Du Malone writes: The advent of FM20 has seen the FM blogosphere flourish. And there seems now to be a second wave of this flourishing as yet more people begin blogging. Perhaps the coronavirus lock-down is encouraging this kind of creativity.
Some months ago I wrote a post aiming to provide some guidance for novice bloggers, published here: Introductory guidance on blogging.
Some writers have been kind enough to report that they found the guidance helpful, which is gratifying.
But I realise that there’s one matter that I certainly should have covered but omitted to. It’s the question of what persona you should write in.
The basic decision
Every blogger needs to make a decision about what persona to adopt. At its simplest, there’s a choice to be made between (a) writing as an FM player and (b) writing in role as a football club manager.
If you choose the first, you might write sentences such as ‘The formation I’ve used most since I started playing FM15 is…’; if you choose the latter you might write something like ‘As I knocked on the chairman’s door, my nerves began to jangle’.
In fact the contrast isn’t always as marked as I’ve indicated here. By that I mean that if you choose the first option, there might still be an element of persona creation. You might, for example, write under a nom de plume.
Or you might adopt a mindset at odds with your everyday one: for example, in daily living you might be a cautious, conservative, type, but when playing FM you might, perhaps as a form of compensation, become adventurous and even reckless — for example, adopting a Kevin Keegan style approach to player acquisition based on accumulating dashing forwards.
But, for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on the basic contrast: FMer versus fictitious persona.
Choosing between options
I don’t think anyone could claim there’s a right or wrong answer here. Either option can work well. But they work in different ways: each has its own potentials and constraints.
To illustrate this point, let’s look briefly at some of the examples of successful blog posts that I’ve curated in our links library.
The FMer option
Here are some good example of bloggers who have eschewed the option of creating a fictitious persona in favour of writing more literally as someone who is playing a computer game.
- Dictate the Game has written a helpful post on the attractions of FM touch.
- Gaffer Graemo has written a fascinating post (one of my favourites) focusing on reflective practice, comparing his professional work in education to his approach to FM.
- FM Ramblings has written an engaging post on how managing Amiens on FM led him to go and watch them IRL.
Obviously it would make no sense to try to write such posts from the point of view of a fictitious persona. The minute you choose that option, you rule out the possibility of such writing.
Sometimes, though the distinction is less clear-cut.
Take, for example, a post from Dictate the Game on the attractions of using an anchorman. In principle, one could write such a post from the point of view of a fictitious persona. Each of the points about the anchorman role could be articulated by a manager.
I would question, though, what the point of choosing that option would be for this kind of post. It would seem to offer no advantages. And it would make some things more difficult.
Writing about attributes, for example, is always harder when writing in role, since the particular set of 1-20-based attributes is unique to FM. You’d need to invent a work-around, talking for example about players’ qualities or competences.
I note that Dictate the Game’s post is careful to refer specifically to FM20. Implicit in that decision is a recognition that things might be different on other editions of FM. There is of course no way of capturing that through the eyes of a fictitious manger, in whose imaginary world there is no FM20 or FM19 or FM anything else.
A more marginal case is FM Catenaccio’s admirable post on how to analyse the opposition. It’s written from the non-fictitious perspective of an FMer. In principle, though, each of the insights into the process of analysis could be conveyed by someone writing from the point of view of a fictitious persona.
The idiom and mode of presentation would need to change (no more references to ‘pressing the “Continue to match” button’, for example), but it would be do-able.
Indeed, one of the attractions of FM Catenaccio’s post is that he starts by conveying the emotion involved in watching your team being over-run. Writing from the point of view of a persona would actually give you licence, if you wish, to develop the emotional angle more fully.
Option 2: the fictitious persona
An advantage of creating a persona is that it gives the blogger the opportunity to articulate something that many players of FM find themselves developing: an imaginary world.
Some people go to extraordinary lengths in this regard — for example, dressing in a suit and tie for the cup final pre-match interview.
I’ve never gone to such lengths — but I get it! I have written, for example, about the imaginary conversations I create as a way of exploring squad development.
A master of the persona approach is Gaffer Graemo. In his hands the approach enables an exploration of such matters as attempting to escape on holiday or what it’s like to be between jobs (for example, after being sacked).
Gaffer Graemo’s posts are anchored in the first person. They begin with sentences such as
‘I sank into the bed exhausted. Frequent travel was not my best friend, nor the lack of routine agreeing with me. I’d been to many cities across Europe over the past week, and somehow eaten the same continental breakfast in each of them, but now the time for all that was over, and I was craving a proper cup of tea’
‘The phone buzzed. I ignored it. It buzzed again. I ignored it again. This was most likely someone who had not gotten the memo: I was on holiday. When I left the office on Friday, I’d made sure that my secretary and the other club officials knew that the next 2 weeks were my holiday, my time off to recharge after a crazy season’.
Another master is FM Grasshopper, who in an extended and celebrated sequence of posts has followed the fortunes of a character he has created, namely Angel Bastardo.
In the Bastardo narrative, the third person predominates: ‘Nacional Vs. Peñarol is (outside of the UK) the oldest club derby in world football history, it’s an emotionally charged fixture…the way Ángel Bastardo likes it. The Montevideo police had drawn out the entry zones into the Campeón del Siglo stadium, keen to ensure the contact between both sets of fans was kept to a minimum. But these plans were futile whilst Bastardo and the Peñarol caporegime were around.’
I think it’s clear that the attraction of such writing, whether in the first person or the third, couldn’t be replicated using the FMer option.
Advantages of the persona option include the following:
- it lends itself to providing colour, particularly through the creation of a back story
- it helps the writer to explore the emotional range experienced whilst playing FM
- arguably, by freeing the writer’s imaginations, it enables them to generate insights, concerning how to play FM, that they wouldn’t otherwise have achieved
- it can create a literary experience for the reader, akin to reading novels or short stories.**
So far, I’ve presented the persona issue in binary form — you write either as an FMer or in managerial persona.
In fact, though, it’s possible to combine the two.
Some bloggers do this by alternating between the two options, writing one post from the first perspective and another from the second. You’ll see from FM Grasshopper’s website that he does this a good deal.
And some bloggers alternate within posts. A good example of this is a post from the Hairdryer Treatment’s Prologue to his Yugoslav chronicles.
Making a considered choice
The key point is that which option you choose at the outset — the perspective of an FMer or a fictitious manager or some kind of hybrid option — will have implications throughout your blog — implications concerning what you can or can’t write about, what kind of style you write in, and indeed what kind of writing skill-set is required.
To anyone setting out on a fresh blog series, I’d say this: Ensure that it is a choice. In other words, beware the default option, where you start writing without consideration. Each option, the moment it’s adopted, both opens up opportunities and imposes constraints what you can write.
There are some resources out there to help you decide, both by reading examples of blog posts and by reading interviews with bloggers.
** The best of the bloggers who use this approach — in addition to those mentioned here, I’m thinking of writers such as FM Stag and Seattle Red — strike me as writers-who-play-Fm as much as they are FM-players-who write.