In this age of long-haul social distancing and mental-health strains, gamers have a tool to establish a much-needed connection while in isolation. Video games are an escapist medium. That’s what everyone always says. Games allow us to create our narrative, to be whoever or whatever we want, no matter the realm of possibility. From venturing into South American football’s obscure depths to controlling the footballing world’s major powerhouses, we can go anywhere and control (almost) anyone. Gaming allows us an escape from our day-to-day routines and problems.
In 2021, this is one of the most beautiful aspects of playing a game like Football Manager. The problem that necessitates this need for escape is best summarised because you can’t leave your house without potentially spreading or catching the horrible covid-virus. There’s never been a better time in modern history to escape to the fantasy worlds of video games and to take a break from it all.
I find myself looking forward to down-time as the end of my work-day draws nearer with every passing second. Between the covid-related stress of being the last man standing for the faculty I work at (and the resulting extra burden of trying to do the work of three on my own), the additional preparations necessary to work effectively from home (I can’t just stroll into a classroom, pick up a book and start teaching, instruction video’s or Prezi’s seemingly take far more time to create) and the loss of direct social interaction with most people outside of my family, I am grateful for the distraction of playing with my daughter and when I put her to bed and have talked about the day with the missus, for the option to move to a world where Zlatan and I are BFF’s, dominating European football.
Besides the single-player aspect and my narrative, I have also learned to appreciate the game’s community aspect far more. Gamers have known for a long time something that the rest of the world is starting to figure out: there’s community connection on the other side of a screen — and FM has a rather vibrant community if you know where to look. Rather than merely hide in a make-believe world by myself, I try to share other people’s magical worlds as well; I want to live in their incredible moments and conversations.
I’ve been trying to talk more to kindred spirits, joining their streams, collaborating where I can but most of all savouring the moment spent with others, just hearing what they’re up to in both their save-games and their lives. I also realised that I know and have interacted with some people for over a decade now, which is wild.
While the game itself is not perfect (it never is, trust me on that one), I find that my enjoyment playing has increased this past year because of the people I share my thoughts with and those who share their thoughts with me. Whenever someone drops out of that circle, I genuinely get upset.
I also become more grateful for those still hanging around, providing me with a good laugh, intriguing food for thought or just a fun interaction. I’m not sure if there’s a real point to this blog entry and I’m not going to share this on my socials. I think it’s more therapeutic to get it off my chest. Football Manager community, I salute you. You’re helping me through a tough time; you’re helping me retain a semblance of sanity.