Mike Vick is the single most dominant video game character of the past decade, and to millions of gamers growing up Xbox, the Eagles quarterback is like playing with a cheat code behind center.
These days, though, Vick is dominating a different genre; his new mobile franchise, “Mike Vick: GameTime,” is one of the top-selling sports titles for iOS.
Here’s what the greatest video game athlete since Bo Jackson had to say about his polygonal legacy, jumping into the mobile market and his recent footrace against teammate LeSean McCoy.
ESPN Playbook: Do you realize how devastating your “Madden” character has been throughout the years? You might just be the best video game athlete ever created.
Michael Vick: I realize that and acknowledge that, and I really appreciate it because it comes from the fans. It’s also a credit to everything that goes into the “Madden” game because they make it realistic. When you don’t play so good, they drop your ratings, but for the most part with me, it’s been pretty consistent with the way I’ve played and the way I’ve been in the NFL.
So when you play “Madden,” do you play as yourself, or is that cheating?
I really don’t play as myself when I play the video game. That’s the hardest thing I have to do, because in the video game, you have to play a certain way sometimes, and even if it’s in a real game, you have to let everything flow naturally. When I’m playing as myself, I want to break out and run, I want to get those easy yards. I don’t play as myself because it’s just too difficult for me to run the plays. [laughs]
How did you get involved in the creation of “Mike Vick: GameTime”?
Everyone who was involved with the production came and sat down with me in my condo in Philadelphia, and it was a lot of trial and error in trying to figure out what was best suited for the game. Should we make it 4-on-4? Should it be 7-on-7 or 11-on-11? There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of ideas thrown around, but I wanted to make sure that this app would be something that would entertain people, whether they were at the airport or just sitting in their hotel room with some downtime. It’s a great game, it’s well put-together, and I think everybody sitting down and coming together with the same mindset made all the difference.
The passing is really unique in the game in terms of needing to lead the receivers. How important was it for you to make the passing game feel realistic, even in the 4-on-4 setting?
Even in real football, you need to lead the receivers around defenders, so we didn’t just want to make a game that was user-friendly, we wanted to make a game that got more difficult as the levels went up. We wanted to make it realistic so people needed to learn how to play the game and get good at it. We wanted it to be challenging and more innovative than the other football games that are out there. We wanted it to be a teaching tool for how to play the game of football for all the up-and-coming quarterbacks out there.
When playing quarterback in real life, what’s the most important thing you need to look for in order to time those routes and lead the receivers with your passes?
I think the most important part of playing quarterback when you drop back in the pocket is being able to see the defenders. You know where your guys are going, but you also have to know what voids are going to be in the defense so you can throw your receivers open or lead them to the target. It’s a lot you need to see visually and then comprehend in a split second. That’s the tough part about playing quarterback, but once you learn how to do it, you never forget it.
We talked earlier about your “Madden” character. I was just curious how many fans come up to you and tell you about your virtual life and how many games they won or lost because of a touchdown you ran for or an interception you threw?
All the time, people are like, “I played as you in ‘Madden,’” or they’ll tell me I’m the most dynamic player in “Madden.” It’s funny because they want to know what they can do to play as me better in “Madden,” and I don’t know what to say because I don’t even play as myself. For the most part, they want to know what it takes to master the game, and they want to know what it takes to bring the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl, and I just tell them: “Don’t overdue it with myself. You have to get other players involved.” That’s just what you have to do to win.
You were involved in the “Madden” cover vote a few years ago, and now you have your new app. How do you see the world of video games helping reshape your image after your return to the NFL from incarceration?
I think when you’re a football player, people want to emulate you to the best of their abilities, so they do that in the video games. When they’re playing the video games, they’re not only playing as you, they’re envisioning themselves doing the same thing, like “What if I was in Mike Vick’s shoes? If I was a quarterback in the National Football League, this is how I’d play.” Fans have dreams, and these video games are a great way to allow people to dream.
EA Sports is making your “Madden 25” character right now. Any advice for the game’s producers on how to create the next version of virtual Vick?
I just want to let them know that I’ll be playing in a different system this year with Chip Kelly, so I’ll be somewhat mobile while using my versatility. Don’t take what happened last year as a sign I’m slowing down. I’m still mobile pretty good for my age.
I heard you smoked LeSean McCoy in a race the other day when he called you an old man. What happened?
[laughs] LeSean is like my little brother, and some days he follows me around and gives me a hard time like a little brother would. He’d been wanting to race for a while, but I wanted to respect Chip and give that respect to my team because anything can happen and I don’t want to put Chip in a bad situation because I made a bad decision when I could’ve made a better decision. So I went to Chip and asked his permission, and he told me, “If you think you can take him, why don’t you give it a shot.” So I told LeSean to line up, and he lined up, and then he found out. Everything that he wanted, he found out in that 4.3 seconds or whatever it turned out to be. It was great for our team. It was a lot of fun, and we all got a great laugh out of it together.
In the world of video games, anytime somebody brings up the legitimacy of the Madden Curse, your name is almost always the first to be brought up. Do you believe in the Madden Curse?
I tend not to be superstitious, but sometimes life leads me to believe in certain superstitions, and that one, I just can’t really get a handle on right now. Daunte Culpepper was on the cover and got hurt, then I got hurt, then the next guy got hurt and it’s crazy. It’s something that’s been going around for the past 10 years or so. But do I believe it? No. It’s something that can be broken at any time. I just hope the next guy on the cover plays all 16 games and stays healthy.
Actually, Barry Sanders is on the cover of “Madden 25,” so it looks like they found a way to break the curse.
The curse is broken! That’s actually a brilliant marketing strategy. Shout out to the “Madden” team.
So for gamers playing as the Eagles this year, and Eagles fans hoping for a Super Bowl run, what can we expect from you and your team this upcoming season both in the video game and in real life?
We’re going to give it 110 percent, and I know I’ve said that before and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but we’re excited about this season. All our teammates, our coaching staff, we’re ready to take on the NFL and what it has to offer, and that’s part of the challenge. That’s why we play the game. I think we’re ready to just play football and not be stuck talking about our jobs and what we’re doing. We need to go out and get it done and have fun doing it.