FIFA is my new year's resolution (kind of)

2022-01-08  Gaming

There’s an episode of South Park that first aired about a decade ago where Stan wakes up one day and everything is shit. The food he eats is shit. The chatter on the radio is shit. The new films at the cinema are shit. Everything he used to like is at best unremarkable and at worst unforgivably flawed. He has grown up, and in doing so has turned into a cynic.

I recently realised that was what I had become in recent years. A duo of experience (a sense of having seen it all before) and jadedness (thanks in large part to online commenters finding fault in just about everything) meant I couldn’t enjoy a lot of things I used to. My favourite band’s latest album wasn’t a patch on their output in the early 2000s, and new games were full of microtransactions and soulless compared to classics from years ago.

Cutting out the noise

For 2022, I’ve decided to put a stop to this. I’m not the complete isolation “cabin in the woods” type, but I do believe that one of the pitfalls of the internet age is that we’re exposed to a deluge of opinion on just about everything. If you and a couple of your friends like a new TV series then that’s no longer enough - you’ll also feel inclined to seek out its subreddit and pore over the world’s thoughts on each episode.

When this works as intended, it’s amazing. We get fruitful discussions with people all over the place about interests that might not be popular where we’re from. When it doesn’t, we find ourselves second guessing everything we like, wondering what flaw a hypothetical cynic might point out. When that second mindset takes hold it becomes very difficult to enjoy anything.

Take the FIFA series, for example. The internet’s view of the games is that they change very little each year, lure kids into what are at best frivolous microtransactions and at worst casino-emulating lootboxes, and are plagued with bugs and scripted results. With all that in mind, why bother playing?

Giving games a chance

This week I fancied playing a football game, and given that eFootball has effectively killed the PES series, I switched on a digital copy of FIFA 20 that I picked up for about £5 in a sale last year to give it another go. Just as importantly, I made a conscious effort to make my mind a clean slate, free of past judgements and crticisms I’d read about the series. I decided I would judge it only by what was directly in front of me on the screen.

Having played nearly a season’s worth of Career Mode in the last week, I can say that FIFA 20 is a solid football game. It looks great - the stadiums in particular look just like their real-world counterparts. The animations are as slick as you like. The opponents are challenging and varied, and some of my favourite matches are when teams come to Stamford Bridge to park the bus and I have to unpick their defences. And the whole thing has a lot of fanfare about it. FIFA feels connected to the wider football world.

Games are never perfect, and this is no exception - including in some of the ways commonly pointed out online. Career Mode itself does enough, but hasn’t substantially changed in years. Sometimes players don’t react the way you want or expect them to. And every so often you find yourself in a game where your relegation fodder opponents play like prime Barcelona and you’re in for a grind because the game wants you to lose.

But while I might previously have tuned out or lost interest, I now look past these minor annoyances and consider the sum of the game. I think about some of the retro games I’ve played - even all-time classics like PES5 - and know they also had flaws that were overlooked because I was simply having too much fun. Then I stop analysing everything, focus on the game, and try to let the atmosphere absorb me as I push for the next goal.

Life’s too short not to have fun

That’s the attitude I’m trying to keep with me in 2022. Whether it’s in gaming, film, television, music - even politics - I’m going to try to cut myself off from the online commentary, consume media and make my own mind up before I read about anything, and hopefully find more fun and enjoyment than I have for some without the internet spoiling everything.

It’s not about putting up with bad games or manipulative practices. I’ll still call out features I think could be improved and content I think should have been included in the box price. But I want my enjoyment or disappointment with each game to come from my personal preferences and judgements - not what somebody else got stuck in my head before I even started playing.

So happy new year to everybody who has stumbled upon The Strat Pack! I hope you have a fantastic 2022 and discover a ton of things you love. And if you find any gems you think I’d like, please do share them with me.

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