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

Extraordinary occupation for distributed such an advantageous site. Your web log isn't just helpful yet it is moreover truly inventive as well. There have a tendency to be relatively few individuals who can unquestionably compose not all that straightforward posts that creatively. Proceed with the decent composition brian holm lawyer san diego

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. bags & shoes

No doubt why you get so many blog comments. homes for sale in hinesvillega

Even though bookmarks do have a common theme, your bookmark design should capture a specific theme. Cheap Bookmarks for Teachers

I'm happy to see the immense subtle element here!. assisted living in hampton roads

Your knowledge of this subject comes through clearly in this article. I love to read this kind of articles, I hope you will update it. Thank you for sharing it with me.
subway surfers download

hampton bay light
The web site is lovingly serviced and saved as much as date. So it should be, thanks for sharing this with us.

Fun MBA Electives for Online MBA Students Course of Study

How Your MBA Will Transfer Overseas Course of Study

Lessons Your Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems Will Teach You
Course of Study

This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up!
general law attorney

Content Delivery Networks Creating Connected Classrooms.Masters Degree

Much obliged to you for peopling get the data they require. Extraordinary stuff of course. Keep up the colossal work!!! http://cheapsoftwaredownload.net/autodesk_ads.html

pacquiao vs horn

That's what makes you the best. You should keep publishing more articles and you will Such Become One of the best writers ever

nfl live stream

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site.

Mod Apk
Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. Simply wanted to write down a word in order to say thanks to you for those wonderful tips.

Upvc Windows
upvc Windows, Double-glazed windows, Two-piece PVC windows, Sale of old iron furniture replacement, Sale of double-glazed windows

Much obliged to you for setting aside an ideal opportunity to distribute this data extremely valuable! affordable 55 printing

دانلود قسمت 11 یازدهم سریال عاشقانه رایگان, دانلود رایگان سریال عاشقانه, دانلود سریال جدید عاشقانه ایرانی دانلود سریال عاشقانه با لینک مستقیم, دانلود فیلم های جدید و برتر, دانلود رایگان فیلم و سریال با لینک مستقیم
دانلود قسمت 11 یازدهم سریال عاشقانه رایگان

Bailey were standing there, observing with a pay no heed to look about his experience.home window tinting perth

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work! leather bags italy

Great artcile, yet it would be better if in future you can share more about this subject. Continue posting. fashion websites

That’s a great site you folks have been carrying out there.rdx car covers

iogames4u.com
I wish to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this particular trouble.As a result of checking through the the net and meeting techniques that were not productive, I was thinking my life was done.

iogames4u.com
I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place

mens cheap designer clothes
That's what makes you the best. You should keep publishing more articles and you will Such Become One of the best writers ever

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one.www.txts.ms

Your online journal furnished us with significant data to work with. Each and every tips of your post are marvelous. You rock for sharing. Continue blogging.. assisted living placement in gilbert

Its me Brayden Ben a professional and well experienced Designer.There are many designer more experienced then me , but now i am here to provide you the real design service I will design your name with real stones and give you high quality image , Unique and professional and no one will copy your design because its all Hand Made. stone name design

I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing. amazing selling machine

A debt of gratitude is in order For sharing this Superb article.I utilize this Article to demonstrate my task in college.it is valuable For me Great Work. home

I experience considerable difficulties my considerations on substance, yet I truly felt I ought to here. Your article is truly awesome. I like the way you composed this data. look at here

You make such a variety of extraordinary focuses here that I read your article several times. Your perspectives are as per my own generally. This is extraordinary substance for your perusers. read more

An entrancing examination is worth remark. I surmise that it is best to compose additional on this matter, it won't be a forbidden theme however for the most part individuals are insufficient to chat on such points. To the following. Here's to you bonuses

I truly appreciated perusing this post, huge fan. Keep doing awesome me when would you be able to distribute more articles or where would I be able to peruse more on the subject? my website

This way, with the help of simple postcards you will be able to control your sales activities much more efficiently. affordable flyer printing brisbane

I’m impressed with the special and informative contents that you just offer in such short timing. https://deutscheonlinecasino.de

Great site! I really cherish how it is simple on my eyes it is. I am considering how I may be informed at whatever point another post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which may do the trap? Have an incredible read full article

This is an extraordinary motivating article.I am essentially satisfied with your great work.You put truly extremely accommodating data... dig this

visceral force materialize; sub-moments of similar charge happen in the interstices, clustered bits of emotion wedged into circumstance, afterwards or before or between. voyance qualité

Glad to get those details of the top plus two colleges from your post. www.signalboosteruk.co.uk

buy instagram views
We keep up with the latest techniques of building and have qualified tradesmen to ensure that your job/project is carried out safely. We also make sure that we keep to the highest standards on projects and everyone who works for us is health & safety trained.

WE PROVIDE HIGH TRUST FLOW AND CITATION FLOW BLOG COMMENTS BACKLINKS WITH ON DA PA Are Citation and Trust flow metrics really a necessary statistic?There was a time when SEO was at a nascent stage and primary metrics such as Google Page Rank mattered a lot in SEO. Today, SEO has advanced far beyond the domain of Page Rank and as such, secondary metrics such as trust flow, domain authority, citation flow, etc., have taken over Google Page Rank in terms of importance as far as ranking in Google is concerned. buy backlinks

I like this post,And I figure that they having a ton of fun to peruse this post,they might take a decent site to make an information,thanks for sharing it to me. for more

I was very impressed by this post, this site has always been pleasant news Thank you very much for such an interesting post, and I meet them more often then I visited this site.
WordPress themes

Awesome post, and incredible site. A debt of gratitude is in order for the data! kit tattoo

This is such an extraordinary asset, to the point that you are giving and you give it away for nothing. I adore seeing blog that comprehend the quality. Im happy to have discovered this post as its such a fascinating one! I am dependably watchful for quality posts and articles so i assume im fortunate to have discovered this! I trust you will be including more later on... Branded Google Cardboard

Video games, even or especially ones about sports, do not work like this.mercedes slk250 car covers

A debt of gratitude is in order for imparting decent data to us. i like your post and all you impart to us is uptodate and entirely useful, i might want to bookmark the page so i can come here again to peruse you, as you have made an awesome showing. Level 2 Chargers

There is no proper formatting or a theme to this site, so just think about this okay, it may as well help you a lot! magnificent beach house