On the Brink of Reality

When you hear “FIFA,” your mind could go to one of two places: the recently exposed international soccer governing body, or the video game franchise, developed by Electronic Arts (EA). My first game log is an in depth look at FIFA 18’s gameplay, specifically its “realness.”

In Robert Caillios’s 1958 article Man, Play, and Games, he specifies six criterion for “play”: it must be free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make-believe. It is necessary to use Caillios’s definition when discussing FIFA because so often I hear, “Do you want to play FIFA?” or “Let’s play FIFA.” Play is always in the conversation with FIFA.

But how much do FIFA’s creators, EA Sports, want this play to be “separate,” and how “make-believe” do they want the game to be?

In my game lab, I played Manager Mode, a feature of the game where you can act as a manager of any team. I chose Watford FC, a mid-table team in the English Premier League. The game asks you to design your manager by choosing a face and an outfit, and allows you to name your manager (I named mine Mattinho Reinikkinhos, my Brazilian alter-ego.)

As a manager, other clubs wanting to buy your players often approach you. On my second day as manager of Watford, Everton FC, another English club, approached me to buy my starting goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes. When I elected to negotiate with Everton, it sent me to a meeting room, which you can see in the video below.

Instead of simulating the sale of Gomes, EA designed Manager Mode to be as realistic as possible. It sends you to the boardroom to discuss the transfer, and gives you, the manager, complete control of the transfer. In my case, I proposed too high of a transfer fee for Everton’s liking, causing them to back out of the deal.

The other noticeable decision that EA made with FIFA 18 was to make each individual game as close to a real broadcast as possible. In the video below, you can see the introduction to my first game as Watford manager against Liverpool FC. The game goes through showing players in the warm-up, the walkout, the starting lineup, and many other features you would see on an actual Premier League broadcast on NBC.

Screenshot from NBC Sports broadcast of the English Premier League.
Screenshot of FIFA 18 gameplay.

In the FIFA 18 actual gameplay, EA emulates the exact same noise that can be heard on an NBC broadcast. The crowd noise, the commentators (Martin Tyler and Alan Smith), the sound of the ball being kicked—it is exactly the sounds you would hear on a Saturday morning watching a real Premier League game. Additionally, the design of the scoreboard in the upper left-hand corner is identical to NBC’s.

Why did EA decide to make FIFA 18 more “real” than any previous FIFA? Their decisions stand as a direct challenge to two of Caillios’s tenets—that play must be separate and make-believe. Though FIFA 18 is not real soccer, it is the closest “soccer” watching experience to an actual NBC Premier League broadcast. With increasing demands for higher quality graphics and more realistic gameplay in the video game world, EA pushes the envelope of reality with FIFA 18.

Works Cited

Caillois, Roger, et al. Man, Play, and Games in The Game Design Reader. MIT Press, 2006.

Source: On the Brink of Reality