Wot I’m Playing: Football Manager 2016

I think we’ve discussed my fandom, some would say addiction, to the Football Manager series. But I don’t think I ever quantified WHY I have that game open so much. Until now, at least.

Football Manager is the long running series from Sports Interactive , and we’ve discussed just about how many hours I’ve played their games previously. I’ve never really quantified why I play the game so much, so I figured that would be a good column for a slow Saturday afternoon.

For Americans, the name Football Manager is a bit of misnomer, as it is not what we know as “football”, (the rest of the world calls that gridiron or American Football). but despite it being called Worldwide Soccer Manager, those who know that it’s called football overseas always preferred the UK version, so here it’s called Football Manager as well.

It’s a game that can be played at its own pace, despite how incredibly detailed it is.  How detailed? Imagine a baseball game with not only ratings for every rookie league team out there, rated by fans of those teams (and then checked for accuracy by other researchers), but then it covers, say, 50 nations worth of players. It provides a variety of challenges. Want to have a nearly unlimited budget and play with the best players in the world? Start a game with Manchester United, Chelsea or a non-English powerhouse like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus. Want to play as a local club that’s glory years were twenty-thirty years in the past, now reduced to a low-level team dreaming of glory days? Portsmouth probably fits your bill. Want to play your local side? If you’re a major footy-playing nation, you’re probably going to be able to. (My local team, the New England Revolution, is in there, although I prefer a game with less finicky team rules then MLS, whose player rules are just this side of written in an alien language)

So there’s a variety of challenges and things you can do, based on how you want to play. And even if you start with a low-level team, you can eventually with luck and shrewd moves, turn them into a powerhouse (Soccer leagues are generally based on the meritocratic practice where the top teams in a league move up a division the next season, where the worst teams move down a division. If you’re an American, imagine the Yankees (in some of their not-so-glory days of the past), or Red Sox (more recently, to my dismay), being forced to play a year in Triple A).

What do I mean, it can be played as its own pace? It’s a nice game to have open while I’m doing other things (playing Warcraft or just web-surfing, or in this case, while I’m actually writing this article), to take a five minute break, play out a week or two, and then go back to whatever I was doing previously. Of course, that’s because the save files are so big (they can come out to the HUNDREDS of MB in size), it takes a while to load and save, mind you… so it’s easier just to load the game and leave it in the background.

So it’s a weird amalgamation of an addictive game (I’ve read stories where Football Manager caused divorces or relationship breakups), and a game that you can play a little bit at a time. I’m not quite at the level of getting into my best Sunday suit for a Cup Final championship game (as others do), and despite the sheer number of hours I’ve played the games, I’m not ready (yet) to admit that Football Manager stole my life, as one book about the game is entitled... but it definitely is my comfort food of a game.