Believing in scripting may derive from a poor understanding of football

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Why do people believe in scripting and it’s two buddies, handicapping and momentum? It’s fair to assume that the same psychological mechanisms causing people to believe in other conspiracy theories are present in the minds of scripting believers as well. However, the scripting conspiracy theory could be driven by a fundamental lack of understanding of not only FIFA but also football in general. Here is why.

When I browse through scripting threads on various fora, I come across a specific claim every single time: “I was dominating, but ended up losing”. People will rant about having more shots, more possession, being the better player etc. And yet, they ended up losing. Accounts like these fit well into the scripting narrative, as they seem to support the assertion that scripting is put in to make the game accessible to bad players.

There is however a tiny problem with this theory: Football isn’t about dominating, having more possession, more shots or a higher passing accuracy. It’s about having more goals.

Being better on average won’t help

While having more shots, higher possession and better passing accuracy certainly improve your chance of having more goals, there is no guarantee that they will.

In reality, it makes no sense to think of football matches as if they were decided by who was the better player over 90 minutes. The truth is that all football matches are decided by the outcome of a small number of key moments. It might be a pass, a tackle, or a free kick that is or isn’t awarded. You can change the odds by dominating the match, but there is always a chance of ending up with the least likely outcome.

The #1 betting sport

Think about this for a second: Why is football the #1 betting sport in the world?

I can assure you that it wouldn’t have been if the dominating team won 99 % of the time. Football has become everyone’s favorite betting sport because it isn’t predictable. In fact, football is so unpredictable that scientists have created an unpredictability index to describe it.

There is always a chance that the lesser team will win: Sometimes because they coincidentally happened to play better during the entire match, but in many other cases simply because they happened to be better or just luckier in those few, crucial situations that happened to decide the match.

And it’s the exact same thing with FIFA.

You can compare FIFA to a banana if you want

When reading the above, scripting believers will argue that I “cant compare a real football match with a football videogame” [1]. I’m perfectly aware of the necessary cautions around analogies, and particularly the hazards of making false analogies. But having said that, the fact remains that FIFA – a football simulation – has many things in common with real football. One of those things is that FIFA matches like real football matches “sadly” aren’t decided by who was dominating or who was the better player on average during 90 minutes.

And no matter what, arguing that you cannot compare because pears aren’t bananas won’t make that similarity go away or render my point irrelevant.

So, the next time you hear someone argue that scripting must be real because they lost a match that they dominated, be aware that you are talking to someone who basically doesn’t understand what football is about.

Similarities and differences

Having touched upon the similarities between FIFA and real football, I would like to spend a few words on how some of the differences may contribute to the rise of beliefs like scripting and handicapping.

A lot of people believe in the assertion that EA handicaps better squads. It’s easy to guess where this idea came from: Sometimes, you lose despite having spend far more coins on your squad than the opponent did on his. While the idea of such a handicap may seem compelling for a couple of seconds, it’s nonsense for obvious reasons. FIFA is meant to be a skill game – it’s not a pay-to-win game. You are not supposed to win just because you have a better squad. If the opponent is better or luckier in those few, decisive moments, having the better squad won’t help.

Virtual players – virtual misunderstandings

A lot of people expect their Messi card to perform like the real Messi. But that just isn’t how virtual players work.

Think about what makes Messi a brilliant player in real life. The first words that come to mind are a winning mentality, creativity, ability to predict the game, tactical awareness and the likes. In other words, traits that really aren’t part of the package when you buy a Messi-card in FIFA.

Buying Messi isn’t going to make you more creative, better at predicting the game, mentally tougher or raise your tactical awareness.  You may get a player with physical stats similar to Messi’s, but the mental part is up to you. If you are a predictable dribbler, your Messi will be easy to predict. If you shoot from impossible angles, your Messi is going to miss.

Perhaps, the best way to understand what players do to your game is to think of them as tools: They don’t do very much on their own, and buying DeWalt’s pro series isn’t going to turn anyone you an expert carpenter.

What helps and what doesn’t

While it may be comforting to blame your lack of success on scripting or handicapping, bad excuses don’t make you a better player. No matter how many petitions [2] [3] people create in order to make EA remove scripting, it won’t help because EA can’t remove something that isn’t there. What does help is to acknowledge the areas where FIFA is similar to real football as well as the areas where it isn’t.