As an article in the Guardian rightly states, the Football Manager video game has become something of a national obsession. First appearing on the PC under the guise of Championship Manager in 1992, the game is now so popular that you’ll find many dedicated forums where fans share tips for playing Football Manager 18 and discuss tactics and bargain youth players at length.
Despite this, Football Manager remains an enigma to many outside observers and the bane of many wives’ and girlfriends’ lives. So just what is so special about the Football Manager series?
Before Championship Manager, football management video games were pretty simple.
The likes of Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager on the Commodore 64/ZX Spectrum and Football Manager (1982 series) on the PC allowed you to buy and sell players, as well as change formations. The shareware MS-DOS game 1-0 (released around the same time as Championship Manager) was a step up, but not on the same level as what is now the best – and most popular – game of its kind.
In those older games, you also had to deal with injuries and other common worries for any real manager. However, the game was relatively easy to play and it didn’t take much skill or knowledge of the inner workings of the game to succeed.
For example, I remember playing Kenny Dalglish as a 10-year-old and finding it easy to get Halifax Town from the fourth division to the first division in no time at all. As long as you bought in players with high overall skill ratings, tactics didn’t really matter.
Championship Manager was – and Football Manager is – a different kettle of fish. To be good at the game, you need a strong grasp of tactics and have to deal with the day-to-day running of the club in minute detail.
Such is the level of detail that you’re not just a coach, but the decision-maker in pretty much every move the club makes. Your goal is to achieve whatever your club’s board set out at the start of the season. As in real life, if you join a small club, your goal may just be to avoid relegation or finish in the top half of the league table. If you join a large club, then your goal may be to win a European trophy.
Football Manager has been cited as a reason for relationship breakdowns, while others admit to taking days of work just to play the game.
The level of detail is arguably what makes Football Manager so immersive. It offers a window a world of glamour and riches away from players’ otherwise normal lives.
Football Manager is also very accurate. Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish says that he tried to sign Lionel Messi on loan as a 17-year-old on the strength of his Football Manager-playing son’s recommendation.
Some players, such as Cherno Samba, don’t reach the real-life heights of their virtual counterparts. However, the Messi story highlights the astonishing detail in the facts and stats. This level of accuracy surely adds to the level of escapism its fans find in the game.