Clint Oldenburg’s summers have changed dramatically in the last decade.
Instead of heading to an NFL training camp, hoping to win a job on an offensive line that would protect the likes of Donovan McNabb, Tom Brady or Brett Favre, he is in Orlando, helping build a best-selling video game that allows millions of gamers across the world to live out their fantasies of being those guys.
Oldenburg spent six years in the late 2000s in professional football, including four years in the NFL and two in the Canadian Football League. Now, he’s one of the producers of the blockbuster Orlando-built Madden NFL series of video games.
With the NFL season’s return, Oldenburg said he looks forward to watching the game every year from two new perspectives: a game builder and a fan.
“When I was playing, only my game mattered,” he said. “I didn’t watch any other game unless I was in film study for the next opponent. Now, just like everyone else, Sunday, Monday night and Thursday night is time to watch as much football as I can.”
Working on an icon
Oldenburg has worked on the high-profile video game series named after iconic NFL head coach John Madden since 2013.
However, this was the first game he had to work on since Madden passed away December in California.
He said Madden 23 was a tribute to the Hall of Fame coach. Madden lead the Oakland Raiders from 1969-78 and still holds the team record for coaching victories with 103.
The coach for many years met with developers to imbue his style into the game named after him.
“We all have so much respect for Coach,” Oldenburg said. “To be a very small part of his legacy means the world to me and, really, to our entire team. This has been a year we’ll never forget.”
The Madden NFL series has become one of the classic video games in the industry.
In 2016, the World Video Game Hall of Fame included Madden in its second nomination class.
In 2018, the Hall inducted Madden alongside Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VII and the 1962 classic Spacewar.
An evolving industry
“It’s an understatement to simply say that we have come a long way,” Oldenburg said when asked about how the game has changed since he first worked on it in 2013.
In that time, the game evolved through two console generations, the pandemic and two studio locations after EA’s Orlando headquarters moved downtown last year.
Specifically, Oldenburg works on gameplay and Madden’s special “Face of the Franchise” mode.
In that mode, players become an NFL prospect, potentially get drafted and play out a storyline.
He said the popularity of football has contributed to the longevity of the game’s popularity.
In addition, Madden’s own Madden’s touch likely contributed to its longevity, not to mention its popularity.
“Coach Madden is an icon in the sports world and was able to reach an extremely broad audience to bring people to the game of football through teaching the sport, both as a coach and a broadcaster,” he said. “I think Coach Madden is smiling from above as he sees the love and care put into this game.”