Harvard Hero Moment #24: Football Manager: The Most Addictive Game on the Planet

Adam George

12 Mar 2020

7296 hours. 304 days. 43 weeks. 10 months. According to my laptop, that is how much of my life I have spent playing Football Manager. Quite a lot of time to be glued to a screen, isn’t it? So, what exactly is Football Manager? Well, according to Wikipedia: “Football Manager is a series of football management simulation video games developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega.” But Football Manager isn’t just a game. It isn’t even an obsession. It is a way of life. I appreciate that might seem strong, possibly bordering on pathetic. But this is a ‘game’ that has cost me countless keyboards, a lightbulb*, a first-class degree, three summers, and my first girlfriend. Explaining a Football Manager addiction to normal people is difficult. The fact that you don’t actually control players (as you do in FIFA) baffles people, who think the game looks boring. Not to me. The extensive database and web of cause-and-effect decision-making has this fastidious football mind hook, line and sinker. Over the years I have suited up for Champions League finals, conducted press conferences sat on the toilet, and even pondered an open top bus parade of my hometown after a successful season (bad weather quickly scuppered that idea).

The beginning of an obsession

I still remember my first hit. I must have been about nine or ten years old, when my aunt introduced this life-changing game to me. I had previously dabbled in a bit of Premier Manager on the PS1. Maybe that was a gateway, but Football Manager was completely different. Within a week, I had taken Newcastle to European champions and I knew things were never going to be the same again. Most of my teenage summers were spent in front of the computer, signing and nurturing the young Freddy Adu wherever I ventured. I lost count of the times my parents confiscated the disc, to get me outside or force me to revise for important exams. Even when this happened, I would spend my time daydreaming about Christmas-tree formations and the next transfer window.

Wasting my younger years

When I moved to university, I had few seminars and little contact time so needed something to fill the hours. Obviously, I turned to Football Manager. I was lucky that my roommate also had the bug and we spent many nights playing into the early hours, taking AFC Wimbledon from League Two to the Premier League. No mean feat. This was all fine in first and second year, when there was little work to be done. But third year was slightly different as I had dissertation to write. Every time I fired up my laptop to get cracking with it, that little ‘FM’ icon in the corner would drag me in. It was a nightmare and I honestly believe that without Football Manager I would have obtained a first-class degree. Sadly, I had to settle for a 2:1 and several virtual trophies. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

Beating addiction

After university, I moved to London and got some real responsibilities (although I would argue being a well-respected football manager comes with a lot of responsibility), which meant I had a lot less free time than before. Luckily, Sports Interactive had released Football Manager Touch, which promised to “provide all the excitement of the full game but in a more streamlined format”. This means I can now dip in and out of the game, without it taking over my life completely. Perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I still waste away many a Sunday fiddling with tactics and finalising signings. But for now, the addiction is managed… *In my defence, it was a last-minute Cherno Samba winner in the Championship Playoff Final.