It’s getting to that time of year when the new Football Manager is released, and while that’s probably terribly exciting for the vast majority, I find myself longing for a simpler time.
Today, to experience Football Manager to the extent of its capability, you’re really forced into sacrificing weekends, social lives, girlfriends and, in extreme cases, jobs – it’s too much, it’s the workload of an actual football manager.
It’s not what what I want.
Sensible Soccer was that simpler time, and Sensible World Of Soccer – its management derivative – trod the line between immersion and personality destruction better than anything that has appeared since. Animated club chairmen with cliched local accents (“Welcome to our club etc”), simplified transfers, seasons which could be completed within an hour or less, and the bizarre, unfathomable world of the tactics editor. Pick-up and play? Definitely, but also ‘pick-up and enjoy’. There were limitations and criticisms, of course, but so what – it catered to the fan who didn’t want to have to close off another department of their life to enjoy it.
The standing joke with Football Manager is that it causes divorces and break-ups. But the reality, while less dramatic, isn’t that far removed. Honestly, unless you have a spare seven hours in your day – which most of us don’t – then really what’s the point in even starting a game?
You take control of your favourite side, you spend far too much on an unproven Argentine playmaker, you sell-off that player who you never really liked – all the while believing yourself to be terribly clever – and then you lose your first game at home to Wigan. The response? Fuck this, I’m going back to work.
With SWOS it was never like that. There was no data, there were no training regimes to skip over, and there were definitely no inexplicable losses of form – you made bad teams average, good teams better, and top-tier clubs all-conquering. It was simple, and it was satisfying.
Most of the generation who played that game are surely now of an age where, on catching themselves embroiled in a particularly arduous FM session, must think ‘what am I doing with my life?’ You can’t dip in and out of the game, you’re either completely immersed in it or you’re going to be crap – no middle ground whatsoever. There are sacrifices which clearly have to be made.
Sensible Soccer never asked that of anyone. If you became addicted, it was purely because of its archaic, unrealistic charm.