IAN MCFARLANE EXAMINES THE BURGEONING FOOTBALL VIDEO GAMES MARKET AND ASKS
Are video games taking over?
AS A 32-year-old who has been a football fan since the age of six, I am becoming increasingly concerned with the ridiculous popularity of football-related video games.
Don’t get me wrong, I had games consoles throughout my youth and enjoyed various football games.
However, I still loved nothing more than playing football for real, whether it be alone in the garden of my parent’s house or up the park with mates.
With most local parks near empty of football-related activity these days, it appears to highlight the fact that many youngsters have an unhealthy obsession with playing with a control pad instead of their feet.
There are many reasons why FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer have taken today’s youth, and even adults, hostage within their bedrooms. Said game platforms are so expansive these days it is beyond belief.
The interactive feature, where you can play someone from around the world that you have never met, encourages youngsters, and some adults, to use up complete days and often nights pretending to be their heroes through a control pad, instead of trying to emulate their feats down the park.
You speak to a lot of youngsters these days and their knowledge of world football is incredible, yet they have rarely watched real live footage of these players or read up on them.
No, instead they have ‘signed’ them for their club within a game mode on FIFA for instance. A lot of people my age and older developed their football knowledge by reading football-related publications, newspapers, attending games, watching on television and absorbing fascinating trivia off an older person.
I was aghast during the summer
when I found that Sky Sports Premier League and Football channels dedicated near enough full days’ programming to watching people play FIFA against each other within a tournament format.
What shocked me furthermore is top football clubs around the world sign people on official contracts to be their FIFA game-play representative.
FIFA have even released their own squad shirt to wear while you’re sat in isolation pretending to be Messi or Ronaldo. How far is too far? I feel this is too far.
As a teenager in the holidays, when not up the park playing footy with friends, we would often play on multi-player on the Playstation and later Playstation 2.
We would each pick a team to play as and go through a created tournament, playing against each other on route to find out who was the best, thus creating plenty of banter.
Games back then weren’t as expansive and ridiculously addictive as they are now.
To formulate a better perspective and for research purposes for this piece, a friend gave me a Playstation 3, so then I bought quite a few modern era football games to gather an idea of what all the fuss is about.
I started a manager career on FIFA 16 as Southampton, you play through a season, you make signings, you devise scouting networks and as near enough every major league in the world can be found on here, plus you have a myriad of players to attempt to sign.
You receive in-game e-mails from the board, players, other job offers and other clubs accepting/rejecting bids you’ve made for their players. All this and you haven’t even experienced any game play by this point!
Sadly, doing this research, I realised how addictive current footballing games can be and how much of your spare time you use on them.
I played through a season and a half, making signings, playing every game set at four minutes per half and I was spending unhealthy hours on it.
I didn’t engage the interactive option (the more addictive mode), yet the manager mode seemed to get hold of me with its realism.
So with this I could see how children spend the amount of time they do on it.
It was getting so bad that I was searching on the internet if certain features on said game should happen, trophy presentations etc.
This also consisted of me searching for a player’s career biography, because he popped up in the feature about youngsters to watch.
I have also noticed - and I believe a lot of this is brought on by the video game culture - that instead of following a team, a lot of children now will follow a player.
For instance, I know of a lot of youngsters who switched from Real Madrid to Juventus, because Ronaldo moved there this summer.
So the hold the player has has more gravitational pull than the club itself. For instance, I can’t remember any fans of Eric Cantona swapping a Leeds shirt for a Manchester United one! Is it game culture of the modern era?
As the latest FIFA game has been released, with Ronaldo complete in Juve attire on the cover, youngsters will be spending their pocket money on the FIFA player packs to use within the game.
This could also spell the end for football sticker and card collections. Whether we like it or not within football, virtual reality is becoming the reality within the eyes of many.
Must-haves? The latest editions
In control: Pressing the right buttons Looks realistic: A Pro Evolution graphic