When Gary Paterson had to fight momentum

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Sometimes, a quote from an EA employee is presented as evidence in support of either scripting, handicapping or momentum. We have seen it previously with the GDC whitepaper, the interviews with Aaron McHardy and the David Rutter. Despite the fact that these very same people categorically deny that scripting, handicapping or momentum ever existed, small fragments of their interviews are brought up as evidence in support of the opposite. Now, a “new” quote has been brought up as evidence. This time, the lucky EA-guy is Gary Paterson, the former creative director on the FIFA series.

What Gary Paterson said and why it’s interpreted as evidence

Let me start out by correcting myself. I call this a “new” quote despite the fact that it really isn’t. The quote in question, which now has reappeared, was in fact brought up in a momentum debate on FIFAsoccerblog back in November 2009. The original article, which contained the quote, is no longer available, but according to the post on FIFAsoccerblog, the article dates back to July 1st 2009. Anyway, here is what Gary Paterson said:

Interviewer: Then there’s the other, less technical, sense of scripting: you often feel that these games want to tell a dramatic story, and may even be set up to, for example, want someone to equalise. Does that idea have any place in FIFA?

Gary Paterson: That’s an interesting one. When I first joined FIFA, when I was on the last generation FIFA 07, that was one thing I was asked to do. I was asked to put in a momentum system, where if you were doing well you would continue to do well, and we would artificially create these momentum shifts. And I shouted loud in the meeting room for half an hour, like ‘No, I’m not doing it! Get someone else to do it if you want, because I’m not doing it!’

Because I strongly feel that if you make the system logical, then those momentum shifts will just happen. Like, there’ll be some times when, emotionally, you’ll know you’re 1-0 up, and you’re in a tight match against your buddy, you know that he’s attacking, you don’t want to take any risks so you just press clearance. You press clearance, the ball goes to your buddy on the halfway line, and he attacks again. And these things happen because we’ve got you emotionally involved in the game, and you start doing things in the game which are similar to the behaviors in real life. Because that’s what happens in real life – the players realise, you know, ‘there’s a lot to lose here, so let’s just clear it’, they clear it and it comes right back at them.

I think one thing that we don’t have that real life has is the mental state of the players, something like ‘I’m not going to make a forward run at this point because I know that this is a tight situation’. We don’t have that, so if we wanted to go big on this momentum system we could. If I was gonna do it, I’d say, ‘well, we have to model this mental attitude of players, because otherwise we have to script stuff, and I don’t want to be part of that.’ I feel that logic versus scripting stuff is something that’s important for us.

(– Interview on edge-online.com, quoted from FIFAsoccerblog)

The part of the quote that has nourished the usual accusations about foul play is the part where Gary Paterson talks about artificially created momentum shifts. The fact that Gary Paterson isn’t working with FIFA anymore (he hasn’t worked with FIFA since FIFA 11 and is now part of the Battlefield team with EA), has lead to speculations that he might have been kicked out because he had moral concerns about putting momentum into the game, and that it in fact was put in after he left:

“Looks like they took his advice and ‘got someone else to do it’.”
(– fbcrzy at FUTHEADforums)

Does these speculations stand for closer scrutiny or is it perhaps just yet another case of cherry picking and jumping to conclusion?

Did Gary Paterson inadvertently confirm momentum?

First and foremost, let’s look at what Gary Paterson actually said in that interview, and by that I mean the full quote and not just the bits that – when read and interpreted outside their original context – happens fit with someone’s preferred narrative about foul play.

The fact is that Gary Paterson didn’t reject the proposal in question, because he had moral concerns, but because he thought that momentum shifts would happen all by themselves if the system was made logical. So, both EA and Gary Paterson definitely wanted momentum shifts to happen like they do in real life. But Gary Paterson’s conclusion was that they would happen organically if you allowed them to happen. This entire line of thinking seems to be one of Gary Patterson’s major footprints on the FIFA series as also mentioned in this previous article.
Second, please note that Gary Paterson was part of the team from FIFA 07 to FIFA 11. People were complaining about momentum while he was in charge as well. As a matter of fact, the only reason why we still can find this quote is that someone was discussing momentum during FIFA 10, i.e. during Gary Paterson’s reign.

Hence, we can 100 % reject the notion that EA got rid of Gary and found someone else who had less moral concerns to implement momentum artificially. The reality is that Gary Paterson got his way with the game design. And yet, people were complaining about momentum shifts.

Third, there is something deeply illogical about completely rejecting EA’s employees as a source of truth when they again and again reject that the game is manipulated, and then all of a sudden elevate them to oracle status when they happen to say something, which, with a fair share of interpretational bas, can be understood as supportive to the opposite narrative.

This is plain and simple yet another bad case of cherry picking.