or three guys and make the catch.”

Chow will be back at Radford in a few days to finish his studies in computer science. EA Sports has offered him a job as a game tester once he’s done.

“I want to be a game designer one day,” Chow says. “I just can’t work 9-5 at a desk. I need to be connected to video games in some way.”

OUT AT HOME: I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a geek. My cousin Ernest called me up recently to say, “Hey, ESPN is doing mock drafts. You wanna do some?”

Of course I did. We drafted teams in four leagues. Not satisfied, I suggested a few days later that we create a league that included individual defensive players and a punter. GEEK!

The draft for the Salty Prunes League is Tuesday, Sept. 4. I plan on making Julius Peppers or Champ Bailey my first defensive player selection.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Here’s a video of a friend of my wife’s sister. Bernard Pollard is a safety for the Kansas City Chiefs. All hail Fort Wayne!


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