FUT matches are not manipulated

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It’s a fact that a lot of FIFA players believe that EA secretly manipulates FUT matches. Is there any truth to this idea? We sat out to investigate the question a few years ago. Since then, we have examined it thoroughly, assessing all the evidence we possibly could get our hands on.

This article is the summary of all the articles we have written on the topic. Everything presented below is weel documented, and the conclusion we reach is just as rock solid as it is unpopular.

A short introduction to scripting, handicapping and momentum

We hear the terms scripting, handicapping and momentum all the time. A mutual understanding between people who subscribe to these ideas, is that they are accepted as fact by the majority of the community.

This understanding seems to be supported by various polls, which suggest that a majority of FIFA players [20][21][22] believes that FIFA is manipulated. But when you dig into the deeper layers of how and why EA would manipulate the game, the apparent consensus evaporates.

A survey conducted by us and repeated a couple of times showed that people, who identify as believers, in fact have different and even mutually exclusive beliefs. [1]

It is, of course, irrelevant to the truth whether people believe in it or not. However, the lack of an actual consensus tells us something about the foundation of these beliefs.

An analogy that most people can relate to is the Loch Ness monster: A lot of eyewitnesses claim to have seen the monster, but their accounts on what they saw vary greatly in terms of the color, size and shape of the animal.[2] Given the variation in these accounts, it’s beyond dispute that most of them are wrong.

If these claims about FIFA being manipulated were driven by fact, then why do people arrive at so many different conclusions?

Does any evidence suggest that FIFA is manipulated?

The fact that scripting, handicapping and momentum cover a broad mass of different beliefs doesn’t rule out that some of these beliefs could be correct. But is there any evidence supporting the idea that EA deliberately influences our matches to affect the results?

We do know that FIFA uses a concept known as adaptive difficulty, whereby the difficulty level is adjusted dynamically in certain single player game modes. But this is not exactly happening secretly. In fact, the game has in game dialogues referring to it.[3]

What about the claims about multi player matches being manipulated as well? A lot of alleged evidence has been brought up over the years. We have analyzed and fact checked all of it. Up until this point, we haven’t seen as much as a single bit of information which indicates that EA manipulates FIFA matches on purpose.

Video evidence

We have looked into Youtube videos allegedly portraying evidence. A lot of the Youtube videos show bugs and glitches deciding a match, and while EA of course is at blame for building a faulty game, it’s hard to defend the point of view that the mere existence of bugs and glitches proves that they were put in on purpose.

Another recurring phenomenon in regards video evidence is that people tend to only report the faults which can be attributed to the game, while ignoring their own mistakes. Our article on Youtube videos contains some pretty telling examples of this. [4]

Home made experiments

Another sub-group of alleged scripting evidence is the home made experiments such as small, statistical surveys seemingly confirming something suspicious. We have seen quite a few of these over the years. [5][6][7][8]

If anything, these experiments show how easy it is to produce statistics which in reality is complete and utterly bollocks and yet appears credible to an audience which a bias for similar conclusions.

There are few positive things to say about these experiments, as they fail on just about all parameters of scientific method. The studies we have seen are neither reliable nor valid.

A typical problem is that people study their own matches, which of course involves a huge risk of influencing the result with your own bias. Another typical problem is sample size, although a larger sample size of course won’t help you when your measurement method doesn’t work.

Information released by EA

A third group of evidence is information originating by EA, which then is interpreted as being in support of the idea that FIFA is manipulated. [9][10][11][12][23][24][25][26][29]

So, has EA made a freudian slip and admitted that scripting, momentum and handicapping exists? Of course not.

With the right mix of unacknowledged assumptions, jumping to conclusions and cherry picking it’s possible to turn anything into evidence of everything.

As an example, it’s a fact that FIFA has something called a match intensity table.

When you are looking for evidence to support the strong belief that EA is manipulating your matches, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that “match intensity” in fact is another word for “team mentality” [27] or a measure of the game’s momentum bias [28].

This, of course, requires that you ignore all the fact sthat indicate that said table controls something as trivial as crowd volume, which of course should depend on the current score line at a given moment in time.

Is there evidence contradicting these beliefs?

The fact that the evidence supporting the existence of scripting, handicapping and momentum is non-existent is however not the only reason to approach these concepts which skepticism.

Some scripting believers support their believe by arguing that scripting neither has been directly proved nor disproved. This line of thinking is wrong on so many levels, but first and foremost, it’s factually incorrect that we don’t have contradicting evidence. In fact, we have very strong evidence contradicting core elements of the scripting narrative.

The by far most widespread idea about why EA would manipulate matches has always been that they want to make matches more even to give bad players a chance and so on. This entire notion is however contradicted by a number of rock solid facts:

  1. Skilled players normally don’t get matched up against inferior opponents. The game uses a number of methods to avoid such matches, including Elo matchmaking[13].
  2. Matches are not even. Result statistics show that large wins are much more common in FUT than in real football.[14]
  3. Bad players report being subject to manipulation just as often as better players.[15]
  4. A draw – the most even result of them all – does not happen more often than they ought to in FUT.[16]
  5. The better player rarely loses.[17]
Actual goal ratios and draw ratios for real leagues. FUT is the red dot.

The perhaps most important observation about the five facts listed above is however something that I didn’t even mention: All of them would have looked different if FUT was manipulated. But none of them did.

Who are the believers?

To the neutral observer, it ought to be clear that people believe in scripting, handicapping and momentum – not because of the evidence but in spite of the evidence.

Given the very clear state of evidence, it’s impossible not to wonder who these believers are and what separates them from the rest of us. In our survey[18] from late 2017, two characteristics stood out as extremely predominant among the scripting believers who responded to the questionnaire:

  • Scripting believers neither appreciate nor accept that football and hence also FIFA is a fairly random game, meaning that you can lose – and win – because or pure coincidence.
  • Scripting believers attribute their own successes to skill and attribute their opponent’s success to scripting, handicapping or momentum.

Hence, we are dealing with beliefs, which not only are contradicted by evidence but also are fairly irrational by nature.

So, how come that maybe two thirds of the community members believe the game is manipulated?

Why people believe in manipulation

Experiments made by psychologists studying why people believe in conspiracy theories show that humans have an inherent preference for narratives which attribute a rationale to bad things. Another interesting finding from such experiments is that inducing loss of control triggers people to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations.[19]

In a FIFA context, this implies that when we lose more matches than we like (meaning that we are out of control), we have an inherent preference for an explanation saying that it happened because EA manipulated our matches over a narrative saying that we lost because the opponent was better or because we just didn’t have luck on our side.

People don’t believe in scripting, handicapping or momentum because they are stupid or bad people but simply because they are people.

But having said that, attributing your losses to a made up narrative isn’t going to make you a better player. If you want to truly excel in this game, you need to stop thinking that you aren’t at blame when you lose.

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