The other day I read an interesting piece on Rock, Paper, Shotgun titled Confessions Of A Save Scummer about the authors experience of save scumming on Football Manager and it really struck a chord with me, because I sometimes do it myself.
For those who aren’t aware, save scumming is when you load an earlier save for a chance to undo a result. In Pokemon you might have killed a legendary and want a second chance at capturing it, you might have failed a mission missing out on a reward, you might have picked the wrong dialogue option, or in the case of Football Manager you might lose a match and get knocked out of the UEFA Champions League. To many it’s seen as cheating.
In Football Manager save scumming generally goes like this:
The current game is not saved.
Do you want to save the game before you load another game?
Familiar dialogue to anyone who has played Football Manager.
Some people try to justify their save scumming in Football Manager by arguing that you don’t directly control the players during matches, all you do is set up the tactics, match plans etc, before letting the computer play out the results.
Which is true and it can be hard to see if and how your decisions have any impact at all. In the past I’ve played the same match, with the same setup, tactics, and players five times and gotten different results each time, some in my favour and some against. It can leave you scratching your head, but that’s football, on the day anyone can beat anyone, and anything can happen.
It’s infuriating when it goes against you, your team has 70% possession, 20 shots, 14 of which are on target, but end up losing 1-0 from their only shot on target. But things like that do happen in real life so its important that its in the game.
The part I most connected with was the idea of telling yourself a story, creating your own specific narrative that you want to play out, manipulating the game and save scumming to achieve that. Not in testing yourself against the machine, seeing how good you truly are, how long you can survive in the job, or in overcoming the prescribed challenges the game has to offer.
Why did this connect with me? Well because I do it as well. OK sure I’ve completed a number of the challenges that the game has to offer when I was looking to try something a little different, and while I enjoyed them, they don’t last that long and I didn’t get the same joy out of it as I do when I create my own little story.
The narrative I like to create for myself revolves around the idea of me being the next Jose Mourinho. Complete with the ego and title of ‘The Special One’. I’ve just been appointed Chelsea manager and I need to hit the ground running, making an instant impact or I will be sacked by Roman Abramovich and be just another Andre Villa-Boas. No one wants to be Andre Villa-Boas. Sorry AVB.
The save scumming is part necessity because you can’t afford to make too many mistake as Chelsea boss and I want to avoid the sack, and its part I am that damn good, delivering the treble in my first season.
I don’t save scum in the Capital One Cup, as in the game the Chelsea board don’t care much about it. Sometimes I win it, sometimes I don’t.
If I lose to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, or Manchester United, even in the Capital One Cup, I will reload my game. I always beat them or get a draw with them if it is to my advantage, even if it takes me several tries. I hate losing, especially to those sides, and I’m no Brendan Rodgers always losing the big games.
The other part of my story involves bringing young players through the academy to the first team. And yes I hope the club start doing this in real life soon.
I always have one young player either in the starting XI or on the bench to bring on around the 70 minute mark if things are going well. Izzy Brown, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Baker, Dom Solanke, Nathan Ake, Todd Kane, Andreas Christensen, and Jeremie Boga all get regular match time for me and do quite well. Boga managed to score 6 league goals in 15 league appearances for me, all as a sub, in the first season playing as my number 10.
My second season is much the same as the first, retain the Premier League, become the first club in history to retain the UEFA Champions League, make one or two marquee signings, sell the deadwood (I’m looking at you John Obi Mikel) to keep the balance in the black (yes that’s right Arsenal fans my Chelsea team are profitable) and sign some young promising players for my academy. All while I continue to bring young players through the academy and keep my unbeaten record against my rivals.
The third season is the same again but I only save scum to retain the Premier League and make sure I reach at least the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
From the fourth season onwards I don’t save scum as much. I’m a successful Chelsea manager, one of the best managers in the world, so I’m less at risk of getting the sack than when I first took over, so I can afford a trophyless season, well so long as I remain competitive. Of course I do maintain my unbeaten record against my rivals, I can’t help it, and I keep bringing through young players.
My Chelsea save file isn’t the only time I’ve save scummed to create a story for myself in Football Manager. I’ve done it in a game where I was Hayes & Yeading manager, trying to take them from the Conference South all the way to the Premier League. It’s a long hard task and sometimes you need a helping hand along the way. Once I’m in the Premier League I stop, which sadly led to me getting relegated in my second season in the top flight. It took me two seasons before I got promoted again having lost in the play-off final in my first season back in the Championship.
Some people will no doubt be saying what’s the point, they’ll say I’m a cheater and that all I’m doing is cheating myself, or that I am somehow ruining the game.
So why do I do it? Because quite simply it makes the game more fun for me. I enjoy it. I find it makes the game more interesting. It allows me to live out a dream, to act out a fantasy. It’s my game. It doesn’t affect anyone else’s game or their enjoyment. I would never do such a thing in an online or multiplayer game because it wouldn’t be fair. But in my own game? Of course I will if it increases my enjoyment of it. That is the main reason that I play games. FUN.
I don’t save scum every game I play on Football Manager. I had a very enjoyable game where I started as Dortmund manager but after my initial good start in the first couple of seasons (one Bundesliga, one German Cup, and UEFA Champions League runner-up), things started to go wrong and soon after I got the sack. It was a mixture of injuries and poor refereeing decisions that cost me.
I wasn’t unemployed long though. I was offered the Everton job when they sacked David Moyes after his second stint in charge that was nowhere as good as his first. Sometimes they are right when they say never go back. During my seven seasons at Everton I won one FA Cup, one League Cup, one UEFA Europa League, and finished in the top four twice. Not too shabby.
Who else out there save scums? Why do you do it? What sort of story do you like to create for yourself?
There is nothing wrong with save scumming in a single player game.