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Listen To How Walt Hickey And Neil Paine Tried To Break Madden

Elsewhere on FiveThirtyEight, Walt Hickey and Neil Paine have a two-part opus describing how EA Sports makes the wildly popular Madden video game. Go read it if you haven’t.

The story doesn’t end there. Listen to the two talk with podcast producer/host Jody Avirgan about how the piece came together, what they learned about Madden — and how Walt’s totally inept avatar got Tom Coughlin fired, over and over.

Play or download using the player above. Some highlights from the conversation are below.

Walt Hickey tells Neil Paine and Jody Avirgan how awful his Madden self was at quarterback.

Walt Hickey tells Neil Paine and Jody Avirgan how awful his Madden self was at quarterback.

Walt on how the piece came together:

“We came up with the [question] originally that was, ‘What would the ratings of a normal person in Madden be?’ This was originally going to be a quick blog post, and then it just started snowballing. And then they [EA Sports] said, ‘OK, cool, how many people do you want to do?’ That wasn’t a question we were expecting.”

Neil on whether Madden Ratings Czar Donny Moore is basically a scout:

“Scouts are trying to project what a player will do, perhaps five or even more years down the road. … Donny [Moore’s] process is a little different — he’s just trying to capture a snapshot of how good a guy is at this moment.”

Neil on the statistical importance of Madden ratings:

“It can be a kind of strange archival record of who was good or who was bad in a given year. And the players take it very seriously.”

Walt on trying to break Madden:

“It was a cool challenge, seeing how bad someone could get.”

(This is part of the prelaunch experimentation for the FiveThirtyEight podcast. We’ll be posting audio of different kinds on SoundCloud and then launching the actual podcast later this spring. Stay tuned! And let us know what you think by tweeting our podcast producer/host, @jodyavirgan, or emailing us.)

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.