Why do we play video games? Unlocking achievements? Beating a mate? Killing the final boss? Yes, but it’s more than that.
At its core, gaming boils down to getting that winning fix and the amazing euphoric feeling that comes with it. This is a story of our true penny-drop moment in FIFA 12.
So we were playing FIFA 12 last night. The plan was to get a quick ten minutes in on FIFA Ultimate Team, check which players had sold, and re-auction other unsold cards in the game’s online marketplace.
What it turned into was two hours of some of the best gaming we’ve ever played. When things just come together, when a little bit of luck comes your way and when you play better than you have done before.
Leet is in the process of building an Arsenal dream team in FIFA Ultimate Team – a mix of young and old Gunners past and present. Two key players on our list are Ryo Miyaichi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – two blisteringly fast teenage wingers with Silver ratings in FIFA 12.
The problem is – they’re not cheap. At a cost of around 50,000 coins between them, it was never going to be a simple purchase, especially as our time to play the game is more limited than ever.
Snooping for success
So, imagine our state of curiosity when – just as we were about to switch the machine off – we saw a message pop up announcing the start of happy hour on FIFA Ultimate Team.
We had some spare coins and figured, why not? It’ll only take a few more minutes and who knows, we could get lucky (yeah right, we thought).
Leet has purchased several packs in Ultimate Team, the card-collecting dream team-style mode in FIFA 12, and the best we’ve got was Bobby bloody Zamora. Twice. Yes, we know.
After grabbing a couple of packs, there were a few decent players obtained – Dortmund’s Mario Gotze, CSKA Moscow’s Honda and Manchester United’s Rafael – not bad, but not fantastic by any means.
At the point of near defeat, thinking we’d never get a good pack, we decided to take the ‘just one more’ approach. And that resulted in our first ever in-form player found in a pack opening.
Sure, it was only Astori from Cagliari, an 81-rated Italian centre-back, but this player still sells for around 11,000 to 15,000 coins, giving us enough to buy either Ryo or Alex with the coins we had already amassed.
Luckily for us, before we even put that on the market, sales of other gold players helped us reach 21,000 coins, and we managed to put a last-minute bid on a Ryo card, winning it for 20,250 coins.
The game changer
Finding a rare skill or item that gives you a distinct advantage in online gaming is always a welcome discovery, but we were not prepared for the huge difference Ryo was about to make to our squad.
Placing the Japanese speedster in the left-wing position for Andre Arshavin, and putting newly acquired bronze right-back Hoyte in for Sagna, dropped our overall squad rating down to four stars. This is due to their lower respective individual ratings of 71 and 63.
Believe it or not, this is actually a purposeful positive change. There are thousands of four-and-a-half and five-star squads in FIFA Ultimate Team, with some expensive, sensational players – and some very skillful gamers controlling them.
Dropping into the four-star band meant we would be pit against gamers new to FIFA Ultimate Team or those who are doing the same thing as us – building a lower-rated squad of quality footballers to get an upper hand.
Eager to try the pair out, we decided to play a couple of matches online.
The first result was a 4-0 win, with a pair of goals from Ryo and Henry. The second result was another 4-0 victory.
Make no mistake – it’s not a shock to see this kind of result in FIFA Ultimate Team, but it’s very rare for Leet to win two such matches in a row. Chances are you’ll often come across a skilled player that pushes you to a draw or wins by a margin of two or three goals.
Spurred on by our victories, we thought we’d have ‘just one more’ game.
The match started off very excitingly, with chances at both ends, and plenty of heated action in the middle of the park for ball possession.
Then, in the 37th in-game minute, our opponent’s keeper brought down Henry in the box. The penalty resulted in a goal.
Almost ten in-game minutes later, and the legendary Frenchman found the back of the net again, from a sweeping cross towards the far post from Ryo.
Our opponent’s reaction from kick-off was predictable, and similar to real life. Desperate to score a goal and get straight back in the game, they charged through our defense, only to be tackled by Vermaelen, who sent a lofted ball straight over to Ryo on the left wing. He zoomed towards the penalty box, cut in and scored.
What happened next was interesting. Our opponent was obviously frustrated, and booted the ball back to his goalkeeper. He began flicking the ball up and juggling it in his own penalty box.
Not to be humiliated by running after him and chasing the ball whenever he passed it around in his own half, we held back and waited a minute for the referee to blow the whistle for half-time.
Sure enough, at the start of the second half, our rival made a substitute and tried playing the game properly again.
After some solid defending and some quick-footed skills from Theo Walcott, we had Henry one-on-one with the keeper again.
Now, it’s worth noting here, that this player we were up against wasn’t bad. He wasn’t giving the ball away, nor were his shots off-target. We were just defending well and breaking swiftly on the counter attack. He was probably better than us, in terms of skill moves and tackling, and that’s when we had a realisation.
Unfortunately for him, we had the better side. Stronger players who were faster – who were making much more creative runs than anything his squad could produce.
The penny had dropped.
Finally, after months of fiddling about with Italian Serie A FIFA Ultimate Team squads, Russian sides, Silver German teams and even a Premiership dream team, we had built a side in FIFA Ultimate Team that really was an ultimate team. A squad that will give us a chance to beat other Xbox Live users who may be better FIFA players than us.
This gave us the confidence to try out some new skill moves and make passes we wouldn’t normally attempt. The result was humiliation for the poor lad (or ladette), with the commentators pulling out all the sayings.
“There’s no way back now.”
“What was that player doing”?
“This score is making the game seem like a cricket match.”
A state of euphoria
Once it rains, it pours.
More goals came flowing.
One of the goals had been because our opponent took the keeper out of his half, we tackled him, and walked the ball into the net.
Our opponent had all but given up.
He had resorted to passing it back to his goalkeeper and playing the ball around his defensive third, making us chase for it, juggling the ball, in a desperate attempt to claw back some dignity and dish out some humiliation for us.
We caved, sliding in with Lansbury who clipped one of his player’s heels.
This is the first time we’ve ever been sent off in FIFA Ultimate Team, and to do it while winning 7-0 was disappointing, though we do genuinely believe it was a harsh decision from the ref (of course). The tackle wasn’t that bad.
But we soon took the power back. Juggling the ball ourselves, and pulling off more skill moves caused our opponent to slide in recklessly, in Wayne Rooney two-footed fashion. It was the player’s second booking.
To top it off, following the free kick, Ramsey scored an absolute screamer from outside the box into the top right corner of the goal.
What a bizarre match. What started out as an even affair had fast descended into madness. A one-sided game, with eight goals, two red cards and 1,100 player coins awarded to us.
And of course, the realisation that our ultimate team was really starting to come to fruition. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still to buy, as well as a couple of other players that would push our rating down to three-and-a-half stars, the thought of more matches like this was exciting to say the least.
By the time we had switched the Xbox 360 off, we were buzzing. Without trying to sound like a crack-addicted madman, we’d reached that state of euphoria that for us is very rarely felt from video games today.
We’d felt it once or twice before. Six years ago, when we beat Ragnaros in World of Warcraft, and a year ago, when we managed to complete the first level of Halo Reach with two friends with All Skulls On. After four hours of trying. Causing us to shout “Yes!” uncontrollably at 3am.
It’s that feeling we experience when everything goes right, when not only do we win, but we win in style, and months – even years – of practice, really pay off.
It’s the reason why gamers put in hour after hour in Call of Duty, or hundreds in Skyrim, or thousands in World of Warcraft. A headshot, a winning streak, that rare item. An indescribable moment; when a seemingly impossible challenge is overcome that just makes you feel on top of the world.
It’s why we play video games.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League player and WoW RPer, he has written for a range of publications including Games TM, Nintendo Official Magazine, games industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games. He currently works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association.