Du Malone writes: With FootballManager, I find it’s a matter of feast or famine. Either I’m playing intensively or I’m on a weeks-long or, as now, months-long sabbatical.

Addiction

In the intensive periods, playing the game can come to feel addictive. Last November, for example: on three consecutive weekends I said to myself, when making up on Saturday, “I’ll give FM a miss this weekend”; then, by about 09:00, I’m logging on for, I told myself, “just one match”. Come Sunday night, the whole weekend has passed, wholly devoted to my Pazarspor save in Turkey.

Strictly speaking, this doesn’t meet the criteria for established definitions of addiction used in psychology or medicine. Yet, casually at least, FMers do commonly speak of the addictiveness of the game. For me, playing FM comes to feel addictive when

  1. I spend longer playing than I had intended;
  2. afterwards, I feel bad about allowing myself to have become so hooked.

(1) and (2) don’t always go together: sometimes my FM sessions sprawl beyond expectation but afterwards I think, “Yeah, but it was great!”. It’s when (1) and (2) both apply that I find myself talking of addiction.

What gives FM its addictiveness?

My proposed answer to this question is non-scientific. It isn’t based on any kind of study or survey. It arises purely from introspection. I offer merely as something to compare your experience to.

Here are the factors that come to mind:

  1. Difficulty. Sometimes I wish FM wasn’t so difficult. “Give me a break!” I think. Just for once, let me keep my job, or perhaps even win a trophy, without having to be at the top of my game. But though, in the short term, such relaxation might offer some relief, over the longer term it would of course reduce the satisfaction that survival and success bring. The promise of hard-won satisfaction is what makes me dig in and work hard.
  2. Inexhaustibility. There is so much functionality available, and so many (in practice, endless) combinations of decisions possible, that one can never feel one’s done everything there is to be done.
  3. Unfinishability. Some games impose an ending. Checkmate, or stalemate, in chess, for example, There’s no equivalent in an FM save. Even if you get sacked, you can dust yourself down and go again. I sometimes think unfinishability constitutes a weakness of FM: but, regardless of whether that’s the case, it certainly helps to stoke what I am calling addiction.
  4. Cyclicity. Cycles built into FM include weekly and seasonal ones. One might think that reaching the end of a cycle works against addictiveness. When, for example, the players go off holiday and the supporters pick their team of their season, doesn’t that constitute a natural break point? Theoretically, that might have some truth in it: in practice, however, I don’t find that. As one cycle comes to en end, so another starts. In fact, I think a more accurate description of the structure of the game would be spirality. One goes round and round, passing through the same milestones each season — transfer window, start of the season, the cup, winter break (say), youth intake day, etc. But at the same time one moves, with luck, further away from the centre – where the centre is the starting point and the distance away from the centre represents that the degree of development in the save.
  5. Problem –> solution –> problem. Of the factors I’m listing here, what I call the problem-solution (PS) cycle is by far the most important. You start with a problem. For example, your squad doesn’t have a right back. You seek to solve it: for example, you adapt your right wing into a full back. But then another problem arises. This happens in two ways: either your solution causes, or at least exposes, a further problem (for example, your reserve right winger fails to step up to the plate in the first team) or an entirely new problem emerges (for example, an injury). One way or another, it’s rare for there not to be an unsolved problem. This is what drives me on: I can’t stand an unresolved problem persisting, It eats away at me.
  6. World-making. When one presses the launch button, one does more than initiate a game session. Passing through the series of graphics from ‘launch’ to the ‘load game’ page represents the equivalent to those moments in several classics of children’s fiction (The lion, the witch and the wardrobe) when one enters into an alternative world, peopled entirely differently from one’s quotidian existence.

I think, by the way, that it is largely the combination of (5) and (6), together with the verisimilitude of the game, that largely accounts for the extraordinary fecundity of FM when it comes to the creation of narrative — which itself perhaps constitutes a seventh factor.

Well, that’s my list: hoes does it compare to yours?

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