Andrew Nolan shares his experiences with the wild, detailed world of the Football Manager Games.
I’m not about to spend extra for the same bike with a fresh lick of paint released a year later.
I’m not really into sports games on the whole – they’re not bad, but if I have time to play Madden, I probably have time to play something a little better. FIFA has always been the one exception, though. Namely, through its manager mode. See, I’m an Arsenal fan, and we’ve been pretty God-awful since around the mid-2000s or so. Through FIFA, I can at least pretend we’re somewhat decent. Having played FIFA’s Manager Mode since the days of the Xbox 360, I figured I would take the nosedive into its more intricate, detailed sibling – Football Manager. (FM20 is my choice of poison, for reference. It was on sale for €20, and I’m not about to spend extra for the same bike with a fresh lick of paint released a year later).
I knew there would be differences, of course. After all, FM is pretty much sold on its complexities. I’m also self-aware enough to know that most of my grievances with the game could be solved if I was actually good at it, but I digress. My first season in the game was a jarring experience – I made a few tidy deals after selling on some players, and I thought I had a pretty okay-looking squad, all things considered. It wasn’t until the first big game of the season, against Manchester United, that I noticed a few disparities. With tighter purse strings, I could only make one somewhat quality signing. In the same timeframe, my opponents had apparently been able to sign every decent striker in the world and still had spare change for a quality goalkeeper. They were only short of paying LeBron James to swap sports. Okay, different clubs, different budgets, but come on lads.
I got slapped around that game, as you would imagine. Immediately following the match, I get a prompt that the Board - my bosses - are ‘disappointed with the result’ and my job security has been lowered. We’re talking about job security here lads. While I was still enjoying the game, it made me seriously question the FM purists I knew. All I could imagine was them, clocking out of their very real, very stressful jobs, and choosing to unwind and enjoy their evening by getting shouted at by their virtual boss. Though, I suppose that’s the beauty of it. High highs and low lows, after all. Still, I wonder if I should worry about them…
A part of me admires this dedication, the other part needs to take his hour lunch break.
On the topic of the players, some of them have been treated harshly on the virtual scene. A key example I’ll give is Kieran Tierney. Legitimately one of Arsenal’s best players in real life, in-game, the man’s bones have the structural integrity of soggy Weetabix. I had to take him off injured every two or so games for my first season, and he’s far from the only one. Outside of that, you’ll have so-called ‘elite’ strikers like Alexandre Lacazette missing open-goal sitters on the other end of the pitch. Look, I know Arsenal haven’t been great these days, but if you were to believe Sports Interactive’s take on the club, you’d have a subpar Goalkeeper playing for a team made up of semi-professional postmen and walking sick notes. Oh, and if you try to sign a player from abroad, be quick, as players need a work permit due to Brexit restrictions. A part of me admires this dedication, the other part needs to take his hour lunch break.
The FM series are all well-written love-letters to the sport, with clear attention paid to the little details. But good God, those games would put you on the smokes.