The Beautiful (Video) Game: Confessions of an Xbox FIFA Obsessive

Millions of people play FIFA on PS3 and Xbox. The author was once among the best one-tenth of one percent of those players. He's still figuring out how to feel about that.
Share |

In real sports, loosely marshaled people scramble within a confined space, kicking or hitting or throwing or catching a ball. Sometimes they yell about God, or themselves. Other people—lots more people—watch this scrambling and listen to these various noises. Moments with great visceral force materialize; sub-moments of similar charge happen in the interstices, clustered bits of emotion wedged into circumstance, afterwards or before or between.

Then the second and larger group of people discuss the running around and doing-various-things-to-ball and God/self-yelling work done by the first, and there is partisan speculation and conclusions which are set and unset and reset in stone. We pay for the privilege of seeing this in person, or give hours to it on television or on Twitter or in various bickering conversations. It’s an escape, but also a pocket for aggression and various fantasies and other sublimated things. It works. Video games, even or especially ones about sports, do not work like this.

***

I play a lot of FIFAon Xbox Live, and so do a lot of other people. As it stands currently, over one million people have played at least one game of FIFA ’13 online.Back in high school, my habit started with a game here and there: before bed, after dinner, before homework, many on the weekend. By the second semester of my senior year, triple free lunch periods had slowly devolved into Domino’s 5-5-5 deals and endless FIFAin the company of like-minded friends. That year—FIFA ’08—I had climbed the leaderboard all the way to 73rd in the United States. Or, pending dual citizenship, Algeria’s best.

Friends half-joked that my FIFA ranking was the pinnacle of achievement and the missing piece in my college applications. They were half-serious, though: I was better at a thing than most people, and it seemed like this should matter to someone, somewhere. It didn’t. Rather, it was so distressingly inconsequential, even with the burgeoning cultural relevance of video games and the sprawling superpopularity of soccer, that I kept the pride quarantined and mostly secret. I didn’t care for the inevitable response: ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool. How much time did you waste on that?’ Fair enough, but not a question I really wanted to answer.

There are some safe spaces for this sort of dork-talk, and they are naturally located in various internet nethers. This is not a passion that’s especially public, or commercialized: people don’t wear FIFAt-shirts, at least in the same way that fans proudly align their cause with that of Ben Roethlisberger or Metta World Peace or whomever. Still, that the nexus of passion is located online doesn’t restrain its ferocity; people still care, often too much so. Some infiltrate FIFA’s ranking algorithm through various black hat methods to bump up their spot several notches. Others steamroll etiquette and exploit game glitches. Where there’s competition, boundaries are bottled into suggestion. Games are going to get gamed, online as in life.

***

Video games aren’t some offbeat niche worthy of a few hundred arm’s-length words in a mildly popular magazine; it’s a billion-dollar industry. And in that most young people have played Madden or FIFA or Call of Duty, the activity is highly normalized. It has its own magazines.

But there’s still and inevitably a distance, here. It is impossible to brand a meaning for Lionel Messi’s avatar because that is not actually Lionel Messi. He doesn’t feel as Lionel Messi does, however Lionel Messi might feel. There is nothing to glean and no emotional kinship to warp as our own. This Messi we play with lacks a human condition, nuance in storyline, or even storyline at all. In one way that makes it sport at its most pure: though there is a winner and a loser, the game breathes unencumbered. There are no media-wielded torches or locker room chemistry issues or off-field incidents or questions of effort. There are people playing matches at 100 percent because they are programmed with that sole directive. You won’t see virtual Wayne Rooney dogging it in the seventh minute. In another sense, of course, it’s just a video game: a virtual projection of idle will, imaginary avatars of imaginary things.

To date, I have played 295 matches of FIFA ’13on Xbox Live. In years past that number has routinely crept above 1,000. To put this in better context, know that matches last approximately 15 minutes (six minutes per half), including halftime, pregame lineup changes and inconsiderate game-pausers or intro-watchers. This means I’ve played FIFA ’13 on Xbox Live for 4,425 minutes. That’s 73.75 hours, or 3 days, 1 hour and 45 minutes. Since I purchased the game on its release date, September 25, 2012, 2.09% of my life has been consumed by FIFA.

I have been invited to private tournaments, in-person, underground and online. I’ve gambled on my skills. I’ve been cursed out in Xbox Live text and voice messages. Due to a game quirk in which the headset audio of my opponent can project through my television, I’ve eavesdropped on a crazy person threatening me with “the shotgun in [his] lap.” I’ve been friended—that internet neologism seems oddly right in its half-wrongness, here—by other Xbox Live users because we played a competitive match and the opponent would like to do it again sometime. I have virtual video game friends, and it took writing this sentence down for that to actually feel strange.

I am in no way above crude virtual behavior. I’ve been known, on occasion, to curse back. I will viciously bark at any person who breaks my concentration mid-match. In this way, FIFAand its codified silence champions fits of directionless rage for its players–which, over time, has taught me not to throw controllers or slam the Xbox or kick the television. Instead, I jail the mania by cautiously flinging the controller up in the air and carefully catching it. It’s my stress ball. Deep breaths.

There are other protocols. I turn off the Xbox after two losses in a row, because frustration makes me recede into the worst unhinged depths—think of Dennis Green crowning nobody’s ass, minus the audience. Also because I’ll start to lose: buttons get pushed harder, more chance-y tackles are attempted, and perspective—the ambition to become the world’s best player—succumbs to near-tantrum. If I am to achieve this goal, I cannot afford to let a loss of composure spiral and adversely affect future matches.

I am, I might as well admit, very serious about this. I don’t quit matches, which is a system-gaming thing players do to avoid losses; if there’s any shred of honor in FIFA, I won’t betray it. Goal celebrations are expressly forbidden for the same reason, not to mention that I can’t chance the karmic comeuppance. I also don’t pee during matches. Game pauses only last 40 seconds, which is awfully fast for a sanitary bathroom visit.

Most importantly, I don’t talk about specific FIFAmatches. Not in some cool first-rule-of-Fight-Club sense; more in that no one gives a shit. Same way no one cares about that bad beat you took in poker or the time you dropped 27 points against a hoard of aging 5-10 power forwards in a suburban rec league. Some things belong only to you, for better or worse.

***

Ultimately there’s no way to know against whom you’re playing; at some point in the past few years, I’ve probably maimed the innocent soul of a 12-year-old child trying to escape fractions. Through the headset I’ve heard: crying babies, crying adults, mothers beckoning children to the dinner table, muttered cussing and blitzkriegs of German, Spanish and French. One time a guy demanded my phone number. Also, British people. Lots of British people.

FIFAhas no stadium for its players. No therapeutic high-fives in celebration. No outlets or publicly traded pundits. There’s a bunch of people sitting in stained white t-shirts with snack-greased fingers blaming Cristiano Ronaldo’s bewildering virtual speed or reproaching Barcelona as an unprincipled choice of team. So what if my gamertag is an unheralded sociopath in ancient Greek literature and a coy reference to Achilles? Anonymity is part of the deal, and you are no more than an avatar controlling avatars; check your life-baggage at the EA Sports servers. This makes partaking in mockery of whatever the prototypical FIFAplayer is that much easier.

But of course I am ultimately poking fun at myself. The way in which I obsess swallows every speck of stereotype whole. I play in my boxers. I’ve played for two, three, six, ten hours in a row. I sometimes wear a headset. I yap along with the in-game commentary because I’ve involuntarily cached everything Martin Tyler and Alan Smith (R.I.P. Andy Gray) can and will say. Again, I'm serious about this.

Some time ago, the ends obliterated the means and my FIFA experience, and its purpose, became feudal. If not to rule the peasantry, then why? Countless gamers casually play with friends and online, and there is only pleasure. My FIFAexists in a binary of world’s best or something else, something less, which is to say fun or not fun. There is a grind, winning and losing equally symptomatic of the same unfulfilled potential. But there’s not enough time, really, for me to reach the top. I need more hours, more focus, more. Hundreds more games to even scratch the most secluded perches of elite. So, not that fun, and sometimes a little lonesome.

Maybe this is why FIFA players convene at live tournaments in droves. The official FIFA ’13 tournament, hosted by Virgin Gaming and EA Sports, offers $400,000 in prize money (after online qualification) at Terminal 5 in New York City each April. That it’s only available to PS3 users makes it painfully tantalizing, but the overall framework of a massive, world-encompassing tournament does capitalize on an ever-present truth: though FIFAplayers by and large want to whip the shit out of each other, they would also like to do it in person. Not just for the trash talk and cash prizes and bragging rights, but to notarize the experience.

That’s the scope of what’s out there—people going about their days and playing FIFA in assorted intervals. But for all their ubiquity, the general view of video games is not a good one, still. Intellectual grandstanders grieve for the next generation and concerned parents worry about brain-melt, but mostly that opprobrium is just a bunch of people shaking their heads from various high vantage points. And because they do not sanction the activity, at least not to the degree of real sports, the competitive streaks of its participants are discarded as invalid, or mutant, or faintly pathetic.

But video game slander does not preclude its emotional component. I am still there holding the controller and smashing buttons and chalking it all up to fucking bullshit on occasion. Above all else, this is an intensely personal departure, sitting in a room and competing and succeeding and failing in what can be confused for misanthropy—not that misanthropes don’t seek asylum in the virtual anyway. And so in my public avatar, I am not a FIFA player, but a person who also plays FIFA


Share |

Comments

It’s a classic great for me to go to this blog site, it offers helpful suggestions http://advancedroofingtampa.com

We've certainly not after go through a chunk that will details precisely what I truly do together with your the latest web site really does. Thanks a lot to the honor!
slimquick extreme

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! Runt 20 Million Volt Stun Gun

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. plastic busines cards

Freezing consideration perhaps it is an understanding to create could possibly help everybody else is having troubles searching though My group is some unclear a lot more i am permitted to get details and even communications information at these.
kegel exercises in erect on demand

Instagram’s a tricky game. It can be used as a window into your normal life or an aspirational dream-world filtered through Valencia. Then all your excitement and hard work are met by nothing more than few likes from a handful get likes on instagram it's easy to get discouraged. HR

Instagram’s a tricky game. It can be used as a window into your normal life or an aspirational dream-world filtered through Valencia. Then all your excitement and hard work are met by nothing more than few likes from a handful get likes on instagram it's easy to get discouraged. HR

I actually checked right up your website considering Concerning listened to a great deal of pertaining to a person's discussions. cremation services, Milpitas CA

I actually checked right up your website considering Concerning listened to a great deal of pertaining to a person's discussions. cremation services, Milpitas CA

I notice more visitors were now leaving comments on your guest book. Website SEO

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
Fibre Optic Lights

I really appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again. hair care tips

pixel gun 3d coin glitch I use only high quality materials - you can see them at: clash of clans youtube deutsch

Here at this site really the fastidious material collection so that everybody can enjoy a lot. emergency plumber los angeles

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!

Panseh Tsewole

Free time just isn't there any more. And so the role of a caregiver has changed. It's much more demanding and long term. taxi in ajmer

I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.

Panseh Tsewole

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing..

great videos here

In your blogging, it will be sharp you will be the perfect guy to help you about as much as possible authoring.
erect on demand scam

como hackear monster legends I also wrote an article on a similar subject will find it at write what you think. clash of clans clankrieg tipps

Thanks for sharing this interesting blog with us. My pleasure to being here on your blog. I wanna come back here for new post from your site. Airport Transfers london

Individuals quite messed others " up " go on semester. Pertaining to any customers receive pay attention to and additionally keep on shut off the software.

regrow hair naturally

This is often as a result exquisite and even very creative. Freezing take pleasure in that tones and even whomever makes the application with the -mail can be beaming.

SEO Agency

So luck to come across your excellent blog. Your blog brings me a great deal of fun.. Good luck with the site. Luti Garage

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog.Housing Market News

I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog.Housing Market News

I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.
Fibre Optic Lights

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job!

MANSION88

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Just wanted to tell you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. The information you provide is really very good...app empire

Hey nice post man! Thanks for incredible info.car insurance discounts

Hey to everyone, it’s my first visit of the blog site; this blog includes awesome and actually best info for the visitors. life onsura ce

If you should be opting for finest contents like me, just visit this blog site daily because it provides the feature contents, thanks. payday loans in va

much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. All the bestielts preparation

buy followers on twitter Discount put up, Regards for the purpose of showing This unique practical knowledge. Excellently crafted piece of writing, if perhaps virtually all web guru proposed an identical standard of articles and other content whenever you, the on-line world will be more effective destination. Why not keep writing! how to get popular on youtube

Pivotal words and comprehensions help to clarify and guide a reader to different ideas and parts of sentences. They help connect one phrase to the next and direct your attention. affordable seo packages

just have the good sense to make jokes about whatever that Now/Next happens to be. Maybe that's progrfind out more
ess.,.......

Hello, this weekend is good for me, since this time i am reading this enormous informative article here at my home. motorbike wall stickers

effective interest rate

We’ve certainly not after go through a chunk that will details precisely what I truly do together with your the latest web site really does. Thanks a lot to the honor!

click here for weight loss tips

precisely what I truly do together with your the latest web site really does. Thanks a lot to the honor! packers and movers pune rates

Incredible post! I am really getting prepared to over this data, is extremely useful my companion. Likewise extraordinary blog here with the greater part of the important data you have. Keep doing awesome doing here.

Panseh Tsewole

Analyzing ones own blogging causes all of us like to craft large numbers of. Used to do an important which is relatively shocked through. The application probably are not achieved with your grade though it’s spectacular. We can distribute one the actual hyperlink to aid you to measure the application for my situation if you can not your head.tiras led

alabaster lock and key

Whats up to all the contents present at this site are really awesome hdr photo editiing software

Took me time to understand all of the comments, but I seriously enjoyed the write-up. It proved being really helpful to me and Im positive to all of the commenters right here! Its constantly nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I am certain you had enjoyable writing this write-up.plumber

Very much appreciate similar to such a wonderful and excellent blog post,These are hard to come by,Hope you have another good post!thanks.

richmond story

Very much appreciate similar to such a wonderful and excellent blog post,These are hard to come by,Hope you have another good post!thanks.
voyance tarot

It was great to see the old printshop and everyone who works there again. I am excited to see a printing business still operating and growing, great job guys

Panseh Tsewole

I will need this post to total my assignment in the college, and it has exact same topic together with your write-up. Thanks, good share.

www.richmond.com

I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts. Housing Market News

ESPN's bickering pundits, just have the good sense to make jokes about whatever that Now/Next happens to be. Maybe that's progress....secondary glazing edinburgh