Academic Game Theory in Madden NFL 13

If you have been following us for a while you might remember this post from way back in 2009. We wanted to revisit this post for Madden NFL 13. Does it still apply?

This article will jump into the topic of Game Theory. If you’re not familiar with game theory here is a definition: Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others. It was initially developed to analyze competitions in which one individual does better at another’s expense.

Over at Academic Earth they offer free courses from a major university. The specific course on game theory comes from Yale and is taught by professor Ben Polak. In the introduction class, he introduces game theory and common game theory scenarios. He offers five tips that I feel can translate into the Madden world and help you improve your game.

1. Do Not Play Strictly Dominated Strategies: If it is 4th and 1 and you know your opponent can stop your FB Dive with a specific defensive play than you cannot call the FB Dive in that scenario. Yes, he may be too scared to call that play because it does allow longer gains if you call an outside run or over-the-top pass. However, the FB Dive is what game theorists call “dominated” in this scenario. No matter what, you have to go to another play that gives you a chance to succeed. Calling a pass play can always be a risky proposition in a short yardage scenario, but if you do call the dive and he calls his specific FB Dive–stopping play then the game is over.

2. Rational Decisions Sometimes Lead to Bad Outcomes: Sometimes you make the right call and step up in a big situation. However, you can only control your opponent to a certain extent. One thing you can’t control is when your players decide to drop the football! Perhaps you went for it on 4th and 5 because you were in no-man’s land. You couldn’t kick a field goal and punting would barely net you any yards. You decide to go for it and get to the first down line. After you cross the yellow line, your player fumbles. Your decision to go for it was properly calculated and made sense but it feels wrong because Ed Reed is now streaking the other way with the football for 6. Keep your head up and know you made the right decision!

3. Madden Players = Evil: On average, 30 percent of players in studies took the A option, which was less ethical but offered more reward. I get hundreds of emails each week asking about quick glitches and ways to get online wins. People send me messages about how use the disconnect glitch and plays that can score TDs on every play.

Well, it’s too bad I can’t sell these people fat loss pills that will make them lose 100 pounds in just hours. I also have an uncle overseas who can get them $1 million if they just let me borrow $10!

My message here is that people are always looking for quick fixes to tough problems. If there is a glitch out there, most people will use it. You must be careful about whom you are playing against and always prepare for the worst-case scenario. Bill Belichick is a master of this situation; he always knows every possible thing that could happen in a game and coaches accordingly. You need to remember that Madden players are evil and will do anything for a W. You don’t have to play unfairly, but you need to be prepared to defend against those who do.

4. Put Yourself In Other People’s Shoes: Prof. Polack isn’t telling us to play nice here. He is asking us to think about what our opponent is thinking and what situation he is preparing for. If you can imagine the opponent’s thoughts than you will be able to take them into account when making your decision.

If you need help in this aspect then bust out your NES or get an emulator and play Tecmo Super Bowl. This game had only eight plays to choose from, four run and four pass plays. On defense your opponent would try to guess what play you picked, and if he was right it resulted in a sack or loss of yards on a running play.

If the game was on the line and you needed a deep pass, you only had two shotgun options to choose from. Basically you had a coin flip chance of your opponent getting in your head and getting a sack. Therefore you always had to be one step ahead of your opponent and guess what he thought you were going to pick, then pick the opposite. (Then he would pick the opposite?!?!?) The result was, when the ball was snapped you were so anxious to see if he picked your play you got a near instant rush.

Tecmo worked so well because the eight plays created a nice balance of guessing games. Now in Madden you can select hundreds of plays, hot routes, and audibles. The defense selects from their own screen. However, you still want to step onto that other side of the field and get into your opponent’s head before you pick your play!

5. You Can’t Get What You Want Until You Know What You Want: Think of what you want to accomplish on your drive. Are you burning clock or conserving clock? Should you stay in bounds or do you need to pick up the extra yards? Is the game over with two more first downs or can your opponent stop the clock? These are issues that can decide games, and rarely do good players mess them up.

Brian Westbrook made the ultimate real-world sacrifice last season when he didn’t run in a touchdown and went down so the Eagles could run out the clock. Smart play!!! Most stat-hungry players would have gotten the TD and given the other team the ball back, which is not smart strategy because you can’t get many points without possessing the ball.

Let’s just say, know what you are trying to accomplish before you get out onto the field. Most gamers are playing for the win, and there is no reason not to put yourself in the best position to do so. I once let a player score a TD with 14 seconds left to take the lead when all he needed was a FG as time expired. After a 78-yard bomb and two-point conversion I had, that kid had a long ride home to think about what a moron he was. These things do happen; know what you want—you want to WIN!

Madden can often be a big mental battle for advanced players with equal skill levels. Often the games come down to that one big play, and these strategies will help to put you in the best position to win.

ZFarls Special Tip:

Just because Madden can turn into a giant presnap battle doesn’t mean that sticks don’t matter. When that ball is snapped the mind games are over and the sticks are all that matter, so get in the lab!

Related posts:

  1. Tecmo Super Bowl Game Tips!
  2. Is Madden NFL 13 Worthy of Game of the Year?
  3. Madden NFL Adjustments, Part 3: Post-Play Mindset
  4. How Many Plays A Game?
  5. Madden NFL 13 Adjustments, Part 1: Pre-play Mindset

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