Is Gaming Ruining the Football World?

I love video games. I’m also slightly in awe of them. I’m in awe of their power in terms of imagination, in terms of technology, in terms of concept. But I think, above all, I’m in awe at their power to motivate, to compel us, to transfix us, like really nothing else we’ve ever invented has quite done before. – British Author Tom Chatfield

In the first week of its release, FIFA 16 sold just shy of 1 million units; this phenomenal number represents the sheer popularity of the video game. For many it is not a game; it is their one chance to know what it feels like to play alongside their footballing idols. The reality of these games just further enhances this experience and every year it seems that we get closer to being physically on the pitch. Having asked adults to play the game, it is amazing to see their reactions as they are astonished by what can be produced on a screen.

As the popularity of games such as FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer increases, does the popularity of the sport itself grow; or does the popularity of the video games have a direct impact on the decrease of people kicking the football around with their friends in the garden?

In recent months,the evolution of gaming and its interaction with the “real” sports world has been growing rapidly. Bundesliga club Wolfsburg have started their own e-sports team; they “signed” (if such a thing is possible) David Bytheway, an English proffessional gamer, to be one of their two e-sports competitive FIFA players. Bytheway said that he is  “definitely on a very comfortable wage at the moment. And while it doesn’t come close to a footballer’s wage, maybe it’s something that will change.” Bytheway in an interview with the Guardian also stated that he does not think it will be long before all Premier League clubs have their own e-sports teams competing against each other in a professional competition.

In 2015, 27 million people tuned in to watch a competitive video game tournament in the United States; this is astonishing especially as the Arsenal vs Aston Villa FA Cup Final viewership peaked at just under 9 million people in 2015. What some of the older generation might find even more shocking is that a new study ( by Doctor Hollie Raynor, director of the University of Tennessee’s Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory in the US) suggests that devices such as the Xbox Kinect could be a better source of physical activity than doing activities outside such as playing football with other human beings.

The tremendous ascension of football gaming the life of the every-day teenager does pose problems for football of the future. However I think it is much more encouraging than most people would first presume; not only will these allow for more people to become involved with the world of football (a boyhood dream for many) but also football will start to connect to more audiences around the world. Although some of the biggest clubs in the country such as United or City have massive fan bases outside of the UK; for teams like Cardiff and Huddersfield, having a pro gamer wearing their brand may help them increase publicity outside of their prospective leagues.

Gaming and the virtual world is not something that we should be looking at with fear but instead with hope. Jane McGonigal wrote a book entitled “Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World” and in this book McGonigal concluded that “A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.”

As more and more people advocate these views; gaming will just become bigger and I do not think it will be long until there are people like Daniel Bytheway on our television screens at home. Young children will be admiring these same people, attempting to emulate them in their bedrooms. Is this a problem? Most definitely not.



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