The Influence of Computer Games on Football Opinions

Today, FIFA 14 is released to the masses. Adults and children throughout the world will be taking day’s off work to get their first taste of the new version – which is basically the same as previous versions with just a few tweaks. Most of them, having just completed GTAV would have just spent £50 on the game and it is this that they will play until Football Manager is out in October.

Over the years, football games have become more influential in the lives of football fans. No longer do they just watch a game on a Saturday, play themselves on a Sunday, and train mid-week, they now spend every woken day playing the simulators. Writing down squads whilst they are supposed to be listening to the teacher. Researching wonder kids during work hours. And spending hours day dreaming on what they are going to do when they get home.

Whilst games such as FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, Champions Manager and Football Manager are brilliant – I own a PS3 with just 1 game (or 2, now the new FIFA is out) they also cause my a lot of frustration. Often these games form the opinion of fans when talking about players.

Fans have begun to genuinely build an opinion on a player based on how they perform in a game. Take young players for example. Despite having never seen a young player perform, manager simulators such as Football Manager and Championship Manager will create an opinion for a fan.

Ganso, for example, was massively hyped up last summer. Barely anyone had seen him play. Not many people watch Brazilian football, and he only has 8 caps for Brazil. Very few could genuinely sit and say they thought he would be a good addition to the Arsenal side. Yet many did and many were getting excited over him. Odd.

But not odd when you then remember he has been a star on Football Manager for a few years. People built their opinion on him based on a computer game. They wanted us to spend £20 million+ on a player based on a computer game. It is ludicrous. And now? He is playing for Santos and a big money move to Europe looks unlikely. Football Manager certainly warps the opinion of players.

FIFA also does the same. Anyone who has played the game knows pace is king. If you do not have pace, you will struggle at the game. I believe this is one reason why Per Mertesacker is massively underrated. He is not a FIFA player due to his low pace rating. What FIFA has not got built in properly is how a player reads a game.

If you ever watch Per in real life, you will see he is one of the worlds best defenders. A brilliant reader of the game, he dominates forwards, no matter how quick they are. Pace means nothing if you can not dribble past a defender. And Mertesacker is extremely hard to get past. He will either intercept the pass, or stick out one of his big legs to win the ball. And he does it with ease.

Yes, if a player does get past him, he struggles, but every centre back in the world struggles when they are the wrong side of an attacker.

The problem here is people have built their opinion of Mertesacker based on his FIFA profile. They play with the likes of Kaboul or David Luiz, who are quicker and therefore more suited to the game. They then rate these two as better than Mertesacker, even though they are not.

They base this opinion on a game, not on what they see. Anyone who watch’s these 3 guys on a regular basis will recognise that Per Mertesacker is far superior to the other two.

People also rate Kyle Walker above Bacary Sagna. Again, because Walker is based on the game with brilliant pace. What the game does not show is his positioning is awful and he can not read the game.

The games also change how fan’s think a club is run. They make scouting seem easy. They make signing players seem easy. They make selling players seem easy. “Why can’t we just fax all clubs about Bendtner, offer them a free transfer with a 50% sell on clause” people ask. Well transfers are harder than that.

A game does not take into consideration personal relationships. Families. Wives. A game does not distinguish between playing in Spain, living on a hillside just outside Madrid, and living within the Arctic Circle in Russia. It makes the world of football seem easy. And it is not that easy.

When thinking about football. About players. About how the game works. People need to use their own eyes. Watch players play. Learn how football clubs and transfers work. Not base all their opinions on a game.

Judge players on what you see during games the highlights, or what you read about in reliable papers / magazines. Stop judging players on how good they are on computer games, or YouTube highlights (another frustration!)


11 thoughts on “The Influence of Computer Games on Football Opinions

  1. arseweb

    Fantasy Football has a lot to answer for too. In combination with Management games like CM and FM, it’s led to plastic fans being overly concerned with transfer windows at the expense of training, tactics, and development. Just witness Spurs fans’ glee at thinking they’d “won” this summer’s window.

    To be fair, the management games do sometimes spot young players that do in real life turn into world beaters. That’s because they have large worldwide networks of contributors to their databases. But like you say, they get it wrong plenty of times too.

    Rupe (used to work on CM)


  2. arseweb

    Not sure you can blame the games for Freddy Adu, he was hyped IRL too. Signed pro contract at 14 (youngest in any team sport in the US for 100 years). Bit of a Jermaine Pennant, if you like.


  3. Mike

    Not rocket science but it’s nice to hear someone spell this out. There are too many idiots who write blogs, work for newspapers and, sadly, sit behind me at the Emirates every week, who don’t know where there arse actually is, let alone how far it is from their elbow. Nonetheless, all these people know more about football, transfers and running a premiership club than Wenger, Gazidis etc. They are sickening in the extreme. Know-it-all fans are far more likely to drive me away from football than the price of my season ticket, Wengers tactics or who we didn’t sign.


  4. Lordhillwood

    Also computer games take out the human element+response time. On Top Gear Clarkson practised on a particular USA track with the car he was to use in real life on the same track.

    His conclusion, was he couldn’t brake so precisely when the computer did in the real car, the real car exerted huge G force on him and affected his performance.

    The track pro played the game again with him, pointing out its is devoid of all factors affecting a real person carrying out the same task outside the virtual world.

    Add in crowd noise, inconsistent refs, distractions and all the points the author added in, and football computer games are as good a guide to the real game as blow up dolls are to sex, those obsessively playing need to step in the real world, and place real analytic values on players from opinion taking in to account the biggest variant, the human factor


  5. gary manilow

    I don’t play computer games so this article was quite interesting for me and i can now see why some people think the way they do.


  6. Gary David

    Football Manager bases its player performances and projections on the opinions of their very vast network of professional scouts from the European Club Association (All the elite clubs in Europe), so there is some solid basis to form an opinion on.



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