We know from earlier surveys that people who, according to themselves, believe in either scripting, handicapping and momentum, in fact don’t share a common set of beliefs. They all believe that FIFA is rigged, but other than that, we don’t know much about what these people have in common.
In a new survey, we focus on understanding the mindset of SHM believers when we test a suspicion raised in an earlier post: That believing in SHM is closely linked to a flawed understanding of football and hence also FIFA as a game.
The nature of football
Most people would probably agree that competitive games should be fair, meaning that the better player should be allowed the victory. But the reality is that football doesn’t live up to that standard.
In the English Premier League, the bookmaker favorites only manage to win approximately 60 % of the time. This doesn’t mean that the odds are incorrect 40 % of the time, though. Odds are based on historic facts, but the one thing they never will be able to take into account is coincidence.
Football is a highly random game. You can improve the odds by doing the right things, but there is no guarantee that the better team will win. This is frustrating as a coach, but it’s the name of the game.
What makes football more random than other sports?
In a recent cup game, Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-1 despite Arsenal dominating the show through and through (the xG sum is the expected number of goals, given the number of opportunities). As stated by Mads Davidsen, manager of Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League, below, such things happen in a low scoring sport:
As a coach it's (very) frustrating, but football is just fascinating. Convert these data into basketball or handball & Arsenal win the game 100% with 10-20 points / goals more, but in our low scoring sport it's different… pic.twitter.com/cueuhovaOJ
— Mads Davidsen (@MadsRDavidsen) December 3, 2017
Although FIFA has a slightly higher goals-per-match ratio than real football, it’s definitely still a low scoring sport. Given FIFA’s overall resemblance with real football, the only reasonable assumption has to be that it will carry much of the same randomness that sometimes decides real football matches.
So, if the metric for fairness in a sport is that the better team always should win, then neither football nor FIFA are particularly fair.
And yet, some people expect FIFA to be different:
One of the recurring complaints from scripting, handicapping and momentum is the fact that you sometimes lose matches despite dominating, i.e. having more possession, higher passing accuracy, more shots and so on.
In our survey, 8 in 10 SHM believers thinks that EA handicaps the better player. On the other hand, only 3 in 10 SHM believers acknowledges that FIFA is a highly random game like real football.
Equally telling is that 5 in 10 SHM believers thought that FIFA should be as realistic as possible, but at the same time, 2 in 3 SHM believers thinks that EA should remove luck from FIFA.
All in all, this goes to confirm that SHM believers have in common a lack of acknowledgement of the fact that luck plays a significant role in real football and hence inevitably also in FIFA.
When the better player does win
However, SHM-believers don’t just complain when they lose despite against allegedly inferior opponents.
Another recurring complaint is that players perform inconsistently. Sometimes, your players have trouble passing the ball around, even though it goes smoothly in other matches.
“Just finished getting destroyed 5-0 in the community final by a horrible team with 86 chem. I had been playing really well prior to this but in this game my players all seemed to be a step slower then his (I had done squad fitness before so no fitness problems). (…) Does this inconsistency just mean Im bad or is it something that I truly can’t control? I usually win 4-5 games and then get blown out for 1-2 games straight.”
(– Post on Reddit.com)
It’s a fact that your team’s performance varies in terms of passing accuracy, possession and, most importantly, goal difference. But the first explanation that ought to leap into mind is the opponent:
The better opponent will force you into making more bad decisions, give you less time to react and forcing you into passing and shooting from less favorable positions. The lesser opponent, obviously will be the one forced into making mistakes by you.
This entire line of thought, obvious as it may seem, it however rejected straight away by SHM believers:
According to our survey, 8 in 10 SHM believers said that they themselves were able to influence the opponent’s ability to pass, shoot, head and sprint. Yet, paradoxically, 8 in 10 SHM believers said that their opponent wasn’t able to influence their ability to pass, shoot, head and sprint!
Combined, 6 in 10 SHM believers thought they were able to influence their opponent’s ability to pass, sprint and shoot without realizing that this obviously worked the other way around as well.
Hence, SHM believers are likely to attribute their own success to skill while attributing their opponent’s success to scripting, handicapping or momentum.
Our latest survey reveals two things about the mindset of people who believe in scripting, handicapping or momentum.
First and foremost, the survey confirms the suspicion that SHM believers in general have a flawed understanding of randomness in football as a sport and hence also as a simulation thereof.
Second, SHM believers in general fail to realize that whatever works to their advantage also works to their disadvantage. Take as an example the anecdote in this article (we won’t spoil the fun here). FIFA, like football, contains two teams which have the exact same options available. It’s a multiplayer game, so obviously, the same rules will apply to both parties.
It can definitely be argued that SHM believers want FIFA to be something else than a multiplayer football simulation, which it of course won’t be.
Do your own analysis
The spreadsheet containing data from the survey can be found here. There is more data which we haven’t analyzed yet.