LOVE AT FIRST BYTE: When I was about 11, I started playing with Madden NFL '92. I was already a big video game fan; I was maybe 4 or 5 when my parents bought me Atari 2600, and I would play that to death. I was big into sports games, too, so it was natural for me to move on to Madden NFL because that was the best football game at the time. I was hooked and have bought it every year since.
WEB HOST: MaddenNation.com was around for two months before I became involved with it. I was posting and giving suggestions, and the staff decided they wanted to bring me on. Now two of us own the site. We have 32,000 registered members and can have as many as 10,000 unique visitors a day. I try to play one or two games a day, so that's a minimum of seven to 10 hours online a week. It's a lot harder to play now than it used to be; I spend more time running the site.
OBSESSION PROGRESSION: Playing online and in leagues is like the ultimate experience for a football fan. You can take control of your favorite team -- I'm a die-hard Redskins fan -- and fix things that are wrong in real life. When Madden came online with Madden NFL 2003, I started playing a lot more seriously. Playing the same couple of guys in your neighborhood is very different from playing the Redskins against a Dallas fan in Texas.
PLAYING FOR PAY: I write for VG Sports, a company that develops gaming strategy guides, and I have a weekly column for the official EA Sports Madden NFL site. That income allows me to run my site full time. Initially people are like, "Why are you spending so much time with a video game?" But making a living selling a strategy guide has added a sense of legitimacy to my gaming. It's one thing to play all day and have nothing come out of it; it's another thing to make a living out of it.
GETTING AN EDGE: Our site has features like Madden Edge, a scouting tool. If I have the Redskins playing the Eagles, and I want to match my wide receiver against their defensive back, Madden Edge shows which player has the advantage.
CHOOSE A GAME PLAN: There are about 35 or so playbooks, and people should pick one and learn it inside out. That way they'll be more familiar with the plays at their disposal, rather than fumbling around with new plays each time they boot up the game. Practice makes perfect.
VISION QUEST: This year the big feature is "vision cone." You have to move the cone over the receiver before you can pass to them. Even for guys who are game veterans, it's taken time to get used to this. One tip about vision cone: You have to have it over receivers before you throw, but you can throw to running backs without it.
ADVICE FOR NEWBIES: As a general tip -- don't be discouraged. It's very difficult to play online. When I first did it, I got destroyed: These players take it very seriously.
MADDEN DOMINATION: We came up with the idea of having a national holiday for Madden's release date (maddenholiday.com). It's kind of a joke. People always ask, "Are you serious?" People don't understand it's something we're doing because we like the game, and we like to have a little bit of fun. There's actually a petition online, with over a thousand signatures.
As told to Lauren Silva