I can give up this game whenever I like, I just don’t want to yet

A simple Google search on the term ‘Football Manager addiction’ brings up over 900,000 results. Hell, there’s even been a book written on the subject. We’ve all heard the stories of dressing in suits for cup finals, shaking hands with the door knob before a match and the game we all love causing divorces or even saving people’s lives (read this post if you haven’t already). ‘Football Manager Stole My Life’ scratched the surface and shared stories to a wider audience, but I wanted to dig deeper. Yes, we all say we’re addicted to Football Manager, but are we really?

Now, I’m no psychologist. Let’s just get that straight from the off. For the purpose of this post though, I’ve tried to do my best impression of one. I decided to look at the definitions of different types of addiction and the one I’ve deemed most relevant in terms of Football Manager is behavioural addiction. It can be defined as:

“the compulsion to repeatedly engage in an action until it causes negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.”

Over the last year or so I’ve been sharing my own personal Football Manager habits through my Twitter account @FMSamo or here on my blog, the ironically named in relation to this article, Occasional Football Manager. I went with the name ‘Occasional FM’, as a new job and a house move dramatically decreased the amount of time I’ve played the game over the last couple of years. However, this article was born out of my opinion that I believe that the decrease in game time has only heightened my addiction.

The story I’m about to share with you clearly shows that I potentially fall into the category of having an addiction to Football Manager. I worked in a pub for a year after I left university, the shift patterns and random working hours meant I could perfectly continue on my habit from uni of playing FM for hours on end. However, I finally got my first ‘proper’ job almost two years ago, and thus, my FM time became restricted. I started to wake up at ridiculous o’clock on Saturday and Sunday mornings, not being able to get back to sleep. My only option to pass the time? Football Manager, of course. I tried to tell myself it was because I was used to waking up early during the week, but I found myself waking up earlier at the weekends and when I was, I was feeling like an excited 6 year old on Christmas morning. You hear talk of body clocks, this was my Football Manager clock telling me it was time to wake up and squeeze my diminishing hours of playing time in. My behavioral addiction to playing FM was affecting my mental, and most probably physical well-being. It still does. A lot is said in the news about a lack of sleep decreasing your life expectancy, but this has now just become my ‘normal’ routine. Heck, I’ve even gotten up early on a few work days to squeeze an hour or so of FM time in. I actually find myself getting annoyed or grumpy when I haven’t been able to play at least a good couple of hours of FM before my significant other wakes up and cruelly takes my attention away.

Just like ‘Football Manager Stole My Life’, I wanted to garner the opinions of others on this. I wanted to discover whether others in the FM community felt the same. So I took to Twitter armed with questions based on the definition of behavioural addiction. The response was great and I’d just like to thank everybody that replied and shared their brilliant stories. Here are the questions I asked and just a selection of what our community had to say.

Can you think of a time you’ve gone over and above ‘normal’ behaviour just to play Football Manager?

‘It’s not uncommon for me to bring my laptop into work just to play FM…thankfully I have my own office so a level of privacy. I can get through maybe 8-10 games in a 6 hour period at my desk…I occasionally feel guilty…but then go straight back to thinking how I will adjust my tactic for that next match against Bayern’

‘I’m able to play FM at work. I shouldn’t and I often know I’m doing the wrong thing, but I bloody can’t help it. The temptation is too great not to have work on one screen and FM on the other’

‘I take my laptop to work to play if I know my superiors are going to be out for the day. If the bosses are out I can basically play without the risk of being caught out!’

I would definitely say that this is beyond ‘normal’ behaviour. Relating this back to the definition of behavioural addiction, if these guys were caught out playing Football Manager instead of working, I’m fairly sure it would affect their financial well-being. They may find themselves out of a job.

‘It all depends on your definition of ‘normal’. When I was single and living alone, I didn’t tend to go on holiday, I would take a period of time off work that would be set aside to play and write about Championship/Football Manager. I would almost treat it like work and set aside 5-6 hours per day’

‘The missus goes shopping, get a game in. The missus goes out on the razz, get a night of games in. The missus takes the kids away for the weekend, oh my giddy aunt, I’ve died and gone to heaven’

These guys are dedicated. Is it ‘normal’? Meh, we’ll give them it!

‘I had an interview for my place at university and had to get the train at 5am the next morning. I was so hooked on my journeyman save that I completely forgot. I realised in the early hours of the morning, but just decided to have an all nighter. It was all fun and games until it kicked in how tired and unprepared I was. Trying to prepare for the interview on the train wasn’t going well, so I decided to fire up the game again. In conclusion, I got offered the place at uni. I don’t recommend anyone doing that. I did get Estoril Praia promoted from the second tier of Portuguese football though’

Dangerous game. Playing with his future in order to bash through a season. What would he have done if he didn’t get accepted to uni? This really did have the potential to affect him socially, financially, and most probably mentally as well.

Has your behavior towards others/another changed whilst playing Football Manager?

‘When I get engulfed in the alternative reality that FM creates I notice I become slightly withdrawn from friends, family and commitments’

‘I had drawn a game against a lowly ranked team and was furious. Fines were handed out, no prisoners taken in the post-match press conference. I was snappy and uncommunicative with my fiancée, who I had picked up from the train station. She picked up on it instantly, had a good laugh and told me to pull my head in’

‘It’s not uncommon for me to show frustration when someone texts me for ‘interrupting’ me’

‘My mood towards my partner can certainly be affected. It’s purely internal though, I don’t complain to her or display my annoyance’

‘If things aren’t going too well I can get a bit irritable at times. That’s why I try to not play so much if my girlfriend is around’

These guys are being mentally affected by the game, and why wouldn’t we? It’s football. Win or lose, joy or despair. It’s bound to have an affect on the way we act with the people closest to us.

Have you deliberately missed any social gatherings/events because you wanted to continue playing FM?

‘I have been reluctant to go out for a quiet pint because I’d rather keep playing my save’

‘Back in the days of Football Manager Live my addiction was at it’s peak. If it was the end of the season/playing auction time, I’d pretty much drop everything to ensure I was in front of my laptop’

‘Good god yes. My wife wanted to travel down to England to visit her extended family, but my club and country save was too great a prospect. I, shall we say, exaggerated an illness I had at the time and cried off. I think the laptop was on before she even had time to close the door’

‘I think that FM has saved me an absolute fortune. I would regularly opt to stay in and play it rather than going out on the lash with my mates’

I’ve done the same. Made plans, fired up the game and got so engrossed that I decide to not go out. Does doing it a couple of times affect our social well-being? Probably not. But persistently ditching your friends or family for a couple of extra hours game time could lead to some questions being asked. Others recognise the need for time in the outside world though…

‘If there’s a chance to go out with friends for a pint or two, I’ll always do that rather than make excuses to stay in and play FM’

Do you have a strict routine when it comes to playing FM?

You can probably guess which popular member of the FM community contributed this answer…

‘Like many of us, I turn Football Manager on every day, but I’m probably in the minority of how I play it. I play one game-day per real-life day. Back from walking the dog, I sat down to the game, prepared the teamsheet, posted it to Twitter, got myself a large mug of tea and started the game. Two hours later, we had a result and I’d published the match report after some poking around on photoshop, looked at league results and trawled around to see what else in-game could impact my club. By the time I was done and it had gone live on the blog, it had gone two o’clock. I feel a massive commitment to my save. The Macbook does usually go with me everywhere though, so a quick half-hour on a Monday won’t hurt anyone. If I lose the progress I’ll have a massive void to fill in my life’

On the surface we would probably say that is addiction. However, referencing the answer back to the definition, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on his well-being. None of us are getting any younger, and as I outlined in my own story, other circumstances get in the way of game time. That doesn’t mean we can’t still squeeze in a couple of games here and there…

‘When you have kids and a (demanding) missus, you have to change your priorities. You just have to be content with the odd game and the occasional late night session’

Miles was asked about addiction at the Q&A session after the showing of the recent documentary. The session was fairly light-hearted, until the topic of addiction was introduced, with Miles becoming very serious. ‘[Addiction] is actually a really dangerous word to use.’ He spoke of it being a chemical imbalance in the brain, and claimed that it ‘is not something caused by the game. It’s compelling and compulsive for people that do play it a lot, but you don’t get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t play’. He finished off by saying ‘it isn’t and it can’t be [addictive].’ I actually think that’s a really naïve view to take. Video game addiction is real, it happens. While there isn’t yet enough evidence to officially class it as a mental disorder, and it can be argued that it may be other disorders that cause the addictiveness rather than the gaming itself, research is still being conducted to determine whether it can be officially classed as a disorder.

Got all serious there for a second, apologies. I’ll leave you with another contribution from one of the community which I think sums things up very nicely…

‘I reckon my FM self-control attribute has gone up from an 8 to a 15 over the last 3 or 4 seasons…’

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6 thoughts on “I can give up this game whenever I like, I just don’t want to yet

  1. I’m not sure I agree with Miles. He is of course right that it is a serious issue, but he also mentions that addiction is a chemical imbalance in the brain and that you can’t get withdrawal symptoms by not playing it. Well this is where I tend to differ in opinion.

    In the main, we tend to think of substance abuse such as nicotine, drug and alcohol when we think of addiction, but they are not the only things that we can become addicted to tea and coffee, (caffeine), are obvious one’s that we often overlook, (although less so nowadays I have to admit),, but more recently I have seen far more mention of exercise addiction, (and we have all sniggered when anyone mentions anything about sex addiction. The thing here is that Miles hit the nail on the head when he said that addiction of any kind is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The mistake that we must be careful not to make however, is that the chemical imbalance does not have to come from an outside source such as a drug, (be it caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or something else, but can be caused by chemicals that we ourselves release as a result of some sort of action or feeling. A perfect example of this is gambling. There is no outside chemical to add into our system to cause this imbalance, but the imbalance still occurs. I don’t know enough about it to state for a fact, but my impression that there is something linked to the thrill and excitement of the “bet” and the outcome and it is this that causes the imbalance. Sex is like this but there are no outside chemicals at work, (at least not always). lol Even something as mundane as train-spotting. has to have some sort of driver behind it. Or collecting useless things that people habitually collect. There has to be a reason. Football Manager is the same as this. I say Football manager but it could be any game.

    Here is an example that concentrates on gambling as an addiction which is a better comparison to use than drug addictions which we often think are the only sources of addiction.

    The following extract comes from the Oct 2013 issue of the Scientific American.

    “In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction—a behavior primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. In the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—a fuzzy label for a group of somewhat related illnesses that, at the time, included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hairpulling). In what has come to be regarded as a landmark decision, the association moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter in the manual’s latest edition, the DSM-5, published this past May. The decision, which followed 15 years of deliberation, reflects a new understanding of the biology underlying addiction and has already changed the way psychiatrists help people who cannot stop gambling.”

    This is not a pop at Football Manager which I love. I appreciate that Miles probably needs to be very careful with what he says from a business point of view, but I just don’t agree with him. Football Manager can become addictive in my opinion. From my point of view I don’t think it was just the thrill of a game that I found attractive, but the quiet solitude, (very different from real life), where I could properly relax and get away from it with. While FM might have been the tool, maybe it was the experience of quiet, relaxation, contemplation, (yes i am being deadly serious), and just solitude that I was “craving”, (that sounds like the correct word to use for me). I could have used meditation or going to the gym, or alcohol or whatever else people do in their spare time to get these feelings, but what worked for me is FM, (and still does). I don’t actually have to play a game. Just loading up the game and having a little look at the squad and progressing a couple of days before saving is often all I get to do, but that’s enough for me.

    Am I addicted? Certainly seems so to me.

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