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It is all invented

It's November, which means it's time for a new release of my third favourite computer game, Football Manager aka FM. (As it's the 2024 edition, this year's game is known as FM24.) FM is a simulation game where you are the manager of a professional football team, and are tasked with hiring and firing staff, recruiting players, running training sessions, setting tactics and hopefully, possibly, winning the league.

Football Manager is a strange game by any measure, because you do absolutely everything except control the players during a match. Unlike other games, where you hit buttons to pass or shoot, in FM you are forced to watch on from the sidelines as your team tries to execute your tactic. At best, you can shout encouragement from the sidelines, or in my case, say exactly the wrong thing and demoralize your players.

I love the immersion in this game. The idea that I could manage my beloved Arsenal and win the Premier League and Champions League. Or start at the bottom in a regional semi-pro team and eventually, after many years in-game, get hired by a top team in Italy or Spain. And FM is extremely popular. There are dozens of wannabe managers streaming their games on YouTube and Twitch, pretty much day and night, trying to win the league in their fantasy football world.

(This really happens. The top streamers will have several hundred people watch them essentially juggle spreadsheets and then watch a computer simulation together. It's compelling viewing.)

I haven't logged a ton of time playing FM (it's my third favourite game after all) but I have played enough to notice that I rarely complete a full season in the game. Heck, I often don't make it through pre-season before starting a new game with a new team.

Why is that? I think it's because of the consequences of losing at Football Manager. Losing at FM doesn't mean your character dies, like one of those shoot-em-up games. Losing means your players lose confidence. Morale drops. Your fans are disappointed and start complaining about you on social media. At worse, you get fired and have to find a job with another team.

I find the disappointment to be emotionally draining. Yep. I'm not worried about getting trolled via social media in real life, because I stay off social media for the most part. But I'm worried about getting trolled by fictional 'fans' in a video game. Or having my backup left back be upset with me because he isn't getting enough playing time. It's worse than dying a video game death. Much worse.

Now I may be an edge case. Most people wouldn't get rattled by pretend tweets in a video game. But I wonder about all the things we've never done or stopped doing for fear of criticism in real life? Poems not written, paintings not painted, songs not sung.

Because in the big picture, what's the difference between a pretend tweet in a game or a comment from a stranger on Instagram? Is one more real than the other?

Constructive feedback from a trusted friend is one thing, but an anonymous comment is meaningless, whether in FM or Facebook. Keep playing. Keep singing your song.