This Is The Way The World Ends, Not With A Bang But A Click

That feeling when you finish a long series of books, or a television series, and say goodbye to the characters for the last time. Closing a world, pulling down the shutters and knowing that it has run its course, is a peculiar sensation. Indeed, it can provoke a sense of loss. How utterly ridiculous I felt last week when I mourned the ending of tens of thousands of tiny football-men, each of which is little more than a pile of numbers and behaviours. BUT CAN ANY ONE OF US CLAIM TO BE MORE THAN THAT, I thought, as I uninstalled Football Manager 2015 [official site] and prepared to move on to the beta for the new model.

I’m very bad at goodbyes.

The loss – or rather abandonment – of my Football Manager save isn’t quite like anything else. Or, to be more precise, the loss of a simulated world isn’t the same as the loss of a written world. My save game had run up to 2052. It was unique. That specific collection of events and characters does not exist anywhere else and when I decided to move on, cursing the lack of save transfers, I consigned it to history.

All of the stories were my stories, even though I’d been on the periphery of the majority. Sure, there were the Starks and Lannisters of the world – Manchester United, fallen from grace, and Chelsea, enthroned and despised, respectively – but there were so many minor players. For a period from 2022-2028, one of the greatest players in the world was a ridiculously speedy wingback by the name of Angel Blaze. I signed him to Everton in 2020 when he was 16 years old and already had the potential to be a world-class player. By 18 he was a first team player capable of scoring wicked freekicks from distance and almost impossible to pin back in his own half.

from the 1,000 year sim

He’d cut through the midfield like a knife through butter. And not butter that’s been in the fridge forcing you to hack away at it like an executioner at the block. Blaze was unstoppable. Better yet, I barely had to give him any instructions. He rarely made bad decisions and he was the perfect final piece in the jigsaw of my team. Previously we’d struggled to finish in the top 4 of the Premier League. With Blaze, we won three in a row (2024/5 – 2027/28) and reached two Champions League finals.

In the second game of the next season, Blaze, now captain, had his leg broken in a rash challenge at the edge of the area. I didn’t realise how bad the injury was until the end of the match. Months out of the side. Our form slumped and we were 9th when he returned to action.

And poor Blaze was never the same again. Whether it was something in the simulation or some bias in the way I observed things after that moment, caught up in the fiction of the world, he seemed to have lost his confidence. He no longer cut through the midfield, always looking for the safe pass sideways or backwards as soon as he was challenged.

He remained captain for the next two seasons but his average rating had dropped from the glory days of 7.80 across a season to 6.24 by 2030/2031, when he barely started half of the league games.

Later, he adopted a long-term goal to become a manager when his playing days were over. He didn’t seem to mind the lack of first team football. I think he knew his best days were behind him.

When he eventually left Everton it was to return to his native Argentina. I checked in on him occasionally, hoping to see he’d moved into management. I would have been happy to see him back in England, even managing a rival, just to be sure that he hadn’t gone for good. I had him on a shortlist, which meant I still received news about his activities. Sadly, there was nothing to report. He retired from football in 2035 and essentially ceased to exist. There was no way of knowing where he was or what he was doing in 2052 when I pressed the button that deleted the rest of the world.

I’ve said goodbye to many worlds over the years: the mighty and farcical structures of Dwarf Fortress, where an enraged badger often has more character and influence than the entire cast of a long-running television show; the empires, earldoms and families of Crusader Kings, each bloodline as complex and colourful as any soap dynasty; some of my first ever simulated creations in Sim Earth and Sim Life. Worlds without end. Except, of course, when I end them.

I half suspect that Football Manager world still exists somewhere, in the cloud or on a Sega backup server. It’s not like the stray files stored on floppy disks that were such fragile homes, that’s for sure. But I’ll never go back. Not to play, at least. Maybe for nostalgia’s sake, but I’ll only be able to see the world as it was when I left it, not as it was in those golden days. And Angel Blaze? He’s gone forever, retired into the unknown.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    One thing I don’t like about games that don’t end by themselves, especially ones where things fall to shit without constant user upkeep of the place, is there never seems to be a good time or place to quit. The story doesn’t end, it just sort of peters out and it’s hard to to imagine the world falling apart without the chosen hero around to keep cleaning up the mess (obviously that last part doesn’t apply so much to football manager)

    • CannedLizard says:

      You’re going to have difficulty with your own mortality, later in life.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    When I end a long or endless game I like to take a bunch of screenshots. Usually it’s a couple of pictures that summarizes the final state of the game (for example, a fully zoomed out map).

    In addition to that, I take pictures that feature things that were special in some way during the game – like (in CK2) an NPC-dynasty that goes back to a single lowborn character who I made a count two hundred years in the past, or a bishopric in Brittany that has been the sole holding of the pope for centuries.

    I also like to keep the savegame. It might be completely useless, but I still like to keep it as some sort of game-souvenir.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Oh. I tend to have the game saves in a zip kept in backup (takes up no space). However half the games with with versions, mods or DLC which would be near impossible to replicate now.

      Still, can’t bring myself to delete them for some reason.

  3. JiminyJickers says:

    I find that big RPG trilogies always make me feel sad when it ends. The Witcher and Mass Effect games made me feel arse for a while when I first finished them. So do many books I read.

    • HidingCat says:

      Me too! For some strange reason I was quite down when I finished Knights of the Old Republic 1. There’s that emptiness that you struggle to fill for a while…

    • LexW1 says:

      Finishing Mass Effect 3 destroyed me entirely for like, a day. I was walking around in a literal daze. I didn’t realize I was really that keen (100 hours on ME1 and over 300 on ME2 should have clued me in I guess!). I just finished it and the ending was so awful and empty and there was no more Mass Effect and… horrible. My wife was a little concerned (in a good way), but kind of understood.

      Luckily ME3’s MP was so fun that I got over it the next day, and instead went on the internet to whinge mildly about how the ending was kind of shallow and unreflective of the series (rather than getting the screaming ab-dabs like some people). But mostly to play ME3 MP. Finally the Citadel arrived and I was actually got to say goodbye to ME and the crew. I hadn’t realized I needed to, but apparently…

    • hamilcarp says:

      The only time I experienced this was when I finished The Wire. I don’t think any media I’ve consumed since has filled that hole

    • SaintAn says:

      Mass Effect 1 being one of my favorite games, and Mass Effect 2 and 3 being complete garbage still fills me with rage towards everyone else in the world.

    • Cinek says:

      I usually got the same, but The Witcher was a notable exception. The ending of TW3 was perfect. I felt that everything went right, all them moral choices I made were the best I could, storyline ended in a great way, I was a happy, satisfied gamer. I wish more trilogies had an equally well done ending.

      • Prosper0_cz says:

        I wish I was the same. As I write in a separate post just a bit below, I was taken aback by a feeling of loss and emptiness. I totally did not foresee that.

        I guess part of it might because, I didn’t get the maximum best endings in everything. I ignored Radovid/Djikstra sidequests which was a big mistake! Mind you, I didnt get THE bad ending (uff!) but still that oversight lead to some negative effects on the gameworld which I guess contributed to my sad feeling that the whole thing was over.

  4. Enkinan says:

    I still have many screenshots of various MMO’s I’ve left over the years. It’s odd recounting the unique stories and relationships years later.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Same; from almost every game in the past 10-15 years. An ever expanding gross of gigs of image files that got migrated every couple of years to some new storage device, from old PC to new, from physical medium to cloud. It’s a rambling photo album that’s really all I have from tens of thousands of hours of my life spent gaming in my off hours, and now full time. The memories fade, but the BMP’s and Jpeg’s will remain.

    • Premium User Badge

      Solrax says:

      Yeah, I took some screenshots of my Warrior Priest from Warhammer Online before I stopped playing. I still like to look at them sometimes. I was probably more attached to/invested in that character than any other I’ve played before or since. Plus their emotes let them strike some good dramatic poses (Hammer raised in the air, holy book clutched in arm “FOR THE EMPEROR!”)

  5. draglikepull says:

    I get this feeling even with sports games I haven’t invested 40-50 years of fictional time into. You spend so much time working on trades and free agent signings (in North American sports, anyway), scouting young players and watching them work up into key players, and then . . . eventually you move on to the next game, and you have to say good bye to what you’ve built.

    This is a big part of why I only upgrade my sports games every 3-4 years. I want time to invest in building my team, and it’s hard to let it go after you put a lot into it.

    • Smuckers says:

      I do this too. It’s hard to let go of what you build up. Plus, there do tend to be more noticable improvments when you sit out a couple years at least. (Do wish we’d get madden and nhl on pc though).

  6. Erithtotl says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who plays really long FM sims, though I have never gotten that far.

    My problem with it, is that usually by about 10-12 years in the future I have built a dominant powerhouse with Norwich or Sheffield Wednesday or Tenerife and then its really just seeing how many records and titles I can achieve, and FM isn’t terribly good on tracking records and long term stats. And I always make it a policy to never research good players or use ‘real world knowledge’ to get a budding superstar before the AI knows about him. I used to get a lot of joy out of working my way up from Conference South or whatever but nowadays I usually don’t have the patience, and want the challenge of competing in a lot of competitions, so I just take a crap team from one of the top two tiers.

    I also noticed in FM 2015, I started to lose interest because the overall number of real world class players seemed to steadily decline, to the point where it felt like there was never another great youth player to uncover. Not sure if that was just perception because my squad was already so good, or if it was a bug in the long term newgen algorithm.

  7. SamLR says:

    I realise it’s not a game but I currently have this hanging over my head in the form of the last Terry Pratchett book. I really want to read it but it’ll be my last time venturing into that world afresh and I’m really not sure I can face it…

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      It made me cry. Several times, but it was worth it, and now I feel like I’ve said goodbye properly.

    • Scurra says:

      Yes, read it; don’t put it off. There is one, simple, brilliant idea near the start of the book (which most reviews have already mentioned anyway) that makes it clear that Pterry must have been fairly sure this was going to be his last, but which made the whole experience a lot less distressing – for me, at least (which is ironic, considering what the event actually is.)

  8. Prosper0_cz says:

    This is a timely article for me. I finally finished The Witcher 3 last friday and I am genuinely overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia and loss. Absolutely unexpected for me, I don’t remember having that feeling for a long time. Definitely not from a game.

    It’s especially surprising since I don’t play that many games any more (just a few a year) and this particular game I liked a lot obviously but it also frustrated me at times. I actually wanted to have it finished at some point.

    I do like to get lost in fictional worlds and tend to think about the good ones for some time after (i.e.Dishonored in games, Dark Knight and Rush in movies, BSG and Breaking Bad in shows) but still, very seldom they make me into a touchy feely wreck like this one when they end.

    • Vapor_Strike says:

      See, everyone here is mentioning games like The Witcher and Mass Effect. Mass Effect gave me a bit of sadness, but it was balanced by the happiness that in my very first playthrough of the series ever, I got the best possible ending and kept every single person alive that I could possibly have done. I felt so happy that I saved everyone I could have. Then I played The Witcher 3 and pretty much murdered like 2 of my character’s close “friends” (as close as you can get for a Witcher) within the first few days. So that was fun.

      Yet with all of those games, there’s 2 notable games that really played with my emotions. Probably the game that made me the most emotional was Metal Gear Rising. I don’t remember why exactly, I just remember it being centered around the massive badass that was Bladewolf. That game had a damn good story, and some glorious cutscenes. And the second game that fucked with my emotions? Halo 4, actually. Everything that happened throughout the game sort of built up to where the final mission, with the obvious emotional agony the Chief is in in the cutscene right after the mission ended, and the oh-so-fitting music throughout that last mission (I swear the music in some games is the tipping point for my emotions. I’ll be playing a mission normally, then the emotional music hits and I get overwhelmed with feels.), definitely made me think about it for a few days afterwards. Usually it’s books that do this to me.

  9. theirongiant says:

    Clicks on Fallout 4 article
    Not about Fallout 4


  10. CidL says:

    If I managed 50 years in one save of FM I’d have managed at least 50 clubs, I’m that useless at it. Arguably the 50th club to offer me the job deserved what they got.

  11. celticdr says:

    RIP Angel Blaze, I hardly knew ye :(

  12. Ugeine says:

    I’ve still got Football Manager 2011 installed purely because I can’t bear to say goodbye to my most successful save. I still check in on it now and again, play the odd game, just to see how they’re all doing.

  13. TWChristine says:

    I’m really bad for this with most serial media, probably more so tv shows that have been going for say 10 years. It’s rare for them to wrap it up in such a way that makes you feel satisfied, and in the end I feel the way I did about the last Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. Honestly, I think it ended wonderfully, but at the same time I was heartbroken to know I wouldn’t get to see the rest of their adventures.

    I always think back to the end of The Truman Show as well; you have people watching him for 25-30 years and then he walks out. I love the reaction of the security guards who sit there for a moment and are then like “So what else is on?”

  14. FoSmash says:

    Just like those times I finish minesweeper. The emptiness that follows

  15. brotherthree says:

    Really enjoyed this one, great topic and good insights.