The FIFA effect

October 26, 2012 in Features

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We’ve all been there. Sitting tense, shoulders hunched and eyes propped open, in front of the television screen, controller firmly perched in sweaty palms and last night’s pizza rotting in the corner. This is what FIFA (the game) does. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first time experimenter, FIFA casts the same dark spell over all of us, and boy, do we love it.

Modern procrastination takes place on so many levels.  Whether it’s Facebooking  your Mum, on the binge down the pub or wasting the hours leading Yeovil Town to Champions League glory in typical fantastical style, they’re all methods that serve the same purpose. But as FIFA takes over my life and I begin to wonder if I will ever fall out of love with the world’s most popular football video game, I feel compelled to explain just how this relationship has come to be.

To begin to delve into the nitty gritty of it all, I must ask a very important question. Pro Evo or FIFA? Now, I must admit that it took me many years to realise the hype surrounding EA Sports’ greatest invention had genuine substance. Through my own stubbornness, I was convinced that Pro Evolution Soccer had better graphics, more realistic gameplay and a network of gamers who shared my view. Little did I know that I was missing out on the real daddy of football gaming. Of course, FIFA has all those key attributes but also possesses one essential trait that reduces its rivals to amateurism. It seduces you, lures you into a trap that many find very difficult to crawl out of. After all, how many of us have sat up all day and all night clicking our fingers, shouting expletives at a lifeless screen and working ourselves up into a tantrum that few would dare want to inflame? Career mode is a b*tch, right?

But there’s more to FIFA than the basic 8-minute halves and the typical manager careers. Those of you who drink will probably, at some time in your lives, come a cropper to the infamous FIFA drinking rules. Searching for an overpriced item in the shops if you concede to Andy Carroll, having to make a sandwich for your opponent if you lose by 7, and drinking 4 fingers of ASDA smart price cider if you get a player sent off are all rules we have had to abide by over the years. It is this camaraderie that separates FIFA from Pro Evo or your average football video game. The unique support and love for the game brings people together, provides social occasions and forms the basis of the majority of your conversations with complete strangers.

To this, I have fallen foul. And by that I don’t mean it’s all strawberries and cream. Far from it. The luxury tends to end at being made that sandwich I mentioned. Other than that, sitting in a dark, stuffy room, wearing yesterday’s outfit and waving away the temptation to have a shower in the stead of playing ‘one more match’ sums up life with FIFA. An aversion to any other activity can be blamed on the addictive lure of bombing down the wing with Raheem Sterling or attempting to pinch a £20m-rated Falcao for your League 1 side.

Women think it’s pathetic in the same way men have a mental blockage whenever the word ‘shopping’ appears in conversation. Some men might think it’s a waste of time, and that’s a fair opinion. It is, literally, a waste of time. Some days I find myself picking up the controller without even noticing, merely to wind the clock down to that 4pm lecture, or a visit to the cinema in the evening. But there’s more to it than a bunch of saddos sitting on the couch playing a football game. It’s culture. The graphics, the detail, the gameplay, the tricks, the goals, the players, the realism, the intrinsic reward, the social, the laughs, the cries, the drama, the tantrums, the memories, the opinions and the sheer love of football. That’s why I’m hooked. Is that enough for you?