Football Manager – Just Say No

The government rightly puts a heavy tariff on products that they deem to pose a serious threat to the health of the people. Items like alcohol, cigarettes, sugary drinks have all seen their prices increase over the years as plans are put in to discourage people from over indulging. I personally thought that the whole point of indulging was very much to shorten your life as quickly as possible while having all the fun you can, otherwise it would be less of an indulgence and more a test of stamina. These 30 sausage rolls are only enjoyable because they’re tasty and are slowly killing me, and anything else is just plain wrong.


However, despite the due diligence of those “in charge”, there are many items that continually avoid the taxes that would take it out of the reach of those who are desperate and pitiful enough to become and junkie. I am of course talking about the horribly addictive, destructive, and expensive artificial highs you can get hold of – Football Manager.

Football Manager is a game series that, in its more recent form, started in 2005, and is produced by SEGA and Sports Interactive, where you act as the manager of a football team, controlling the tactics, substitutions, finances, signings, etc. etc., but the dynasty goes back all the way to the mid ‘80s, when a lone nerd called Kevin Toms coded a basic football tactics game with four playable leagues in BASIC on a terrible home computer called a Video Genie. After the game did very well throughout the mid-80s on the home video market, spawning a couple 8-bit sequels that were okay but not great, pretenders to throne started popping up left, right and centre, until one, Championship Manager took the crown as ultimate nerd toy and remained there until a rather large barney between the creators and the publishers saw a new name rise to the top – Football Manager.

I believe that Football Manager, and its precursor and gateway drug Championship Manager, constitute the greatest threats to modern kind. It’s not that they are massively destructive, you’re unlikely to find someone who’s eaten another man’s face after a 8 hour gaming session, but instead it is the broadest addictive substance in the world.

The NHS defines an addiction as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you…” and goes on to list four major types of addiction and how they materialise –

  • work – workaholics are obsessed with their work to the extent that they suffer physical exhaustion. If your relationship, family and social life are suffering and you never take holidays, you may be a work addict.
  • internet – as computer and mobile phone use has increased, so too have computer and internet addictions. People may spend hours each day and night surfing the internet or gaming while neglecting other aspects of their lives.
  • solvents – volatile substance abuse is when you inhale substances such as glue, aerosols, petrol or lighter fuel to give you a feeling of intoxication. Solvent abuse can be fatal.
  • shopping – shopping becomes an addiction when you buy things you don’t need or want to achieve a buzz. This is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair.

What is genuinely worrying is that Football Manager, in any of its many guises, causes all of these. I’ve seen people become truly obsessed with their ‘saves’, playing for hours and hours. I am within their number, having stayed up until 02:30 last night managing Newport County in the Conference South. It’s not the worst thing I’ve done in the name of winning. When I was manager of Bath City (in the game, I wouldn’t ever work in Twerton) I was playing the game when I was sat in a café in Dalyan with my new fiancé – ignoring the hell out of her because we were 2-1 up with 5 minutes still to play and found ourselves under the cosh by a sustained Weston-Super-Mare onslaught. I will concede, it is incredibly hard to huff Football manager, but if it was available as a solvent it would have destroyed most of my nasal cavity by now. Finally, shopping addiction. The obvious answer here would be to point at the recently added in-game purchases that you can buy, for perks that give you a new billionaire owner to a new, fancier kit pack, but even the transfer system in the game can get you hooked, negotiating and arguing over who you need to sign for your team, how much they need to be paid, and wondering about why your wife left you.

The game management in game is very thorough, so much so that when you have been playing as a certain team for a while you do get attached to them in the real world. There are many stories of players from China or America taking control of a tiny British non-league side, like Thurrock or Boston, and after getting them to be the strongest team in the world, falling in love so much that they travel to see the place for real, only to either be horribly disappointed that their beloved fake team is really based in a rundown ex-industrial town or are just utterly rubbish.

This depth of game can lead to serious mental anguish you feel when everything goes wrong. I had a save that I’d sunk nearly 400 hours into, taking my darling Wrexham from the bottom of League 2 to the Champions League Semi-Final in 12 seasons. And then, one day, without any warning at all, the save file corrupted.

I wept for so long I remember thinking that I’m never going to stop crying and I’ll be known as the sad crying man for the rest of my life. And what’s truly embarrassing is that the game is really just a series a data points and spreadsheets with a pretty UI. A fancy Excel file made me cry – let that sink in.

In a world where our all-powerful and mighty leaders are doing everything they can to keep us from any ‘harm’ and trying to tax the nation away from obesity and heart disease, the very fact that they have let such a dangerous and addictive product remain on the market is simply shocking. Obviously, they just don’t care about us at all. The shits.

Published by Adam Unwin

Yeah, I write stuff occasionally, make things up on stage, and like saying words other people have written in a dramatic way.

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