Compute! Magazine – The Feeling of Football at Your Fingertips

The Feeling of Football at Your Fingertips

When Electronic Arts released the first John Madden Football game in 1988 the standard for sports gaming was set to an all time high. Using the circuit of culture model, the representation of the game in this advertisement by Compute! magazine portrays important ideologies and principles the creators were intending to capitalize on. It focused on appealing to values of masculinity, the love for sports, and cutting edge technologies for the time. Through an audiovisual experience of hard hitting safeties and long touchdown passes, recent advancements in home computing power allowed Madden 1988 to feature the excitement of playing football at your fingertips in a way never before seen. 

Madden 88 was originally released on the Apple II and soon expanded to the IMB MS-DOS and the Commodore 64 systems. Growth in computing power and graphics proficiency allowed for the development of simulation football to reach a broad audience. By allowing fans to participate in their own private football games on their personal computers, we can see a desire for entertainment and leisure activities, despite the lack of an extensive online community. 

The advertisement chose to use both image and text mediums of expression to engage its audience. By giving a quick description of the game, Madden 88 directly appeals to its target market by highlighting the fact you can “design your own plays for both offense and defense.” In a time where personal computing was still new to most consumers, Madden made sure to fulfill its users’ needs to assert control over their virtual environment. By promoting the fact that players could design their own plays it evoked feelings of leadership in the online community that aligns with real aspects of the NFL. 

Figure 1. Source: Brady, J. (2018). Gameplay from Madden’s First Release in 1988. SBNation.

The images in the advertisement are deliberately designed to express how Madden 88 is breaking norms for the sports gaming industry. By showing John Madden literally smashing through a chalkboard full of Xs and Os, Electronic Arts drives home the fact that this game will redefine expectations for the future of online gaming. Other images of gameplay, depth chart reports, and play design all are used to appeal to a popular audience by allowing consumers to choose which aspect of the game connects to them most. 

Figure 2. Source: Compute! Magazine Issue 114. Nov. 1989, page 65.

Familiar football language is used throughout the entire advertisement as another way to appeal to an already established NFL audience. Formal language is intentionally left out of the article, allowing the advertisement to be easily digestible for all ages. Very simple and comprehensible instructions for how to order the game are also included on the advertisement, highlighting the various ways consumers can purchase and enjoy the game. Notably, lots of football terms are used throughout the advertisement. The heavy use of specific terminology may exclude fans of video games that are not necessarily fans of football. They may find it difficult to understand the aspects of the game, possibly limiting Madden’s player base. 

The advertisement clearly represents Madden 88 as a form of play in the scope of a user’s online experience by allowing its target audience to enjoy a popular American pastime at their own home and on their own schedule. By using a clear format, the advertisement aims at replicating the strict structure a football team needs to succeed. This clean cut advertisement is very easily digestible for all age groups. Using white font on a black background also connects to the Oakland Raiders, a team John Madden is heavily associated with after a ten year run as head coach. 

John Madden’s advertisement for his new football game in the 1989 114th issue of Compute! Magazine clearly provides an example of the identity aspect within the circuit of culture. By using recognizable rhetoric and imagery, the advertisement is able to appeal to the masculine audience already invested in NFL culture. Overall, this Madden advertisement illustrates how media companies deliberately build identities that consumers can adopt based on their preexisting interests. The game is marketed by identifying the audience and reflecting their identities back to them.

Works Cited

1, C. (2015, March 3). Timeline: Madden Video Game Franchise History. HistoWiki.

ALJEAN HARMETZ, Special to the New York Times. “MAKERS VIE FOR MILLIONS IN HOME VIDEO GAMES”. The New York Times, January 13, 1983, Thursday, Late City Final Edition. Accessed September 22, 2023.

Brady, J. (2018). Gameplay from Madden’s First Release in 1988. SBNation. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from

Compute! magazine issue 114. Internet Archive. (1989, November 1). 

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