Last year’s Football Manager [official site] documentary, An Alternative Reality, appeared on Steam’s video streaming service last night. The purchase is for streaming only, with no downloadable files available, and the standard price is £7.99 (there is a 30% launch discount at the moment). The documentary is already available on other digital video services, some of which do allow downloads as well as streaming, but its appearance on Steam caught my eye and I ended up watched it while cooking my dinner last night. Brief thoughts below.
As Pip recently reported, EVE Online’s great empires are set to be remembered in an actual book written by an actual journalist, and yet when the brains behind Football Manager decided to make a documentary about the enduring and often obsessive appeal of their simulation series, nobody so much as asked me to write an accompanying pamphlet about the rise and fall of my dribbling dynasties. Shocking. SEGA might have brought in the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjær to talk about the game’s appeal but you won’t be hearing about the time The Shakers dominated Barcelona on their own turf and won three English titles in a row.
Without the Ballad of Bury FC, is the documentary worth your time?
An Alternative Reality feels like a well-made special feature, the kind of thing that you’d be chuffed to find in the submenus of a much meatier film’s Blu-Ray menu. By choosing to focus on the game’s fans and its appeal, the film-makers tap into the recurrent idea that Football Manager is a game that consumes lives, as previously covered in book form, as well as in articles about divorce cases in which the series was cited.
The outlook here is brighter – a celebration, involving celebrity fans, rather than a serious investigation into the game’s appeal. There is an alternative Alternative Reality to be made about obsessive attempts to understand and outplay the game’s credible but arcane machinery. Graham has touched on the save-scumming lengths it drives him to.
I’d rather see a documentary about the making of the game. The gathering of stats and pockets of research around the world that feed into the enormous database. I’d like to know more about the deviations from and adherence to real life data. To be frank, I want the Football Manager equivalent of 2013’s best football book, The Nowhere Men. What would that look like? I don’t know and perhaps that’s why I want to see it.
An Alternative Reality looks almost exactly like I expected it to. It’s fine, but I’d feel far happier about it if it been a special feature on that Football Manager’s Nowhere Men Blu-Ray.