For the past week or so I have been contemplating the next topic to write about for my next article. Maybe I should do a ‘Flashback’ feature about one of the many games in my collection, Stubbs The Zombie to be precise (Maybe I’ll save that one for a rainy day!). Or perhaps I should write about my first gaming experience, that I can remember……It was probably something to do with the SNES and Super Mario World. Then it hit me! Why don’t I write about something that makes men the world over explode with passion, celebrate a 90th Minute winner like it was real life and Don their finest Armani Suit (Or whatever the Primark equivalent is) for the most important day of their footballing career so far! To quote Rolf Harris “Can you tell what it is yet?” Let me give you abit of help if you are struggling……FOOTBALL MANAGER!
All throughout my teenage years up until this point, I have had an unhealthy obsession with this game! From picking a team who’s ‘War Chest’ is full to the brim so that I can buy the best players imaginable, to picking a team in not such a great position or league and try to reach the Holy Grail of transforming them into one of Europe’s, or indeed the World’s, premier teams. I would love to say that I absolutely love this game, but at times its more of a ‘Love/Hate’ relationship! One moment the game will aid you with that vital win or gift you with a signing that is a master stroke, but just when the CPU thinks things are going a little bit too well, BOOM! It sends you on 5 game losing streaks that causes irreparable damage to your whole season or just for a laugh decides to injure your star player and leave him on the sidelines for the rest of what remains of your season, lying there in tatters on the floor.
Many of my female friends don’t understand why me and the vast majority of my friends like this game so much. They claim that it’s “Just clicking! You don’t actually do anything!” but believe me it’s so much more than that! Not long a go I purchased a book titled ‘Football Manager Stole My Life!” and some of the stories told in this book by ordinary people like you or me is absolutely extraordinary! There was one guy who was fortunate to do a semester of his course in Seville during his final year of college. As you can imagine he was a huge fan of Football Manager and by coincidence he had been playing the game incessantly as Sevilla FC, around the time they still had Dani Alves and Freddie Kanoute. The directors of his course had heard him non stop talk about his exploits in the game and his knowledge of the club, so on the off chance he was interested, he told him of a job opening as he was THAT impressed with his knowledge of Spanish football . He said yes even though it was unpaid, but it turned out that Sevilla FC we looking for a Spanish to English translator. He couldn’t speak a word of Spanish but as luck would have it during his interview, the interviewer insisted on speaking English to better grasp his understanding of the language. Amazingly he was given the job and moments such as meeting the Sevilla FC chairman, sitting in the front row of the stadium next to then manager Juande Ramos (who kind of stared at him in a bemused way as he sat that taking pictures of everything), sitting in on press conferences for new signings and meeting a vast majority of the playing staff are sure to stay with him for the rest of his life. All that from knowledge gained just by playing a computer game!
But its not all happy endings in the chronicles of Football Manager! Other tales from the book consist of one guy, who had broken his toes on four separate occasions due to the old incarnation of the game Championship Manager, had an extreme case of ‘Gamer Rage’. He was in a relegation dogfight and required one point to stay up but, as you can imagine, he lost 1-0 and missed a penalty in the 90th minute that would have saved his season……he didn’t take this very well an ended up punting his desk and breaking three of his toes! Other people have had friends stage interventions they were THAT obsessed with the game that they would borrow their house mates laptop to ‘complete Uni essays’ but instead would have a Football Manager break consisting of a few hours!
Now I can’t say that I have ever experienced any of these extremes, save for spending a lot of my spare time at uni watching little virtual men run around a pitch and even going as far as firing a game up and playing during a University lecture, but I don’t know what it is that prevents me from putting the laptop down and running for my life before it takes my soul! I have ‘new’ XBOX games that I have barely even played because every time I say to myself “This will be my last match! Then I will turn it off and play State of Decay/GTA V/Forza Horizon/Minecraft/Dead Island (You get the idea!)”. But as soon as those words seem to have left my lips, I appear to have played another 5 matches because I’m on a win streak and don’t want to quit lest my luck run out when I return to the game, then I eventually end up going to bed in the wee small hours of the night! This game along with FIFA and Mass Effect are the only games that cause me to induce a bout of Gamer Rage because I know I am good at them! But no matter what you try to get yourself out of a rut (changing tactics, rotating your team, making emergency/desperation signings) NOTHING WORKS! So you find yourself saving before each game so that if you lose you can just reload the game and keep trying until you win, but this could take an age! I got that frustrated once, otherwise known as ‘Incredible Hulk Mode’, that when I lost a match I punched the laptop screen and broke it……the downside to that is that it wasn’t my laptop, it was an ex girlfriends! I just told her it fell off the desk and hit a corner of a chair and that was what broke it! The lie was accepted and all was well in the world, because that gave her the motivation to throw away the prehistoric laptop and get a shiny new one, so you could say it was a blessing in disguise!
Despite all of these setbacks that myself and others have experienced, the flame that is love for this game never seems to be extinguished. Men, and sometimes women, seem to be drawn together to share the roller-coaster of emotions that they have experienced at the hands of this game. I am not ashamed to say that I have gained the vast majority of my footballing knowledge from this game, from the latest wonder kids to come out of South America (Diego, Robinho and Freddy Adu were all the rage when I was younger!) to the history of various leagues and competitions around the world. I have even used my knowledge to help me earn a bit of cash during Euro 2012! I put a couple of pound on Alan Dzagoev to score first for Russia v Czech Republic……I only did this because I know he is absolutely AMAZING on Football Manager, and it turns out that quality translates into reality because the bet actually came off and he scored the first of Russia’s four goals in a 4-1 victory. Many a conversation I have had with my friends has turned to Football Manager conundrums such as “I need a new Right Back!” or “Holy Shit, I managed to beat Borussia Dortmund 3-0 away with Aberdeen!”.
This is the beauty of Football Manager, or Video Games in general if you think about it, it manages to bring people together in a shared appreciation of something, you could even say people have found a way to be anti social together! Some football clubs have even used the game as a tool to scout new players due to the fact a lot of scouting work actually goes into all the players that are feature in the game, with Sports Interactive creating their own scouting network that spans the length of the globe. So if you are ever puzzled by why Football Manager is soo popular and well loved, just try your hand at it……But be prepared to never have a girlfriend/boyfriend ever again!