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How Football Manager helped me sell my house

An entirely true story on why playing video games can be good life skills training.

Redfin Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you are a soccer nerd, there are two main video games devoted to the sport (not including offshoot games like Rocket League): FIFA or Football Manager.

I’m not a gamer, my meager skills have atrophied since I stopped playing Nintendo as a kid and my FIFA highpoint came with the 2002 edition.

But I’ve become a devoted player of Football Manager over the past few years, and this is my story of how it helped me sell my house.

First, let’s back up to set the scene here. Because I’m sure the idea that Football Manager actually helped someone sell a house sounds pretty far-fetched. I get that.

I’ll start by saying this: I’m not a salesperson. I have never worked in sales, because I am terrible at trying to get people to part with their money. It’s just not my nature.

This extends to negotiating, too. I have previously refused to do any active work in buying a car, which is fine because my significant other loves shopping for cars more than anything in the world, so that’s covered in my household. I lived in China when I was in college, and after being told negotiations in many purchases are custom, I halfheartedly fumbled a few times at this and felt like a jerk at haggling over spending $1 over $1.30 on a souvenir and just stopped trying.

My father is also not a natural salesperson, but he has an opposite tactic when it comes to negotiating — I recall multiple times as a teenager going to a garage sale, my dad eyeing a something like a crate of vinyl records marked “$5 each,” and saying “I’ll give you $3 for the entire crate,” or seeing a used-but-still-functional lawnmower and offering $6 for it, and being firmly told to get lost. This might color my historic aversion to negotiations, I don’t know.

Ok, what does Football Manager have to do with this story? Let me set the scene for you regarding Football Manager itself. Unlike FIFA, where you use the sticks to play soccer games, Football Manager is known as the nerd’s game because you play the coach, usually on the computer (although I am not a purist and play on my iPad because I believe in a “bad screen/good screen” balance in life) and you can get absolutely lost in the minutiae of it. You not only pick a team and tactics and make adjustments during games and all that stuff, but you can sign and transfer players, stock and supervise your youth and reserve teams, and even run training sessions. You have to admit, a video game where you run training sessions is pretty damn hardcore.

Here’s a random screen where you can pick out training session stuff (I swear this game is addictive and fun).

And yet, if you’re into it, it’s addicting. While we all know of Football Manager players who run a 4-2-2-2 and arrogantly demand all real-life teams follow their digital exploits, the game does teach you a lot about the sport, whether you’re just getting into it and don’t really know the differences between how the different formations and styles work, or learn who all the good players in Bolivia are through the truly extensive scouting service, something real-life teams have used in the past. It’s certainly informative.

Through Football Manager, I started getting some reps in negotiating, with no pressure (it’s a video game, after all) for the first time in my life and I finally learned how this life skill works. The first couple times you snap to sell a good player on a multiyear contract for market value and get reprimanded by your board, you learn that you need to aim a bit higher. Likewise, when buying players, you get a feel for the rhythm of negotiations depending on the level, the player, the age and the market value. Sometimes you get a great deal, sometimes you overpay a bit because the player is worth it, and sometimes you have to walk away because the asking price is too much.

So here’s where the house comes into my story: Last year we decided to sell our house. It was time, and we had good luck, on a number of fronts, and managed to make a deal in a short span of time.

You can probably guess where this is going, but there came a point in the process where we had to do a negotiation with the buyer. Our real estate agent walked us through the process, but when it came to specific dollar amounts, the choice was entirely ours to make.

Before Football Manager, I would have cowered in fear and thrashed about in this very real-life moment. I might have gone along with the buyer’s initial offer! It would have been easy, and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad!

Instead, I was confident. I had a set figure in mind I wanted to settle on, and a starting point to suggest in the negotiation. My significant other’s set figure was the same, which was nice, and since I happened to feel good about the starting offer, we ran with it.

The result? We got our target amount in the negotiation, and we sold our house.

I won’t pretend to believe that the countless hours spent leading Kettering Town on a futile quest to the National League League North playoffs, or aim to make Villarreal a contender in La Liga, or learn something about African soccer from playing with Mamelodi Sundowns will lead to all kinds of other life skills. It will enrich my soccer knowledge, but it’s just a game.

But knowing the difference between pre-Football Manager me sweating just thinking about having to negotiate over anything at all, and Football Manager-playing me confidently undertaking a high-stakes negotiation in real life to full success means this silly video game actually taught me a good life skill. And I’ll always credit Football Manager for helping me sell my house.

What do you think? Do you play Football Manager? Let’s chat in the comment section below.