Joystick Envy: Madden NFL 25′s Coolest Job, Ever

With the August 27, 2013 release of Madden NFL 25 approaching, Prima Games gave Poptimal access to two of their best and brightest strategy guide authors – Zach Farley (26) and Stephen Gibbons (27) from MaddenTips.com.  During the hour long interview, I found out what makes Stephen and Zach tick, what makes Madden NFL 25 so badass, and why they have the coolest job, ever.  It rarely happens, but yes, I left our conversation with a little bit of (Joy)stick envy.

Madden NFL 25

Who Are Stephen Gibbons & Zach Farley?

Before Ashton Kutcher bastardizes the Steve Jobs story, let’s try and hold on to one of Job’s basic tenants, one that sums up the team of Stephen and Zach — “A” Players want to work with other “A” players.  Who would have thought that instead of a Palo Alto suburb inundated with famous future techies, that these two would meet on the campus of Westfield State College in Massachusetts.  How they met; however, is the source of some debate, and of course, one-upmanship.  Zach tells the story this way:

“We met when I moved into the dorm room across the hall from Stephen in 2005.  Stephen was playing Madden and I walked over to his room and just blurted out, ‘I could probably beat you at Madden 2005.’ Stephen scoffed and said that he would only play me after I proved myself in a test game.  I played the test game and won, then played Stephen beating him on a last second hail mary pass.”

On the other hand, Stephen counters that:

“We met the semester before at a poker tournament hosted at the school.  I made it to the final table and was put out by Zach.  For the next semester, I would see Zach around campus and would get a pain in my stomach every time I thought about him punching me out of the poker tournament.  By the time the dorm room incident occurred, I already knew who Zach was and wanted to beat him at Madden.  We played and I beat him by thwarting his hail mary pass.”

Although they both would disagree, whose story is more credible is not important.  What’s important is that these two have an authentic competitive rivalry that makes them great at their job.  Whether it was intramural sports, dodge ball, softball, or Guitar Hero, the two competed like Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.  This rivalry has yielded multiple Madden Tournament championships for each of them and allowed them to create one of the most prominent Madden strategy guides in the industry. Madden NFL 25

Becoming Strategy Guide Authors

At Westfield State, Stephen majored in Criminal Justice and Zach in Communications.  Although the sports gaming community wasn’t large,  the two decided to start a website to help people learn how to win more at the Madden franchise.  “I didn’t how to build a website,” Zach remembered.  “I just remember seeing the cool GoDaddy ads and grabbed the domain name MaddenBible.com.”

It wasn’t long until they started posting their strategies.  “People would ask us questions and we started answering them,” Stephen chimed-in. “What defense to use? Which team to pick? How to beat their friends.”  Much of the website centered on answering questions from players, both novice and experienced.  Their belief – that the gamer’s questions should be the catalyst for their strategy/advice – is what sets them apart from the bulk of strategy authors.  It is truly a crowdsource and almost populist philosophy and it seemed to work well.

When we graduated, “the dream took a back seat to reality,” lamented Stephen.  Zach took a job as a marketing coordinator  at an engineering firm while also producing a weekly sports radio show, 1120AM WBNW in Boston. Stephen worked as a loss prevention detective for TJ Maxx and then an Account Executive for Metalogix Software.  They continued to run the website on the side and compete in Madden Tournaments.  (True to form, they debated for 5 minutes during the interview regarding which one was the best tournament player, and who beat who when.)

Before they knew it, Prima Games was emailing them to author the EA Sports Madden NFL Official Guides.  According to Zach and Stephen, what made the difference in convincing them to leave their jobs and become full-time strategy authors was the support they received from their family.  “My dad was very supportive, even when others thought we were crazy,” admitted Stephen.   Their girlfriends took a little bit more convincing.  “Once [our girlfriends] started [coming] with us to Madden Tournaments and saw how good we were, they felt more comfortable,” bragged Zach.  They took the chance and it paid off.

Why Their Job is the Coolest

A million reasons come to mind why Zach and Stephen have the coolest job — playing video games all day, getting access to the newest games before everyone else, hanging out with professional athletes, traveling all over the country, and getting paid for it all.  Surprisingly, none of those made their list.

Instead, Stephen explained he loves his job “because it gives [him] the flexibility to spend time with [his] family.”  Although he spends many hours on the Madden practice field perfecting his defense, he is not burdened by the 9 to 5 time constraints.

Zach has a different view.  He loves his job because “it allows [him] to work with his strength,” helping people, regardless of ability level, be better players and solving problems.  “Even if it is showing someone a play, they can run over and over again to beat their friends,” it makes them feel good and makes him feel good.  “It makes me excited to go to work,” Zach explained further.

Humility aside, I think their job is the coolest because they are EA SPORTS Official Game Changers – high-profile members of the EA SPORTS community who work directly with Game Developers to contribute to the development and support of the games.  When I asked whether they actually influenced any changes to Madden NFL franchise, they jointly provided the following example (summarized):

The game developers originally included a “slant out” route for wide receivers.  This route was almost unstoppable.  We convinced the game developers that such a route was  unrealistic and the fact that it was unstoppable would be abused in tournament play.  The game developers agreed and converted the wide receiver “slant out” into a tight end Zig route, which can be more realistically stopped.

Commanding that type of respect and effecting real change in a revolutionary franchise like Madden, is what makes their job so cool to me.

Why Is Madden NFL 25 So Badass?

According to Zach and Stephen, Madden NFL 25 is badass because “elite players are more elite,” especially in the run game.  For example, Adrian Peterson will be able to do moves that Jahvid Best (if he plays this season) cannot.  The precision moves are authentic and it is super polished as the last Madden NFL on this XBOX generation.  Buying it is really a no-brainier.

Top 5 Reasons to Buy Prima’s Official Game Guide for Madden NFL 25

According to Zach and Stephen, Prima’s Official Game Guide for Madden NFL 25 is worth the purchase because it gives a gamer an extreme edge on the competition.  Specifically, this guide is the one to buy because:

  1. There is something for every level of player ability – novice and tournament pro.
  2. Written from the gamer’s point of view (no more instructional textbook).  When you are getting dismantled by an online opponent, you don’t have time to read a school book, you need quick and reliable advice to execute immediately.
  3. Large Playbook in the back (Minnesota Vikings) is a must have for advancing/winning this year’s tournaments.
  4. Easily consumable with Top 5 reference list for faster play.
  5. Six pages for each team and specific plays for each situation.  You will have the edge with your favorite team, even if they are not the strongest this year.

How Do I Get Prima’s Official Game Guide for Madden NFL 25?

This year’s print guide is a 350+ page book ($24.99) with free eGuide access, and bonus Ultimate Team Pro Pack, with Barry Sanders download code. Pre-orders are now available at Amazon, GameStop and Best Buy.

Online options at www.MaddenTips.com range from a free pre-launch offering of all Team Playbooks, tournament-level tips and strategies in the Winner’s Kit ($129.99), Offense/Defense Playbook ($49.99), and Problem’s Tournament Champion Playbook ($49.99). Other products include the Madden NFL 25 ‘How-To’ (4.99) and Madden NFL 25 ‘Teams’ ($9.99 bundle, $0.99 team) iOS apps. Prima Games is also offering a free “Casual NFL Gamer” eGuide with a Madden Glossary featuring helpful “How To” videos, Top 5 articles, and early set-up recommendations at PrimaGames.com/MaddenNFL25.

About Prima Games

Prima Games, an imprint of Random House, LLC., is the world’s leading publisher of strategy content for PC and console video games. Prima Games is a leader in the digital video game strategy realm, offering interactive strategy maps, streaming video, searchable online guides and strategy apps. www.primagames.com.

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