FANTASY MEETS ‘MADDEN’: FAN CONTROLLED FOOTBALL AIMS TO BRIDGE GAP BETWEEN ESPORTS AND REAL-WORLD GRIDIRON
What if fans controlled the field?
Patrick Dees isn’t talking about Madden. He’s referring to Fan Controlled Football (FCF), which has a distribution partnership with VENN, the organization he co-founded where gaming meets fantasy football in real life.
“I’m the gamer of the group and grew up playing Madden and that’s how I learned the rules of football,” says Dees of FCF’s conception, which he co-founded with Sohrob Farudi, Grant Cohen and Ray Austin in 2015. “[Farudi and I] talked about how we can couple that real time play calling experience with actual athletes.”
That’s where Cohen came in.
“In 2007, [Cohen] had written a blog on SB Nation about Front Office Fans,” Dees recalls. “He’d already obviously been in that headspace, so we recruited him.”
Meanwhile, Austin was working on a text-based application to more quickly get plays into the quarterback. “All of us had come at it from different vectors, but then we teamed up,” says Dees. “Our hypothesis was if you put fans in a position to be successful, they will. Because fan IQ is higher than it has ever been with Madden and fantasy [football].”
FCF uses technology which allows the audience to make gametime decisions in real-time, calling plays for the physical athletes on the field. The games are real, not virtual, and every play is decided on by the audience.
“From a mechanics perspective, fans choose between four plays,” Dees says. “All plays were ones we wanted to be fun, so you can’t choose a bad play.” When their team is on the offensive, fans can vote between running or passing. From there, fans vote between four play options. The play with the most votes is executed on the field.
All FCF events are streamed live on Twitch where fans can use the chat function to vote on plays. For fans watching games on linear television, these same selections can be made via FCF’s official app.
Plays on the field aren’t the only way fans control the game, however. Each Wednesday night is the FCF draft, where viewers decide which team athletes will play for that week. Fans vote in a live player draft to build their team’s roster.
FCF is currently comprised of four teams: Glacier Boyz, Wild Aces, Beasts and Zappers. Each team has two franchise players selected by the team owners, and fans decide on a third “keeper” after the first game. The rest of the players go back into the pool for the weekly draft. FCF currently boasts athletes such as Johnny Manziel, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, and David Pindell, starting quarterback at Connecticut in 2018, among others.
Saturdays are game days. In addition to fans calling plays on the field in real time, FCF uses drones, live stream helmet cams and 180 degree VR cams to create an authentic “Madden view.”
“It’s football reimagined for the digital age,” says Dees. “Instead of 11-on-11 [games] it’s seven-on-seven on a 50 yeard field that’s 35 yards wide. It’s fast.”
Where do the athletes come from? “Most of them are guys that didn’t make the NFL but are still looking for tape and opportunity to get to that next level,” says Dees. “More than that, they are players with huge personalities who are also content creators in their own right.”
To entice fans to come back week after week and stay engaged, FCF has incorporated several gaming elements into its system. Badges can be earned through unique challenges and throughout the season some votes and play-calls will use badge bonuses. Fans who have the matching badge will receive extra voting power. Fans can also earn “FanIQ” throughout the season for calling a good play, drafting top players and interacting with FCF.
“We believe everybody gets a vote, but not every vote should be created equal,” Dees says. “It’s like XP when you’re playing a video game. You get [FanIQ points] for everything that you do. As you level up, your vote carries more weight.”
The FCF season kicks off on Saturday with the Glacier Boyz playing the Wild Aces at 5 p.m. PT and the Beasts squaring off against the Zappers at 6 p.m. PT.
Photos courtesy of FCF