Football Manager – Seriously addictive

If I was to describe any game in my collection as addictive, this would be it.

At the time of writing this, the latest incarnation of Football Manager is FM 11. Whilst this hasn’t captured me quite as much as previous versions, perhaps just because I’ve yet to find a team with the foundations to really build a career, it does provide a lot of food for thought on what can make a game so compulsive. Why do I play it for hours on end despite having other things to do, even more exciting, interesting and important things!

I see three main reasons why FM can have you playing on and on; depth of the database, links and “one more” syndrome.

Whilst not the most influencial, the depth of the database in the game is staggering. The vast pool of players can mean that with the right dedication you can scour the globe to find a gem of a player, which can be very time consuming and involving. It is also rewarding, to find that 17 year old right back with the makings of a legend who is currently at a lower division Norwegian club.

Of course a key factor in long playing hours is the idea of “one more match”, “one more signing”, “one more turn” and so forth. There is always something new around the corner and FM has you desperate to see it. This is rather similar to an MMORPG where the next level/item is never far away, however in FM you have much more immediacy and what FM also provides is immediate follow up. You may decide “one last match then off to bed” but an event in the match may lead to you making a decision (sell, buy, change team selection, work on training etc) or sometimes it is the press conferences afterwards. The few minutes it takes to complete these can be enough to get you close to thinking “one more match” and of course you may now want to see the results of your change. It can be a very compelling cycle.

Can we apply this to other games? Sure. By looking for a response after a result / checkpoint the player is going to be inclined to “wrap that up” before calling it a day. If you then are constantly providing something that asks for a response, the player may stay involved. Lets look at the scenario that a new car has been unlocked in the progression single player part of Generic Racing Title. After unlocking it, provide the player with options to customise it. Then once they’ve done that, provide options such as Test Drive or Continue. Continue would get the player ready for their next event/race where the player may think “ah well, one more”.

Anyway, back to FM. The final reason why I believe FM can be “addictive” is the links in game. Many people have noted that the Internet and Wikipedia in particular have a knack for consuming so much of your time and Football Manager can be exactly the same. When viewing your star player’s profile you might decide check out a few of his favoured individuals to find a coach that they can work well with etc. This can lead to viewing former clubs and maybe recognising a familiar name. They of course have a full profile and you see that they have been doing well, but maybe you’re curious about one of the clubs they played at in 03/04? A quick look shows that they are now lower league but hey, they’ve a promising youngster. Scout him! Actually why not check out other clubs in the division?… and there goes your evening!

Obviously the linking is very successful for FM and can it be applied to many other games but why bother? Well for offline single player games it is no more than a useful feature but for a game where the meter is running or you just simply want players to be immersed in your game, this could be a great tool.

Well thats all I have to say. I could go on and on about the UI, gameplay features such as player interaction and tactics, but I just wanted to explore non-footballing systems that makes the game so compelling.

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