Ally Moncrieff slams down his controller to tell the world what’s gone wrong with football games on his TFN debut…
In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes. If Benjamin Franklin had been around today he could have added ‘an annual update to the FIFA and PES series of football games’ to his most famous phrase. Not quite as profound maybe, but no less accurate.
The nature of certainty means that this year is no different, there will of course be a FIFA 15 and a PES 15. A quick glance through the early press releases and it is clear both franchises are offering variations on the same theme, that theme of course being increased realism. And herein lies the problem with modern football games.
The best games sell themselves as a form of escapism, that is the very essence of their appeal. It’s why the release of Grand Theft Auto has people queuing outside Game in the middle of the night and the release of Truck Simulator does not. The finest video game series of all is Nintendo’s Mario Bros, Mario and his brother Luigi are plumbers by trade, if instead of rescuing Princesses and warping down pipes in the Mushroom Kingdom the game concentrated on two overweight lads installing a combi boiler and piping the odd radiator, it’s hard to imagine it would have enjoyed quite the same level of success.
When I boot up FIFA or PES I want to see goals flying in from all angles, I want to see centre backs dribbling past the entire opposing team and finishing off with an impudent dink over the keeper. I do not want to spend my leisure time having to adjust the tempo of my passing to accommodate Lee Cattermole’s errant first touch.
Football is of course the greatest sport of all time, but the very mechanics of it can, on occasion, be rather dull, we forgive this flaw because our view is tinted by our emotional attachment to it. Football simulations can never replicate that emotional response and when they were crash bang wallop highlight packages then that was okay, but as they evolve to a more accurate portrayal of the ‘beautiful game’ then it becomes a problem.
How much longer can these entertainment juggernauts be considered a valid outlet for our hard earned when increasingly they depict the grubby unsatisfying aspects of our favourite game? Well, probably forever because the marketing is very good but that’s not the point. They’re not as much fun as they used to be.
[Video evidence suggests that FIFA 15 was originally designed to be a hardcore dessert racing game set post-football, post-Apocalyptic wasteland ruled by real life Mad Max villain, Lionel Messi.]
I didn’t buy FIFA 14 and I won’t buy FIFA 15 (I haven’t bought PES in years, I’m no masochist) because rather than offering my brain a pleasing distraction from the grim reality of life they now reinforce that grimness and charge me £50 for doing so. There is of course no doubt that aesthetic advances are to be applauded, it’s incredibly impressive to see a computer generated sprite that shares Gabby Agbonlahor’s facial features, I find myself less impressed however when that sprite also shares Gabby’s inability to kick the ball accurately at the goal.
At times when playing the more recent iterations I’ve found myself considering penning an ‘open letter’ to the developers at EA and Konami but then that would make me an ‘open letter writer’ and they are the worst of all people. So instead all I do is pine for a simpler time, when entertainment and enjoyment took precedent over accuracy and realism.
The respective peaks of the two series were Pro Evo 5 and FIFA 10, each game depicted a recognisable representation of football, only better, like all the participants were doped up on performance enhancing drugs (imagine that). Since then gameplay tweaks, and that never ending desire to recreate every little detail has chipped steadily away at what made those games great, until we are left in a virtual world where ‘some of the players are a bit crap’ is considered a selling point.
Reality is all around us, we live inside it every day, we eat it, we drink it, we breathe it. The very point of entertainment, whatever form that takes, be it games, music or literature is to provide an alternative to that reality. When football simulations end up reinforcing that which we are trying to escape, through the medium of misplaced passes and errant shooting then surely they are very much missing the point.
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