52.3 Days

(so that’s, what, an extra eight hours?)

That is the amount of time it would take me to complete this year’s Paris-Roubaix cycling race, provided I ran at my ideal pace of five kilometres a day, every day; it is also the length of time that it takes to build an average piece of IKEA furniture, provided you only work with ten components a day. More relevant to me is that this is the amount of time that I have played Football Manager over the last three years; from December 2012 to July 2014 – 19 months – I have played 1255 hours of FM 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The games are, as you might gather, excellent, as they are both related to sports (which I am interested in) but are mentally engaging; it’s fun to shoot people for hours on end like players do in other games, but the depth of FM means that there are logical cause-and-effect relationships for everything that happens, so every victory comes from meaningful preparation, and every defeat can be immediately investigated. The breadth of the game also means that there are an infinite number of solutions to problems – are your players poor, your tactics wrong, your training too intense or casual, your team-talks inappropriate etc – so even in rectifying problems you can still play the game in your own way; I like developing young players, so the solution to my problem often revolves around changing the number of them that I throw into the first team.

And I suppose this addiction is responsible for all the other things in my life that I’m not doing so well at; I didn’t play FM from Christmas to summer to focus on exams, but perhaps using such a mentally intensive activity as my ‘down time’ may have left my mind tired, especially for the exams that come at the end of a long school year. Similarly, I’ll often choose to play FM over doing things with ‘real people’; I don’t reject invitations to go out o tweak my 4-4-1-1 formation, but if I’m ever looking for something to do, I’m more likely to settle for another five hours of FM, than go out of my way to arrange a meeting with people.

Equally, I don’t think the solution to these issues is simply to stop playing FM, or even necessarily play it less often; it is my favourite pastime, and I think that intentionally abandoning it, just because that might let me write the novel I’ve been planing for years, will be the right response; I’m going to do the things I enjoy, until something comes along to stop me, for instance failing my exams and having to resit the year.

And I’m hardly a recluse, bent over a laptop in a darkened room hissing like a serpent whenever the door is opened a crack to let light, natural or artificial, in and recoiling to the depths of my bed where I’ve stored dossiers on regens I want to sign; I just take this hobby more seriously than I do my others.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just taken a job in the Swedish third tier, where the contracts are semi-professional, the scouting network non-existent, and I honestly just signed a guy for eight quid a week. Take that, minimum wage!

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