In the past four years, I’ve spent too much time playing Football Manager. The time I should have spent studying or socializing has instead been directed into the 13x7 screen of my laptop. See, Football Manager is more than a video game or an e-sports company. Football Manager is a cult, and I am a zealous follower.
I was urged to write this article after attempting to explain to a group of ignorant, American video game players that Football Manager soars far above Fortnite, Counter-Strike, or Origin’s new Fortnite rip-off, Apex Legends. For full disclosure, I must admit, I’ve never really played any of these games. However, I don’t need to. I have Football Manager – and, for the foreseeable future – I’m set. Here are three reasons why Football Manager is the greatest sports video game since gaming was created to give pathetic, unathletic fans an outlet for their stifled dreams of professional athletic greatness.
1. Football Manager Is A Job
See, Football Manager, unlike Fifa or 2K, rewards the player for dedication and critical thinking. In FM, one cannot just log on, play a few matches, apply a few contracts, and scoop up some coins and rewards. Instead, even the briefest time playing FM requires foresight and management. When you log on, you are presented with your email as the main screen. There are no skill games or online divisions here.
Instead, you have to answer players asking for more game time, trainers instructing you on players that should rest upcoming matches, and your boss – the team’s board – demanding success. Occasionally, reporters email asking questions about possible transfers or locker-room disputes. Unlike other popular games, FM requires the player to deal with the monotonous and unglorified reality of sports management. So do not think you will be rewarded with flashy gameplay or responsive in-game controls. Hell no. You don’t even get to control your players because, guess what, that’s what real life is all about. Why do we play video games? To escape the boundaries of daily life? Not in Football Manager. In Football Manager, the only rewards available are brief recesses from the annoyances of your actual Gmail and Twitter accounts to fake Gmail and Twitter accounts attached to a fake job. Football Manager realizes that video games should not be played as an escape from the real world. Instead, video games should provide an outlet to a parallel reality that has the same annoying, monotonous drudgeries but allows for massive rewards and satisfaction as a result of dedication and intelligent thinking. That leads me to my next point. Football Manager rewards hard work.
2. Football Manager Is Difficult
Because the game is a complete simulation that lacks any traditional gameplay, the skillset for success is flipped on its head. Instead of hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes, long-term planning and critical decision making are the crucial tools for any successful Football Manager player. See, because the game offers an incredibly detailed database with frighteningly accurate predictions and transfer/salary requests, players must consider the repercussions of every single action. Sign a player unfamiliar with the language of the country and the player will struggle to integrate with the team, leading to poor performances and an elongated learning curve. Enquire to buy a player that has recently moved teams, and you will get a terse response that said player is not interested in moving houses in such quick succession. Want to complete the transfer of a player who is from the same country as your captain? You better ask your captain to promote your club to the transfer target through the press to massively increase your chances of locking down his signature. These sorts of decisions are not “fun” in the traditional sense. Instead, they are demanding. Such decisions, however, require the individual to consider the impact of even the slightest choice. In Football Manager, therefore, the player cannot rely on their skill, but on the virtual politics of an alternate footballing world. FM is an insane game that, when it first released over two decades ago, bet big that reality-mirroring simulations will outlast controller-based in-game graphics. Twenty-six years later, the developers at Sports Interactive and Sega are collecting the profits.
3. Football Manager Is Real Life
When you play Call of Duty or Fifa you don’t think: Oh I could be a Navy Seal or professional Football Player after all this is the same thing. If you think these thoughts, I recommend you google the nearest psych ward and get yourself checked out. The thing is, video games are meant to be impractical. Football Manager, however, manages to remain – stay with me – impractically realistic. I’ll explain. Football Manager places the player in the role of a manager, trainer, general manager, and scout. Using sophisticated scouting information, statistics, and real-life based simulations, the game provides the individual with the resources and duties of a professional in such positions. Whereas in Call of Duty you don’t have to spend hours training or reading intel on your next mission, Football Manager requires that you answer emails, learn about transfer targets, and even negotiate the details of contracts with everyone from your star player to your under-18 data analyst. By infusing the game with these unglamorous nuggets of real life, FM provides an experience of the highs and lows of professional sports management. Moreover, like real life, the more struggle you endure in boardrooms and on training fields, the more rewarding your success feels after hours of dedication. Ultimately, though players of 2k and Madden know they will never compete in the sports of the games they are playing, such video games provide a fun and absurd reality.
Football Manager, however, provides a shred of possibility. No, Ed Woodward is not going to appoint a 15-year-old Football Manager expert as Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s replacement. A Football Manager player, however, may use their experience to study analytics that leads them to a career in sports in which they get a low-level position at a Championship club. Eventually, however, who is to say they cannot rise through the ranks, take over a lower league club and lead them to domestic and European glory. After all, Football Manager gives players opportunities to become legends at clubs like Leyton Orient or Wimbledon with realistic and sophisticated statistics. Who is to say what’s possible in such an advanced scouting engine/simulation like Football Manager is impossible in the mad and crazy world of professional football?