A Game To Play Forever #2: Football Manager

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I’M STUCK ON A DESERTED ISLAND! Good news: I have 10 video games of my choice to play until the end of time. #2 is Football Manager.

OH NO, I’M STUCK ON A DESERTED ISLAND! But, I brought 10 games with me to play until the end of time. You can read my other choices here.

My second choice had to be Football Manager. I’m not addicted, I swear.

“Oh great”, non-fans will say, “a football/soccer game that is essentially a glorified spreadsheet.  How boring.”

I suppose, yes, Football Manager is basically just a huge series of spreadsheets, working together to emulate the future of the world of football (I’m not referring to it as soccer from this point forward – you have been warned!)…but, is it boring?

Heck no.

In my humble opinion, Football Manager is the greatest strategy RPG game ever made (it deserves its own category).  Being able to take a football club from nothing to dominating the football world is one of the finest achievements of my gaming career (I’ll call it a career, so it feels productive).

Two highlights include:

Starting a save at Middlesbrough, then in the Championship, getting them into the Premiership, moving to a struggling Valencia, rejuvenating them into a Champions League team before jumping ship to Real Madrid.  20 years later, the Santiago Bernabeu had been demolished and a replacement named after me, my son was turning out for the Galactico’s first team, and I’d turned Read Madrid into a profit-making juggernaut.

Secondly, my current save in a network game with my friend.  I started at Aston Villa; my friend started at West Brom.  As Villa, I narrowly avoided relegation for three years while my friend promptly got sacked and somehow managed to secure a job at Manchester City (for those that don’t know, they’re one of the richest clubs in the world).  I had to watch him sign my best players along with the best players from around the world while I invested heavily in youth.

10 years into the future, my Aston Villa have won the Champions League 3 years out of 4, won the Premiership 4 years in a row and we have the best first team and youth team in world football.  I sell players when they hit 27 for their top price then use that money to buy three more of the best youth players.  Rinse and repeat.

Oh, and my friend?  Still at Manchester City, but struggling to hold onto a Champions League spot as I’ve priced him out of the best players.  Yes, I’m a jerk.

I suppose the real gem in the crown for Football Manager is it’s the only game I have played that makes me truly care about computer generated characters.  Sure, you start the game with a world filled with real footballers, but every year that follows computer generated “regens” start flooding the game.  Most suck, some are average, few are world beaters…and the joy comes in finding a youth player with potential and turning him into a legend.

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I have players in my mind who I consider some of the greatest of all time – except, they have never existed.  Vrucina, my current favorite in my Aston Villa save, was a striker with immense stats but who just couldn’t score more than five goals a season up front.  I moved him into a Centre Attacking Midfield position and gave him free reign of the pitch, and within a year he turned into a 30 goals, 20 assists monster.  My team is built around him, and he is one of the few players I’ll never sell, even though he is currently the most valuable on the game.

Those who don’t enjoy football and who can’t get their head around the whole “so, you’re playing a football game but…don’t actually control the footballers??” thing will never understand.  And, that’s okay.  But there are thousands upon thousands of us who totally buy into the Football Manager ethos and, for us, it becomes a way of life.  The only time we stop playing is to read the “Football Manager Stole My Life” book.

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…okay, that’s a lie.  As we get older, we don’t have the time to dedicate every waking second to the game.  But Football Manager is a game that can be played in small chunks; only have 5 minutes?  No problem, tweak your strategy for the next game or make a bid for that promising defender.  Have an hour?  Great, play through a handful of games, build a tactic that works.  Have a weekend?  Okay, now we’re talking…

Just don’t get suckered into the “oh, one more match…” thing.  It never happens.

And, remember…if you suck, it’s not the games fault.  It’s your tactics.

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