Wednesday, December 1

The beautiful game got ugly: why I broke up with FIFA | Games

IIt is always tragic when a love turns sour, especially one that has lasted longer than any other adult relationship. But in 1993, I lost my heart in an office in Slough. Electronic Arts invited a motley crew from GamesMaster, the television show it was hosting at the time, to see what they said would be the future of video games. A poorly lit office and a gray plastic table littered with spaghetti cables didn’t promise much. But then a switch was flipped and the earth moved for me. Years before Tim found Dawn, I found Fifa International Soccer on Mega Drive.

He had had sex at soccer games before. Match Day was my first love when I was 12 years old, and I shared my time between him and his cerebral brother Football Manager. Kick Off was the one that eluded me, because I couldn’t act when it mattered. I was considering settling down with Sensible Soccer, but then FIFA came along in all its 3D isometric finery, promising four players the trip of their lives. I felt that I had traversed the fabric of time to spy on the future.

First Byte Love ... The Original FIFA International Soccer, 1993.
First Byte Love … The Original FIFA International Soccer, 1993. Photograph: ArcadeImages / Alamy

For the next 29 years, he would spend thousands of hours playing incarnations of that same game, through births, deaths, and marriages, from Cockermouth, Cumbria, to Martin’s River, Nova Scotia. While everything else in my life changed, Fifa was there every year, with slightly altered ball physics. But this year I will not buy Fifa 22.

It is an online game that did not. I never bothered with that malarkey until I moved to Canada in 2009 and had no real life friends to play with other than guys in plaid shirts who didn’t realize NHL hockey games hit their point. maximum in 1994. Puck that, I thought. Instead, I will be playing Fifa Ultimate Team over a wavering internet connection. But let’s face it: most things online are horrible, even when they were once intended to be forces for good. Twitter exposes hypocritical politicians while spreading socio-political hatred. Photos of your grandmother on Facebook are adorable, but it’s also a chasm of Covid misinformation that could kill her. Online gaming, which should be the cusp of reaching out to the whole world to join us in a fun distraction from our daily shit shows, becomes another way of being shit.

Most of the time, they don’t just hit you online. You humble yourself. Someone will score a cheap goal, go through an excessive round of celebrations, and pass the ball around your back for the rest of the game. That was online Fifa this year. You could say, well, that’s real football. If you paid me Messi’s salary, I would suffer, but I’m supposed to be here having fun.

Raheem Sterling in Fifa 20.
A magician like Merlin… Raheem Sterling in Fifa 20. Photography: Electronic Arts

Adding anonymous communication to competition was always a terrible idea for our insecure civilization, and when I defeat someone without a face and the words “GOOD LUCK SWEATING F * G” appear on the screen? That is not the content I am here for. I have read about particularly bilious FIFA players who threaten to physically and sexually abuse others if they lose. Of course, I can turn off my messages, but that does not prevent the knowledge that this is what human beings are choosing to do with their time. Maybe it’s Trump, Covid, or an environmental catastrophe that is burning the world and releasing toxic clouds of misanthropic nihilism, but it’s all turned a bit Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant.

Makes Dave Perry’s infamous reaction failing in Super Mario 64 on GamesMaster looks positively noble. And this is where I feel a pinch of guilt. GamesMaster encouraged competitive games. Before online gaming and competitive esports, I gave my share of withering comments to the losers. I never thought it would reach this global level, nor did Tim Berners-Lee think that his idea of ​​the Internet would result in Two Girls One Cup.

Speaking of ideas, here are two of the worst in gaming: microtransactions and loot boxes. Vile concepts in the economic wasteland of 2021. Loot boxes are basically games of chance, gambling is addictive, and microtransactions are the most efficient addiction delivery system since smoking. They have seduced me in the past, they are so cleverly made – it is an armed behavioral science. If the loot box designers had been in charge of Covid, we would have had only a few isolated sobs.

Given that EA made $ 1.62 billion from Fifa Ultimate Team transactions in 2021 alone, this is not going to change. But I can.

A cynical cash grab on the beautiful game?  Surely not… Fifa 21 Ultimate Team.
A cynical cash grab on the beautiful game? Surely not… Fifa 21 Ultimate Team. Photography: EA Sports

It’s not just about money, it’s about time. When I was doing press for him Master Book Games due out next year, everyone asked me if I still played video games. I said yes. But I realized that no, really. I only play FIFA. Sure, I’ll be playing blockbuster games from the GTA, Mass Effect, and Witcher variety, but my own kids have urged me to play games they love, and I’ve ignored them because I had to score three volleys in a rival match. to get my last exchange for the Vidić icon card. How sad. I’ve chosen every game kitchen out there and all I’ve really done is eat at McDonald’s.

Ironically, my kids have gotten into things with great narratives: games like Outer Wilds, Edith Finch, and Life Is Strange. I fell in love with video games because they told stories. You hit buttons and all, but Jet Set Willy was a story. Atic Atac was a story. Pajamarama was a story. The only story FIFA tells is Sisyphus, pushing a rock uphill every day only to restart at dawn with another pointless achievement to fight for. And Sisyphus didn’t have to replace the Xbox joypads twice a year because she had smashed them into the wall in an incandescent rage during the Weekend League.

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