Let me show you around my home: On a typical day, at any given time, one is liable to find five guys with five laptops, sitting around a TV, each laptop blasting out hot air as we stare at the screens; in the evenings this number may rise to seven or eight laptops, depending on visitors; in the nearest bedroom one might find another guy sitting by a PC as it too blasts out hot air, struggling to process information after a continuous twelve hours of use; and one more bedroom contains the same, another guy, another computer, another epic gaming session. Each computer screen, be it resting on the lap or the desk of its user, is almost certain to display a familiar sight, the seemingly endless lists and stats and excitement of Sega’s Football Manager 2006.
This is the latest version of a video game series that interrupts, overtakes and warps the lives of men the world over. It cause heartache and divorce, and consumes lives like drugs, yet lives fondly in the hearts of anyone who has ever played the game. With seemingly infinite possibilities, and gameplay so realistic that actual managers consult the game for advice, it is easy to see why Football Manager is so popular. It caters to the dreams and aspirations of football fans, young and old. The power and prestige, the joy and heartache, the sheer genius of being able to control so much without ever standing up or speaking, or realising that it is only a simulation, and that once the computer has been turned off there is only the cold boring routine of reality.
I know many Football Manager addicts. We are the lucky ones, as we sit together as a group, talking, listening to music and watching TV, sharing players and tips with each other. Our eighteen hour Manager marathons see us socialise to certain extent, while presumably the millions of other devotees out there sit hunched over their PCs in their rooms, alone. These lonely hearts share their Manager experiences online with other messageboard users, still unable to move away from the computer. After all, who really wants to venture away from a centre of such joy? And who outside would understand the world of a Football Manager junkie?
Football Manager is appealing after a long hard day of just about anything, and it is almost as appealing when you wake up at three in the afternoon with nothing else to do. Luckily, students like myself have only two hours of class a week and a marathon Manager session hardly effects my course, but for other less fortunates, the addictiveness of Football Manager can be devastating. Once the game graces the screen it is almost impossible to turn off. “One more game…” is a common utterance come three in the morning, but one more game is never enough. If you win, you can’t spoil your luck; if you lose, you have to rectify the situation; if you are in the middle of a transfer window, then you must make sure you don’t waste a valuable day of shopping.
But unlike the addiction that comes with drugs, there is no help; there is no sympathy or recovery. Football Manager eats away lives, slowly, subtly and above all, enjoyably. One often looks at the clock only to realise they have spent ten hours with their team, completely unaware. They look aware from the screen to realise they have almost gone blind. Their girlfriend has left them, their parents have plastered the neighbourhood with ‘missing person’ posters, and their job has gone unfilled for weeks. But hey, Managers must choose: the team, or everything else. And on a good day, your team will repay you enough to forget everything else.