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Breaking Madden: Beast Mode, 3,000 players, and one controller

It's not fair that Jon gets to play Breaking Madden all by himself. So this time, he invited thousands of you to push the buttons for him. This is going to be so stupid.

I regard "Twitch Plays Pokémon" as one of the greatest moments in video gaming history. It's still going on as we speak, actually.

The premise, for those unaware: there's a live video feed of a console playing Pokémon, and to the right, there's a chat room. Any chucklehead can swing by and enter a request for the machine to press a button. At the peak of its popularity, the screen was an incomprehensible waterfall of up, down, A, down, right, B, and so forth. The Internet populace worked together to play the game, although the input was so dissonant that it would often take the little dude an eternity to walk across the room. We, The Internet, eventually beat the game in spite of this. It's among our greatest triumphs.

This Breaking Madden is even dumber than that. It might be the single dumbest episode in Breaking Madden history, which is saying a great deal:

At least the folks playing Pokémon could see the dang screen. Y'all had no such luxury. And by "y'all," I mean everybody who filled out the form I published earlier this week. Here's the deal:


1. I will play a game of Madden as the Seahawks, and I'll play against the Chiefs, their Week 11 opponents.
2. Every offensive play I call will be a run play that gives the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
3. I will never touch the left thumbstick on the controller. That is the one that, uh, makes your guy run.
4. I will only press randomly-selected buttons from the form you filled out.

Thank y'all so much for your button-mashing. In all, I received 3,063 submissions. Your options were as follows:

A (stiff arm). One of Beast Mode's signature maneuvers. Can send a fool to the mat, but only if it's timed correctly. You had no way of timing it, because you entered it into a spreadsheet days before the game was played.
B (spin). The most Madden of moves. For decades, this has been the bread and butter of everyone who barely knows how to play. Somewhat effective.
X (dive). I would imagine that at least half the time, this button is pressed in error. It's like if every laptop had a big honkin' "QUIT WITHOUT SAVING" key in the middle of the keyboard.
Y (hurdle). One of the funnier buttons, to be sure. For our purposes, it's also effective: since we can't use the left stick, we have to rely on any move that sends us upfield. Hurdling does. Very slowly, but it does.
LB (pitch ball). A lateral, in other words. Sometimes, Marshawn will hold the ball out but refuse to pitch it. Sometimes a teammate will catch it and run with it, and sometimes he'll fling it 20 yards in the wrong direction to absolutely no one.
RB (protect ball). Boring, but a lot of you picked this one because you value safety.
LT + X (precision dive). Depending on the situation, Beast Mode will vault into the air, ball up, and hit the ground like a meteor.
LT + Y (precision hurdle). I still haven't figured out how this is any different from a normal hurdle.
Right stick (up, down, left, right). With this stick, we're able to juke left, right, or backwards. I soon learned that if you're not touching the left stick, flicking the right stick up to truck a guy doesn't work. This move does absolutely nothing. Apologies to the 707 of you who pushed this button.

Without a left stick, Beast Mode pretty clearly needs some help. I didn't change any of his player ratings (except for Stamina, just to make sure he stayed on the field for every play), but I did reduce the Kansas City Chiefs defense to a gaggle of five-foot, 160-pound helpless babies. Longtime readers of Breaking Madden know the drill by now: I made them as slow, weak, unthinking, and oblivious as possible.


I found them on Twitter, as I always do:

These really are some special folks. If you'd like to get to know them, click on over to this week's Breaking Madden Roster Cuts. Please enjoy the stories of:

- a drunk man who fed a potato to a garbage disposal because he thought it looked hungry
- a sound operator who accidentally blasted "Love Shack" during Juliet's death scene
- a woman who pressed a restaurant's panic button because she thought it was a doorbell

and many more. (Appropriately enough, I also pushed a button I really shouldn't have this week: after spending several hours creating this roster, I accidentally saved over the file and had to start over from scratch. Me: I'm just like you.)


You're probably thinking, and understandably so, that we will get absolutely nowhere with Marshawn Lynch. Well, this ought to set the table:


No left stick is necessary; our friends on the Chiefs are doing the work for us. These little fellas never bring down Beast Mode on the first try, and when they touch him, they trigger an automatic "shed tackle" response, and Marshawn trots a few yards upfield. It's like riding a wave.

As such, this is a profoundly weird-ass game, right? The other team serves to help us, and is basically on our side. With our dissonant and often-destructive button-mashing, we're actually our own opponents. This is confusing. Do we even want to win this game? In retrospect, I wish I'd asked that question in the form.

Lordy, this is so stupid.

Anyway, I did ask you folks to explain why you pressed the button you pressed. So when a play completely went to shit, I at least had some closure:


Sometimes the precision dive was just a dive. Valued Internet subscriber Untilitkillsyou did not pull off the precision dive he wanted, but he did manage to sabotage our efforts.

People loved hitting the dive button. I don't know why. So many times, the makings of something good would be promptly destroyed because someone demanded I hit X.


I should note that there was no rule against multiple submissions. Valued Internet subscriber @emerszi took full advantage of this:


This individual, who submitted "time to dive" exactly 127 times, ruined a fair number of plays. This individual also perfectly demonstrates the spirit of Breaking Madden: "just do whatever because who cares." If anything ever means anything at all, it ought to be regarded as an accident.

Another popular option: the lateral.


This was arguably the funniest way to ruin a play. Marshawn did this well over a dozen times, but thankfully, he often just refused to pitch the ball.

I'm not sure of his rationale, but this is perfectly representative of the real-life Marshawn Lynch: he does what he wants to do, and he doesn't do what he doesn't want to do. He doesn't want to be tackled, no matter how many Saints are on him. He does want to eat Skittles. He doesn't want to talk to the media. He does want to drive a golf cart around on the field. He has done nice things, and he has done bad things, and he has literally precipitated an earthquake. Our own Matt Ufford wrote a longform on Beast Mode that remains one of my favorite sports pieces I've read all year. I can't recommend that highly enough.

Oh look, a person named "Dog Wizard" would like to play! All right, "Dog Wizard," let's see what you got.


Did you see that? Marshawn Lynch somehow just trucked a dude from behind with his ass. Anderson, number 35, executed some of the worst tackling form I've ever seen. He stretched out his arms, planted his face directly into the ball carrier's ass, and slowly crumpled into a lifeless heap. R.I.P., Anderson. He died of butt.

The "precision hurdle/dive" remains sort of a mystery to me, but occasionally, the result was something special:


@Stevenkeers' rationale is perhaps not the easiest to explain, but it's clear that this move came from a spiritually true place, and it inspired Beast Mode to take to the sky like a human rainbow. He completely vaulted over that little dude. He's only five feet tall, sure, but I think this is the first time I've ever seen that.

Sometimes, y'all just let him beast.


I hope this helps somehow, Anonymous. The true stiff arms were few and far between during this game, since Madden is kind of fickle in the stiff-arming department. Given this, and that we were deprived our truck stick, this was actually not a very Marshawn Lynch affair. Don't worry, I'll fix that before we wrap up here.

Meantime, the game went bonkers again.


It would be one thing if Justin Britt, number 68, simply got in the way and knocked Marshawn over. But look, he actively reaches out his arm and rips his own teammate to the ground. Hold on, let's take a second to examine the allegiances in play here:

1. The Chiefs are basically gut flora. Just like gut flora don't actively want to help you break down that hamburger, these Chiefs don't seem to want ... well, anything. I don't know if they're evolved enough to want anything. But by virtue of the way they are and the three and a half things they know how to do, they make it possible for Marshawn Lynch to move upfield. If the Seahawks were the only team on the field, they'd actually be playing worse.

2. The Seahawks are managed by all of us, and I'm firmly convinced that half of us are trying to ruin the Seahawks. Additionally, we just witnessed the Seahawks AI blatantly tackle its own man.

I no longer understand what is going on or who any of us are or what we want. Next slide.

Watch Ragan, number 28, while keeping your eye on Beast Mode, number 24. Ragan goes up next to him and just stands there. This is the portrait of an artificial intelligence in the process of un-learning its pathos.

I say this as a lifelong Chiefs fan: I took no small amount of delight in seeing how often the Chiefs hit the ground. At the end of any given play, at least half the team would be lying around like they got unplugged from the Matrix. Since I started Breaking Madden last year, I've always wanted to knock all 11 players on the ground at the same time. I've never done this, and don't know whether it's possible. In the meantime, this will do nicely.

This was my favorite moment of the week.


I think I pressed "stiff arm" here. Whatever I did, I scared the living Hell out of number 33. He ran up to Beast Mode only to scurry off in terror. He did this three times. I want to reiterate here that I had nothing to do with that little fella's idea. That was all Madden's doing. Look, y'all, this game is working through some very difficult issues, and we need to respect that.


Final score:
Seahawks 76, Chiefs 32

Beast Mode's stats:
126 carries
998 yards
7.9 yards per carry
11 touchdowns
357 yards after first hit

Yep. No, I know. I know how profoundly stupid this is. We didn't even touch the stick that made the player move. You folks played this game from New York and Atlanta and Goodland, Kansas and Bremerton, Washington, and you couldn't even see the screen.

And y'all killed it. You did it with the help of our Twitter volunteers, sure. But you won. You beasted. I saw the entire damned thing, and I still can't believe it.

The one thing we really missed out on, regrettably, was Beast Mode being his true Beast Mode self. Trucking fools, stiff-arming jokers, watering the grass with all those chuckleheads. So for this week's final video, I decided to play as Marshawn Lynch myself and destroy some suckers. If that's your thing too, then here you go:

Click here for many more episodes of Breaking Madden.