Over at SI's Extra Mustard, Jon Robinson has a wonderful look at eight features the NFL forced EA Sports to remove from its Madden series of video games. They are, roughly, what you'd expect: a whole lot of things related to player safety, including helmets popping off, coaches being run over on the sidelines, and overly violent hit-stick animations. Chief among them: the long-lamented ambulance.
Celebrating injuries is one of those weird signposts of the Jacked Up! era that still makes us all a little uncomfortable. The ambulance, which last appeared to remove injured players in the 2001 edition of the game, was the first feature the NFL ever asked to have removed, according to one EA Sports producer. EA and the NFL reached a compromise—the game could instead use the flatbed cart that appears at actual football games. But with one strange proviso:
"They did not want to see a player strapped to a backboard, motionless," says the second producer. "That was a hard restriction, given to us in the mid-2000s. If a guy was carted off the field, he had to be moving around, not paralyzed."
The NFL's diktats are understandable. The Madden games are PR for the league, and its licensing rights are so valuable that it can strongly control its portrayal, so why wouldn't it? But that sensitivity bordered on the absurd with the release of Madden NFL 11, which introduced "dynamic attendance"—just like in the real world, certain teams sold out and others didn't.
"We incorporated accurate attendance for all the teams, and Jacksonville always had these terrible turnouts," says one producer. "The Jags owner got all pissed off when he heard there were empty seats when you played as his team in the game. The team called the NFL and we had to fix it immediately."