If your teenage son has begged, borrowed, stolen, or simply been gifted a smartphone, chances are he's playing Madden Mobile right now.
The game, one of the most popular downloads in the history of, well, downloads, absorbs young men not just for the realistic football action but because of the time, skill, and effort it takes to assemble a winning team.
Your son is living vicariously not just through today's great players like Tom Brady or Cam Newton but also through great players from prior eras like Mean Joe Greene and Bo Jackson.
At least half of the thrill from Madden Mobile comes from being your own general manager. Assembling a winning team takes guts, guile, and a ton of the coins that constitute the currency in the game.
Madden Mobile ranks NFL players on a scale from 1 to 99, with 99 being the best. If you want to craft a team full of 99s, you'd better be prepared to spend endless hours conniving to buy online packs of players which might contain superstars and might contain duds.
The genius of Madden Mobile isn't just the realistic football action. It's the action off the field that captivates millions of players, many of whom would gladly give up school, chores, homework, and other fun things just to play Madden Mobile all day long.
The game, like other highly successful multiplayer contests, has guides. Go on YouTube and you will find individuals who have rapidly become huge stars, with followers literally in the millions.
They do videos teaching nuances of the game, or just simply playing along and building teams, and making thousands or even tens of thousands of real dollars--not Madden Mobile money--for their efforts.
My sons, like yours, eat, breathe, and sleep Madden Mobile. Walter Levin, age thirteen, last week interviewed Matt Meagher, aka MaddenMobileGods, one of the most popular YouTubers, who possesses more than 180,000 followers.
If you don't speak YouTube, trust me: that's big time.
Walter Levin: How did MaddenMobileGods start out?
Matt Meagher: That's a great question. I played the game for three months before I even started thinking about making social media accounts for it on YouTube or Instagram. I just played because it was fun, which was the same reason everyone else was playing. After three months, I was so addicted to it. My friends used to mess with me all the time. They'd say, "You've got to get off, man." I probably played more than I should have.
Walter: When did YouTube come into the mix?
Matt: One day, I said to myself, I'm going to make a YouTube video. It's probably not going to be the greatest, but I had seen others, and I thought I could do a better job than what was up there. So I put up a video. It wasn't anything special compared to the videos I put on now. You couldn't see my face. Just a little bit of audio. But people started watching.
Walter: And then you blew up.
Matt: I got lucky, and luck will play into the success of anyone, but I started using a face cam. That definitely differentiated me from other YouTubers. I don't blame people who choose not to use face cam. They don't want to put their face out there for the rest of the world. There's truly no humble way to say this, but I didn't feel as though I was too unattractive.
So, that's what made my channel distinct.
Walter: What was the response when you put your face out there?
Matt: It truly is a brutal world out there on YouTube. You'll see a lot of people say rude things in the comments. There's no one to stop them because it's online. Sometimes I would mess up words, but I was pretty good at public speaking. So I was able to prosper in ways that other YouTubers didn't. I got mad recognition.
Walter: How quickly did you catch on with an audience?
Matt: I started on YouTube on January 7, 2015. Within six months, I had 7,000 subscribers. I was gaining a thousand subscribers a month. Right now, I'm gaining a thousand subscribers a day. I was pumping out high-quality content, and it timed with the new season of Madden Mobile. I was posting a lot of videos. People were seeing me. And I guess they figured I was the best thing out there. I don't mean to say that in a bragging way, but I assume that's what happened.
Walter: Did you intend to be famous from the start?
Matt: You don't go into YouTube thinking, "I want to be super popular. I want to make a bunch of money from YouTube." If you go in with that intention, you lose the passion. I posted that first video because I was passionate about the game. I loved the game. It was fun. I wanted to see if other people shared that same passion. They did.
Walter: You do a two and a half hour live stream every week with your fans. That's a big commitment, isn't it?
Matt: It's fun, because you can get 5,000 views on a live stream. It's only two percent of the people watching my videos, but it's the two percent that I really want to be engaged with. I truly like talking to them and hanging out with them. They always pretend they're at my house. They always make this joke--they'll say, "Hey, can you turn on the AC? It's too hot in your house." It's fun. Really engaging. I get to answer a lot of the questions that usually go unanswered.
Walter: Why do you like Madden so much?
Matt: It makes gaming so much fun. I've played football in real life. With Madden, I can watch the players play in real life and if they do well, it comes across in the game. There's an auction house feature which is basically like the stock market, so I'm learning lots about economics.
Walter: Have you ever thought about doing videos about other games?
Matt: I could put up Call of Duty videos, but I would only be doing it for the sake of growing the channel instead of because I love doing it. I wouldn't get the same enjoyment out of it.
Walter: How do you have time to open all those packs?
Matt: Actually, one of my teachers, who's really a good friend of mine, let me upload a video in his classroom, because it takes about an hour and a half to upload a video. So I set up my computer in his classroom, and I had the video uploaded right after school ended. To record stuff and do face cam takes longer. It takes a whole extra hour. It's a lot of commitment.
Walter: Do you ever do collaborations with other Madden YouTubers?
Matt: I've done three collaborations now with JustaBro. I've always been good friends with him. We've had a little bit of a subscriber battle, but we've been good ever since. It's like any other business--you've got to compete. No hard feelings.
Walter: What's the appeal of your videos? Why do fans love them so much?
Matt: Madden Mobile is a football game based around the NFL season. The idea is you start off with a team of absolutely terrible players, basically all the rookies who just came in. The idea is to build a superstar team of players. There are multiple ways to get players. The point of the game is to get a lot of coins to get a lot of packs and get a lot of great players. The only point is that you don't know what you're going to get in the pack. That's what people find so interesting about watching YouTube videos--these packs cost a lot of coins, and you don't know what you're going to get. So it's a huge mystery. You could get the crappiest player ever, or you could get the best player ever in any single pack you open. That's why when I pull an amazing player and start screaming and running around my house, everybody loves it. I think that's the appeal.
Walter: Last year, I remember when you pulled Steve Atwater but the auction house had closed and you couldn't even sell him.
Matt: I opened about twenty million worth of pro packs. It took nine hours and then I said, okay, I've got to give up. I clicked "sell" so I could see all the players I pulled. And bam, sitting in front of me is 99 Steve Atwater, one of the best players you've got in the entire game. I was freaking out. My heart was beating like, oh my god, I just pulled him. It was a range of emotions, because then I realized I couldn't even sell him. It was like winning the lottery, but you can't even spend the money.
Walter: Any advice for people who want to get successful on YouTube like you?
Matt: Some people will upload one video and that's it. They'll try to cash out on that one video. But you want to just keep putting up more and more videos, a whole variety of things. You're doing gameplay for pack openings. Some live events. Head to head. People will lend you accounts and you'll show them gameplay on that. If you're not worried about the views, it will all work out. You just keep going with it. That's what I've done, and people seem to like it.