The future of Football Manager

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Football Manager

uMAXit have published a video called The future of football video games. It’s available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVKWZZmbGeU&t=615s).

The video is presented by Martin Race and includes interviews with Jon Hare (Sensible Soccer), Simon Read (New Star Soccer), Kristan Reed, and Iain Macintosh. Most of the content concerns simulations, though manager games (principally FM) receive some attention in the second half.

Some of the discussion concerns technical matters. For example, is virtual reality (VR) the future? (According to Reed, we’re ‘on the cusp of finding out’ whether it is or whether it will encounter serious obstacles, as 3D did).

Most of the technical discussion, however, is not purely technical: often the focus is instead on the relationship between the technical and the human, where the latter is considered as both a physical and a mental entity (‘You play through your body and your brain’).

So there’s discussion of the ergonomic (the way that VR can make players feel nauseous, for example) and the contextual. For Hare, the fact that players increasingly play on mobile, rather than consoles or PC, isn’t merely a technical issue: people playing on mobile are more likely to want a game that they can play in short bursts of, say, 3 minutes, so there’s a growing demand for arcade-style games.

In relation to FM, I’d like to focus on some themes that the video either leaves out or devotes little attention to.

First, in his discussion of simulation games, Reed points to the need for alternative, more accessible, games: ‘There’s sixteen buttons, there’s modifiers, there’s combos, there’s so much I’m not getting out of the game…it does my head in’. Though less true of FM, this point still surely applies to some extent.

In particular, that phrase of Reed’s — ‘There’s so much i’m not getting our of the game’ — is pertinent. Discussion on FM Slack (footballmanagerslack.slack.com), which brings together seasoned campaigners and novices, reveals that misconceptions about functionality keep recurring and some functionality goes unexplored due to confusion or perplexity.

The key point here is this: though FM doubtless needs to continue to develop functionality (its competitors will and the market is sufficient techie to demand it), from the point of view of the player who has yet to explore the extant functionality, there’s no difference whatsoever between (a) entirely new functionality (i.e., innovation) and (b) unexplored functionality. Helping players to understand the latter is thus a way of adding value to the game.

I’d like, therefore, to see better labelling and better explanation. For example, what is the difference between determination in terms of (a) player attribute and (b) personality?

And also better tutorials. How about, for example, real manager badges — that is, one’s that you don’t just ask your board to fund, but which require you to complete a tutorial course and pass an assessment?

Such innovations would certainly motivate players more than the current achievement badges, which I notice receive very little attention on Slack. When I’m playing FM, every now and again there’s a little pop-up telling me I’ve unlocked another achievement, but I never care (they never connect with the immersive game) and, quite often, I don’t even know what they mean.

I’d also like to see, though I guess this could be too big a task to be feasible, a cut-down beginner’s version. The sheer amount of data and the number of options can be overwhelming to the beginner, who wants to get on and have some fun trying to beat Man U, so stripping out data and functionality could provide a more satisfying entry-level experience.

in the discussion of the humanistic side of games, The future of football video games focuses for most part on the physical and the psychological. It does consider social aspects a little too, but my feeling is that it underrates the potential for development in this area.

The proliferation of blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and social media chat demonstrates that there’s a huge desire from players of FM to communicate with each other. As a result, FM surely needs more institutionalisation. It needs, in particular, an FMA, the equivalent of the FA, to organise competitions, both online and at events.

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Notts County supporter, at least nominally. Regularly watch Stevenage, Cambridge Utd, and Peterborough. On FM, favour teams from the eastern Med, especially on Greek islands. Addicted to searching for liberos and to signing Darren Lavery. According to Liam Billington, I'm 'the Iniesta of Higher Tempo Press' :)