Brandon Lloyd can admit it. He still plays Madden on the PlayStation 2. He hooks the decade-old console up to the big-screen LED TV in his Denver pad, plugs in his wired controller (remember those?), and loses himself in dated graphics for hours. We know what you’re thinking: The Denver Broncos’ star wideout must have the gaming sense of an amoeba. Dude is stuck in 2001. Except you’d be horribly wrong.

Yes, the 29-year-old Pro Bowler—who was the NFL’s leading receiver in 2010—has been gaming since the days of Atari and ColecoVision, but he’s done plenty to keep up with the times, despite a hectic schedule that includes a part-time rap gig (he goes by B. Lloyd when he’s rhyming). Right alongside that PS2 is a glistening PlayStation 3. He even tried (unsuccessfully) to fall in love with the PSP. And whenever Lloyd stepped off a plane after a Sunday road game during the 2010 season, he jumped in his car, headed home, and booted up his favorite console, the Xbox 360. All of which is to say that there’s a method to Brandon’s Madden madness. And with his breakout 2010 campaign in the books and a summer full of NFL labor strife on the horizon, Lloyd took a minute to sit down and chop it up with us about how the perfect controller and how Tecmo Bowl changed his life.

Interview by Ebenezer Samuel

So you really don’t like the new Madden games?
Really. I’ve shied away from it because I don’t like the next-gen graphics or the controls. I think they’re getting closer, but the controls are just too confusing. I like the old PS2 controls. Plus, the character models. I can remember the first Madden on PS2, and I was loving those little details, things like QB towels. They should have developed around those character models. Now they all look like tall athletes. They all have long arms. It’s just not very visually stimulating. 

So what are you playing these days?
NBA 2K11. The graphics, the players, the details—it feels like I'm in control of a real player. It really shows how gaming has evolved. I used to sit and play Double Dribble. Now, looking at 2K11, the details are awesome. It’s the signature moves, the way guys shoot, the way they do a layup, the way they dunk. It’s so realistic.

That covers sports games. You play anything else? What’s the most underrated thing you’ve worked through lately?
I’d have to say Watchmen. [Ed.—2009's Watchmen: The End is Nigh.] It started out as a downloadable, and I thought the first part was awesome. It had real individuals, and real combat. It’s like Batman, the same concept as Batman: Arkham Asylum. And it was only a couple hundred Xbox points.

What about most overrated or disappointing?
Homefront. It already had two strikes on it when I walked into the store to buy it and the guy said, “It’s a sick game. The campaign sucks, but you can play online.” So they’re comparing it to Call of Duty—but it doesn’t even come close. The campaign is over half the game to me, and I wasn’t impressed. It was a nice try.

How long have you been playing?
I’ve been playing video games since the early ’80s, playing Pitfall and Pole Position and Tomcat. You remember Tomcat? I started with Atari, and I’ve been gaming since I was 6 or 7. I had them all, even stuff like ColecoVision, Dreamcast, and Sega Saturn.

You have an all-time favorite console? And a game?
The Nintendo. And Tecmo Bowl. That game changed my life. It was just a football game with all the rules. It was real and arcade-y all at the same time. The graphics were good, the real players were in there. That game, it was like looking at your first Playboy. Good stuff.

But have things changed these days? Between games and practice and travel and rapping, we can only assume you’ve toned the gaming back.
Never ever. Even in my relationships, video game time always factored in. You come home from a practice and it’s "give me my two hours to game." I usually find time to do it late at night. It’s sad, but I guess it’ll never change. Even after a road game, after we land and I get off the plane, even if it’s late, I’m gonna go home and play video games until it’s time to get to the facility the next day. If anything, I play more games during the season.

What’s your gaming setup like at home?
I have a 46-inch LED TV. It’s all hooked up, with the PS3 on the HDMI, and the Xbox through audio/video. There’s a Wii and PlayStation 2 in there too. No surround sound, though. I think it’s overkill. The sound from my TV is already good. Plus, in my house, I don’t want to play games crazy loud, especially at night.

What about on the road?
Not much. I used to roll with the PS One when that first came around. I tried the PSP, but I find that frustrating. I‘ve probably broken like three of those things out of frustration. The controls are just too awkward. The buttons are too spread out. The D-pad doesn’t feel right. You’re fumbling around when your finger gets too sweaty.

We’ve got this hunch you’re not like those other guys we see in locker rooms, playing Angry Birds on their iPads.
Nope. That frustrates me too. Give me a controller over that stuff any day.

So you have a better idea for portable gaming? People need something on those long cross-country flights.
Actually, yeah. I would almost prefer if they had a controller with some kind of a screen attached on it. The PSP is just too awkward, but this one would be bigger. It’d be bulkier. But it’d feel more natural. The controller is a huge issue. When I first started playing on the Xbox, I had a converted pad (to use the PlayStation controller instead). It’s the best controller, so start with that.