That’s right, a computer game about football management can help you to develop skills that are useful for your career.. and I don’t mean getting a job as a Football Manager. For those who don’t know what it is, Football Manager (FM) is a simulation game, developed by Sports Interactive (SI), that puts you into the hot-seat of managing a football club.
So how can you weave ‘Playing FM’ into an interview? What is the skill that FM can help you to develop? It’s Analytics, that’s why it fits in this blog. If we look at what skills are currently in demand in the workplace it’s Big data. Companies, everywhere, are looking for people who can analyze the data that they generate.
- Marketing companies are increasingly analytical about their campaigns
- Product companies need deep analytics to improve and iterate their products,
- Retailers have all sorts of data that can help them to optimize things from the positioning of their products on their shelves through to the data on all those loyalty reward cards.
- Web Design is much more metrics driven to increase results.
So how does Football Manager help you develop valuable career skills?
I started playing FM under its previous carnation (Championship Manager), One of the common complaints were that after playing the game over many seasons, some of the newly generated players looked odd and the game appeared unbalanced, e.g (defenders were no longer brave). So I built a tool in my spare time that analyzed player attributes to see if there were differences in how players evolved over time to check for big differences. This taught me to code a little and how to analyze data.
It’s a simple tool that spat out a text file that showed you the differences between the data at 2 different points in time (e.g. do all defenders lose the ability to be aggressive in 20 years time?). SI used it at the time, however, I eventually became too busy to be able to do this, and I’m pretty sure SI developed their own tools to do this much much better than the buggy code I created.
The later versions of FM makes it possible for anyone to develop analytical skills - I’ve purposely selected some screenshots below that show you what Football Manager is all about.
This screen shot shows you how well a player has improved.
This one shows you their training regime.
One aspect of improving any product is testing. This means changing variables and checking the results. For example, in a web page you may want to improve the % of people who sign up. You usually do this by split testing, or A/B testing. Then you analyze the data set afterwards.
Look at those 2 screens… it’s the same principal. You tweak the training program, you assign different players to each program and then you compare the results to see which is more effective. There are a lot of people who are doing this already and unaware about the skills they are developing and how transferable they are to the real world. Take a look at the Tactics and Training Forum and you’ll find a lot of deep analytical talk where people discuss how to tweak training programs to improve players the most. It’s a hotbed of statistical analysis, A/B testing, spllit testing, metrics, measurement… no different to a professional analytics group on LinkedIn.
If you’re looking to develop your skills using FM, I recommend you use FM Genie Scout… some people may call it cheating… but it’s the ability to use it for data analysis that makes it so useful. Look at this screenshot -
It could be Google Analytics. The history function let’s record multiple data points. Here’s how you would perform a split test playing the game and using this tool -
- Create 2 training programs,
- Split your players up into those 2 program
- Play the game over several seasons,
- Periodically saving a history point.
- Analyze the data to see which program was more effective.
- Tune your programs and repeat.
It makes it easier to discover what changes are more effective for which player attribute, not much difference to optimizing a website or product… the fundamental skills are the same. For those who are more advanced, you can spit the data out into a spreadsheet. Once you’ve done this over several data points, you can plot any graph or create pivot tables to analyze player progression.
And that is how Football Manager can help you to develop real skills that are needed today.