As I sit here writing this, I have just won promotion with Brighton from the Championship to the Premier League in Football Manager, and it has taken 20 hours of my life to do this. Those twenty hours have come when I am supposed to be revising, or doing something constructive, but yet I have chosen to play this game. But why is it so addictive?
To be honest I’m not really sure. I think that there is something addictive in leading a club to glory, or battling to the death in a relegation scrap, and coming out on top. Grabbing the next big star for 100k and transforming him into a ‘leading Premier League striker’ feels great. But don’t worry, if you’ve played Football Manager before, you are not alone in this. We all know what it is like to lie in bed playing around with formations and future transfers until gone 3 o’ clock in the morning. Or the frustration when your key player gets injured, so promotion will have to wait for another year.
Football and emotion are linked together in harmony. It is the same for Football Manager as well. We have marathon playing sessions which can stretch over several days, and it just takes over our lives. It turns the though of failing GCSEs into a terrifyingly real one. But it genuinely captures real emotion, the over riding joy of winning the Premier League with Crawley, after rising through the leagues for the last month. The inexplicable rage when your star striker hands in a transfer request after saying ‘the club lacks ambition’ and joins Norwich City.
The addiction is so high that there have been more than thirty-five divorce cases which have listed Football Manager as a reason for the split. There are over one million copies of the game sold each year, with the average person clocking up 240 hours of gameplay with each edition of the game!
This is not just a game that we are playing, it is an addiction which is ruining people’s lives, but we all know it and we still play it.
But this beautiful game has a vicious cycle, that can make you an unsociable freak. Once you’re in, you’re hooked, a bit like smoking, and it is really hard to get out of the cycle. After getting promoted you can’t wait to see how your team performs in their new league, after their mediocre start, you find yourself nearly halfway through the season in ‘December’ in-game. You say to yourself “just one month until the transfer window opens, I’ll sign my star player for cheap, and then I’ll go and do something else.” But this never happens. What actually happens is that you buy your star striker for cheap, and you want to see how well he plays in the team. So after you see how well he does in your team, you are at around in-game March or April, and you realise that you could get promoted/win the title/be on a cup run/be in a relegation scrap. The urge to see the end of the season is there, so on you go, plodding through these games at 2 in the morning. Then its the end of the season, in comes the summer transfer window and the cycle restarts.
The people who don’t play it just don’t understand how the game can be so addictive and so exciting, as my mum asked me when I was jumping around my living room after getting Brighton promoted. “It is just a game with a lot of player names, and virtual players which don’t even exist, playing football which you can’t actually play, like in FIFA,” they say. And they are right, it is just that, but it doesn’t stop me playing it.
But the beauty of the game is exactly that, it allows us regular people to dream of doing a job which we all think we can do better than the actual real-life managers. The everyday questions asked by the media ‘Why didn’t Ferguson buy a dynamic midfielder?’ or ‘Why is Mancini playing a ‘3 at the back formation’?’ The thing that makes football manager so addictive is that we can actually buy a strong midfielder with Manchester United, and it gives us users a sense of authority in the footballing world.
By Will Halse