Sometimes – and I promise it’s never for very long – I wonder why I like Football Manager. It’s tempting to draw the easy comparison with football itself, to liken the highs and the lows to the perpetual undulations of your side’s form out here in reality. But that’s not it. Catch me at a moment of managerial despair and it’ll rarely be after a loss, as much as those 40-shot, 80-per-cent-possession slumps at home can hurt. No, if I’m wondering why I do it to myself and what it’s all for, it’ll be because I’ve encountered a puzzle I cannot solve.
Football Manager is a puzzle game, after all. It’s a lot of games really – and that, if you were wondering, is part of why I love it – but it’s a puzzle game first, I reckon. Because it’s about fixing things – solving things – and getting them back up and running. It’s an engineering sim as much as a management one, where it’s your job to find a creaking, groaning, vintage locomotive and restore it to rightful, righteous condition.
I know a lot of people are different, but that’s why the cycle of despair is worth it for me: when you crack it. When you find the solution, be it a stubborn transfer negotiation or a huffing and puffing attack that just needs a goal to let the weight off. To get moving, so the old leviathan croaks and churns and rumbles into life. That too is why it’s so frustrating when Football Manager 2019 teases you with a whole new way of solving your problems, a new toolbox for tinkering, only to force you away with an astonishing, extraordinarily impenetrable way of actually using it.
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