By Joshua Kalenga | Image by Xixi Qin

I was stunned when I found out that the popular soccer simulation game “Football Manager” had been cited in 35 divorce cases.

“How did 35 people who play this game manage to find life partners?” I thought.

“Football Manager” is the most addictive video game I’ve ever played. Admittedly, I’m not someone who’s particularly big on video games — but perhaps that’s what makes my summer streak worth reflecting on.

What is it about pretending to be a manager of a soccer team that has captured the imagination of thousands like me? 

The first thing an outsider might say about this game is that it doesn’t look like much of a game at all. Most game time is spent on screens best resembling spreadsheets and emails. After all, a real-life soccer manager spends much more time performing day to day tasks like assessing players, preparing tactics, and dealing with the media than they spend at actual matches.

At this point, I’m willing to bet that people unfamiliar with “Football Manager” (especially non-soccer fans) are wondering what’s wrong with those who love this game. In all honesty, I asked myself that very question on several days this summer, usually between 3 and 4 a.m. Yet, in our defense, the realism of the game is precisely what makes it so irresistible.

I used to wonder how people could sit for hours just driving around Europe — in the video game “Euro Truck Simulator” — but now I think I understand (though I’d still never play it). In a way, hyper-realistic simulation games almost subvert the idea of video games because, for many, they can feel like reality. For me, “Football Manager” provides a place where, at least for an hour or two, I can live my dream of managing a soccer club.

In fact, the game is so realistic that there have been stories of people getting real soccer jobs on the basis of their in-game achievements (just ask a guy called Vugar Huseynzade, who now coaches a team in Azerbaijan). Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the current Manchester United manager (in real life), also cited the game as preparation for his job. Personally, I’ve recently updated the “honors” section of my resume to include: “In Football Manager 20, I elevated Leeds United from the second division of English football to the highest level of European football (The Champions League).”

Of course, there are some “Football Manager” players that take things too far. Apparently, some have gone as far as wearing a suit when playing an “important” match, shaking “hands” with a doorknob after the match (imagining it to be the opposition team’s manager) and, most recently, a person set off a flare in their bedroom to “celebrate winning the league.” While I might shamefully admit to having done one of the above, I’d like to believe I’m generally on the lower end of the “Football Manager” fanaticism spectrum.

For many, games like “Football Manager” are an exciting escape from everyday life. With many people currently isolated at home, it is no surprise that Sports Interactive — the makers of the game — recently announced that they set a new active user record of 90,000 players. Personally, I’m glad I had something to do over the summer that helped keep boredom at bay — even though it earned me a few odd glances for screaming at dots (players) on my laptop screen.

Leave a Reply