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My actual biggest unanswered question about EA Sports College Football 25

This is one question that I can't answer via FOIA

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

I’ve been writing a lot about EA Sports College Football 25 over the last few years…and especially the last few weeks. I’ve been filing FOIAs, and more recently, spending a lot more time on the phone and in the DMs of various folks involved with the production and creation of the game. I read your DMs (well, most of them), my mentions, my emails…and I try to get your questions answered.

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Some of those questions I’m able to answer thanks to copious open records searches. Some of them I can answer because of relationships I’ve developed on campus, at EA, in the licensing industry, and elsewhere. Some of them I can’t answer, but only because EA wants to release that specific information themselves, on their terms. Some of them…are so specific that even some of the people who made the dang game aren’t even totally sure.

We’re only a few weeks away from the game’s full release. But there’s one question I keep coming back to that I know I won’t be able to get answered before July 19…no matter how much time I spend reporting it out.

And that starts with why this game is so anticipated in the first place

Almost everybody has a story like this. This is mine.

It’s 2005, and I’m a freshman at American University in Washington, D.C. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was very much a fish out of water. My hometown of Granville, Ohio (population: roughly 5,000) was just a teensy bit smaller than DC. Outside of being a huge nerd, I didn’t have a lot in common with my new classmates, most of whom were wealthier, more cultured and more urbane than I. After a few weeks, I was pretty homesick.

And that culture shock really played out on Fall Saturdays. American doesn’t have a football team, and D.C. isn’t a college football town. I had spent my entire life living in a world where Ohio State football Saturdays were just as much a cultural and religious totem as church on Sundays, and now I found myself living in a neighborhood where people went to bars to watch the State of the Union. What?!?

So I found myself playing a lot of NCAA 06 that year, not just because I was an awkward 18-year-old kid trying to figure out how he fit into his new world, but because the game was a connection to my old one. My roommate at the time was a big Penn State fan, and we, along with a few others on our dorm floor, found ourselves spending way more time on our respective dynasties than we did, say, our International Relations reading.

After my freshman year, I left American to go on an LDS mission, and later, decided to transfer to Ohio State, which was closer to home and significantly cheaper. The game, and the releases after NCAA 06, became just as much a part of the soundtrack of my undergraduate experience as embarrassing frat party playlists or TBDBITL Skull Sessions.

I’m 37 now. I’ve been married for 12 years, have two little girls, a mortgage, gray chin hairs, the whole works. I don’t play video games nearly as often or as deeply as I did in my late teens and early 20s. I can’t!

But if I hear Teenage FBI on the radio somewhere (IYKYK), I am instantly transported to the basement of Anderson Hall at American U, PS2 controller in hand, wondering if my memory card can hold one more Dynasty Mode save…when my biggest worries were about how I was going to talk to the cute girl who sat behind me in statistics, even though I was an idiot who blushed every time I said “p value.”

I still have an XBOX 360 in my office, a pandemic purchase where I lied to myself and said I ought to have a system that could play NCAA14 for work purposes. I haven’t played it much recently, but I got some real mileage out of it in 2020 and 2021, again, not just because I love college football, love making the right option read, love slowly turning Hawaii into an unstoppable football Juggernaut. But also, because in those years of panic and fear and uncertainty…it was nice to have something that connected me to when my life felt more simple.

When I hear this, for a second…I’m transported back to before I had children, before I owned a small business, before I became I sportswriter, before I worried so damn much about everything.

And I know I’m not alone.

So what happens when I have the new college football game?

I know I’m going to play the hell out of it. I’ll have to for work…I’m writing a formal review of the game for another publication, I’ll have some follow-up content here, and I may write a story or two for other outlets.

I’m also gonna play it because I’m confident I’ll enjoy it. After all, I think I can safely say I know waaaaay more about college football, now that I’ve been covering the sport professionally for the last decade, than I did back when the last game came out. I think I can appreciate the wrinkles, bells and whistles on a deeper level now, and trying to turn my professional knowledge into video game results should be a fun challenge.

But if I’m being completely honest, even if this is subconscious, I think I’m also looking forward to this game because I remember how important these games were earlier in my life. If the last time I was dropping bombs and recruiting five-stars was in my early 20s, I imagine I’m going to feel some connection to those memories when I start doing it again.

I suspect, even if most folks aren’t consciously thinking about it this way, that many other consumers feel the same. They want to reconnect with those positive memories they had in middle school, high school, college. When their lives were simpler. Hell, when college football was simpler.

Electronic Arts is a very smart company. They know a lot about building football simulations, about animating mascots, about recreating a television broadcast. But if they know how to make me feel like I’m 22 again….let’s just say they didn’t share that technology when I was in Orlando.

I wonder…after the initial joy wears off, after the first season is simulated…with there be any backlash or pushback from fans if their emotional nostalgia needs weren’t properly met? Will people feel a sense of letdown once they realize that no matter how many blue-chips they sign…they’re still 40? How much of the anticipation is nostalgia driven, rather than something else?

Or is all of this a projection, simply a me thing? Could be!

I legitimately don’t know. I can’t know for a few more weeks. And I’m almost more interested in that than I am about the nitty-gritty details of dynasty mode or ultimate team or recruitment standardization features.

But hey, if anybody at EA is reading this….still feel free to leak me that info. Lord knows, there are a lot of people on the internet who feel differently…and they’re ALL in my DMs.

Here’s what else we wrote this week:

  • Friend of the program Andy Wittry checked in with Arizona, who just hosted a huge camp for girl’s flag football players…and even used one of their precious football camp days to do it.

  • I talked to conference commissioners and ADs across the low-majors to better understand how folks without huge TV contracts are preparing for a post-revenue sharing world. Who is planning on sharing money, and what does it mean for sport sponsorships? ($)

  • Everybody, from big schools to small, is going to be reallocating resources and figuring out where they can best compete. But most sports, including golf, are becoming more expensive and potentially pricing out the little guy from championship play. So now what? ($)

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Thanks for reading. I’ll see you on the internet next week.

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