NEW YORK CITY -- When Nick Mangold isn’t playing center for the New York Jets, he can be found on his Xbox 360 playing his favorite game – Assassin’s Creed II. With the Jets beating another top seed in the NFL Playoffs, Mangold's season continues toward Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. Mangold was in New York City with Ubisoft before the launch of Assassin's Creed II to get a first look at the sequel and talk about why the original game hooked him. While most NFL players like teammate Mark Sanchez are addicted to Madden, Mangold prefers the exploration and action of Assassin’s Creed. He talks about the new game and what he’s playing these days in this exclusive interview.
What videogames did you play growing up?
Well, actually, I didn’t really play anything growing up because my mom didn’t let videogames in the house. So I didn’t start playing videogames until I got to college. And the big one, which I played with my roommate, was Halo. That was my base. So I’ve been going through the Halo games, I love the Call of Duties, and Assassin’s Creed is just a fantastic game. I’ve stayed away a little bit from the sports. I’ll play a Madden or an NCAA every once in a while, just for kind of shooting the breeze, but nothing too crazy. The other ones I try to focus on.
Did you find when you were in college, that sports games were popular with a lot of guys?
Oh, yeah, a lot of guys like the sports game. I just…for something that I do a ton of, I don’t want to do it. I feel as though the other games kind of give you the release, and you can escape, which for me is a big plus.
Have you at least looked at what they’re doing these days in the latest sports games?
Yeah. I still play Madden a little bit to check it out. If I’m sitting around and I want to just mess around, or I wanna make all these different routes…I wanna see how I could do taking routes and doing coverages. It’s pretty impressive what they’ve been able to create with coverages and everything. They’re coming along.
Is it fun for you to be able to play quarterback?
Yeah. When I do play, it is kind of nice. I get to choose, “All right, I’m throwing the ball here,” or “I’m running this play.” At the same time, I don’t do it that often, because it’s what I do for a living so I kind of get enough of it on the field.
Do you guys have a lot of gamers on your team?
We have a bunch of guys who do play Madden. We used to have a huge Halo following. When I first entered, we had probably 15-20 guys that were all Halo people, now we’ve been switching. As people come and go, they’ve kind of been weeded out. There’s still some guys that enjoy the Halo, and different non-sports games.
So how did you get hooked on the first Assassin’s Creed?
It was just kind of checking different games, and hearing from other people. Somebody recommended it to me, so I was like, “Well, I’ll try it, I’m here.” It was neat playing it, because it’s completely different from anything else I’ve ever played. That kind of sucked me in. You kind of have to have a little strategy to it, while you still get to have the action. So it definitely kept me going, it sucked me right in when I first started playing it.
What is your strategy that you use when you play?
To kill as many people as possible. [Laughs] I’ll spend a lot of time just running around assassinating people just for fun, because even though it has nothing to do with the game, it’s just fun to do. [Laughs] I come up with different ways to do it, and then see if I can escape and hide after doing something blatantly obvious.
When this game came out, did you notice that it was popular amongst your teammates, or in the NFL in general?
I hadn’t really heard too much. Not too many people on my team played it. They’re more in the online category. Guys on the team like to go online because they can play against other people they know, so they kind of missed this one a little bit.
How did Ubisoft find out you were a big fan of Assassin’s Creed?
Russ, their marketing guy. He does a great job of talking to the right people. He always asks me, “Hey, what are you doing now?” I probably mentioned at some point that I was playing the game and he said, “Oh, okay.” And then he just runs with different ideas.
What do you think of Assassin’s Creed II and the new direction the game’s going with the Renaissance?
I think it’s fantastic. Just seeing that little demo there, it’s evolving, as you would expect. As time would move, it evolves. The new weapons and the different things available to you look amazing. The gameplay looked really smooth, which I think is fantastic.
What are your thoughts about this engine being used beyond just Assassin’s Creed? Even Shawn White’s snowboarding game is using the Assassin’s Creed engine.
It’s impressive. I think it’s amazing watching things grow and develop from where we were 10 years ago, or five years ago, and now seeing things today. It’s just impressive to see what can be done.
Did you give Ubisoft any input since you’re a fan of the game on what you’d like to see in this sequel?
Nah, they didn’t ask me that, unfortunately. [Laughs]
Is there anything you’d like to see, having played through the original game?
[Laugh] I haven’t really noticed anything that needed to be improved. They do a pretty solid job and the game has a great look to it. The only one thing I noticed when I was playing it back home in Ohio, and then I brought it back up with me, I realized I got to start all over because I didn’t have a memory stick with me. I was like, “It would be great if you could have a little spot…all right, I want to jump ahead to wherever I need to be and skip all that beginning stuff. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with it.
When it comes to your own videogaming schedule, how does the off-season versus the season impact your gaming time?
It’s huge because during the season, everything drops down for me. I like golfing in the off-season and that completely goes to the wayside and I still get videogames in a little bit, but not compared to the off-season. The off-season, I have just huge blocks of time where I can do whatever I want. In the season, there’s maybe only an hour or two where I have open free time, and I usually spend that with family instead of spending it with videogames, or golfing.
What’s your favorite console?
I’m an Xbox 360 guy.
Do you go online and play against people on Xbox Live?
With Halo I do. I’ve heard Call of Duty is very good online, I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m a huge Halo fan and I play online all the time.
How do you do online, because those guys are pretty good that are on there?
They are pretty good. I hold my own. I’m not saying I’m great, but I hold my own.
Do you guys use Xbox Live to communicate when your team splits up for the off-season?
Yeah, some guys…especially with my buddy back home, the guy that got me onto Halo, my college roommate. If I’m up here and I’m playing it, I’ll see if he’s on. That way instead of just sitting on the phone talking to him, we’ll play the game together and be able to catch up.
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About the Author
John Gaudiosi has been covering videogames for the past 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, CNET, Wired Magazine and CBS.com. He has focused on the convergence of entertainment and videogames for outlets like Video Business, Home Media Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Gamerlive.TV and is also a freelance game columnist for Reuters and writes for outlets like Forbes.com, NVISION, Official PlayStation Magazine, EGM Now, Geek Monthly, PrimaGames.com, and Yahoo! Games. John also serves as the video game expert for NBC in Washington D.C. and has produced videogame documentaries for The History Channel and Starz Entertainment. John was named one of the Top 50 Game Journalists in the world by Next-Gen.biz in 2007. He is the co-author of Scholastic Books' How to Get into Videogames, Prima Publishing's Madden: Twenty Years of Videogame Football and Electronic Arts: The Official History.