This is, admittedly an article more for our European readers than our American audience. If you’re not familiar with the ‘Football Manager’ series, its fantastic and yet incredibly frustrating game mechanics, and the concept of staying up until 4 am playing ‘just one more match,’ then look away now. If you know exactly what we’re talking about, though, read on. We’re going to explore your psyche!
The 2018/2019 football season is very nearly over. Shortly, everyone will know who won or lost each trophy in every major footballing nation in the world, teams will have been relegated, teams will have been promoted, players will be either in or out of contract, and the whole wheel will be ready to revolve again. Those frustrating few months of summer that football fans endure, waiting for the season to return, are usually spent wishing your favorite team would sign a useful striker. For Sega and Sports Interactive, that period is spent agonizingly noting down every detail of every transfer in the world, consulting with their scouts and updating player statistics, working on new features and preparing the next year’s edition of ‘Football Manager’ for release.
Facts and Figures
When that release dates arrive, excitement among the fan base reaches fever pitch. New features within the game are deemed as being so important that the mainstream media report on it. Each year it seems to become more immersive and more detailed. Ten years ago, ‘managers’ could give individual players their own training regime, and conduct general conversations with them. Now they can specify those training routines hour by hour, have separate conversations with their agents and argue with them about their use of social media. To the untrained and unfamiliar, that sounds like no fun at all. You’re getting all the banal and stressful bits of managing a football club without actually getting to play the game. Unlike the ‘FIFA’ series, you can’t take control of a player out on the field and enjoy the game that way, so what’s the point?
When you stand back and look at the way you play ‘Football Manager,’ all you’re doing is playing with numbers. You’re picking teams of players – all of whom have numerical values ascribed to certain skill levels – and pitching them against an opposing team who have other mathematical values ascribed to them. You can alter the tactics if you like, and that might influence the maths, but in reality, that’s still just number crunching. You’re effectively playing UK slots; you’re investing in something, placing your trust in a complicated string of advanced mathematics that you could never hope to comprehend, and hoping that you’ll walk away with a win when all’s said and done. The illusion of control is precisely that – an illusion. So would you get the same thrill by playing a good football-themed slot game? Possibly, if your luck was in, but we know that right now people are reading this and shaking their heads furiously, insisting that there’s more to it than that. So why do we get so addicted to this infuriating game?
Love Of The Game
Given that some people find themselves so enslaved to playing the game that they genuinely fear they’ve developed a psychological addiction to it, there’s obviously more going on here than just what we’ve described. But what’s the magic formula? What keeps players coming back to this modern take on a text-based role-playing game year after year? It’s a secret many game developers wish they knew, because they’d surely include it within their own products!
The answer may be a surprisingly simple one – it’s one of the very few game types in the world that actually makes you better at your real-life interests. It goes without saying that ‘Football Manager’ is only played by football fans – non-football fans (and especially non-football fan spouses) tend to hate it. The game has even been cited in divorce cases on more than twenty occasions. But for a football fan, this is nirvana. Not only does it allow you to replace the manager of your favorite team, which every football fan openly wishes they could, but it also allows you do to so with incredible levels of detail and realism. Would playing your desired way, or dropping that player you hate, really make a difference to the result? ‘Football Manager’ lets you find out. Not only that, it enhances your base of knowledge.
Because of the level of research and accuracy that goes into making ‘Football Manager,’ it’s correctly predicted the rise to global domination of many star footballers. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Sergio Aguero were well-known to ‘Football Manager’ players long before they’d made their first-team debuts in the real world because they were in the game as highly promising 15 and 16-year-olds. It’s immensely rewarding to feel like you ‘know’ about something happens, and then pat yourself on the back when ‘that player you knew about’ turns out to be sensational. Through playing the game, you develop both knowledge of and emotional connections to players and teams all over the world, and far beyond the club you normally follow. To put it another way, while you’re playing the game you develop an even wider base of knowledge about the sport you love than you had beforehand. You may even feel more connected to it. How many games can claim to do that?
A Constant Riddle
The ‘knowledge and information’ aspect is only part of it, of course. ‘Football Manager’ may have the most complex reward system anywhere in gaming. There are so many potential combinations of player, team, and tactic that you can never ‘complete’ it; there’s always another tweak to make, another player to buy, another new prospect who’s come from the academy that you now feel obliged to follow through to retirement. You can take Grimsby Town to the Champions League final, but you always feel like you can take it further. When your best player retires, your new challenge is to replace them. When your closest rivals hire a new manager and adopt new tactics, your challenge is to counter them.
To a non-football fan, this doesn’t make any sense, and it never will. That’s OK though; they stopped reading at the start of this article. To you, the football manager enthusiast, you understand completely. ‘Football Manager’ is a game that keeps you in love with football, and teaches you about it as much as it entertains you. It’s a vast and varied sandbox, and one in which the objective is constantly shifting. It’s the game you can master, but never complete. No wonder you can’t put it down.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re just off to play one more game.