Football Manager is one of the most addictive, rewarding and, ultimately, soul destroying game franchises ever released. It's akin to the Souls series, but instead of taking on devilishly designed demonic douchebags in dank robes, you're taking on egos, agents and the immense pressures of being the figurehead of a truly beloved football (soccer) team.
And believe me when I say the game is addictive. I managed to log in 846 hours on my Steam copy of Football Manager 2013 (FM or Champ... it goes by many names), and the memories, man. My generated players were fire, Arsenal F.C. were in their rightful place as being the greatest team the world has ever seen for 20 years in a row, with a multitude of Champions League and English Premier League wins. It was magic, and Champ is magic. Hence the death threats its developers Sports Interactive are sadly so used to getting.
You can check out how SI keep on adding to the magic with trailer discussing Football Manager 2017's new features:
But there has to be a down to this tale of whimsical wins. And that came after I was roughly 20 years into my game. My PC died and I was to lose the save I spent four years toiling over. All the way through university and a little extra for change, gone, with one fried HDD. I was fairly upset for a while after that happened, but not as upset as I would have been if I'd lost a 150 year save.
I mean, imagine playing for over 150 years in FM years, like total-legend Darren Bland. The Englishman racked up an insane 4169 hours watching dots pass a ball around to each other with varying degrees of success. 4169 hours! That equates to 174 real world days in heaven with Champ.
In an interview with Guinness World Records, Bland recalls how he managed to amass 151 trophies, play 154 seasons (what a record), saw a footballer retire because of arthritis and became the oldest man to ever live (in Champ) with an innings of 190 years. What a feat.
Bland's time spent perfecting his man-management skills in the digital dressing rooms of Football Manager managed to net him a Guinness World Record for the longest game of FM. And, as revealed in the above interview, it almost nearly got him the manager's position at one of football's biggest clubs – Liverpool F.C.. Well, I say nearly.
"When Gerard Houllier left Liverpool, before Rafa Benitez got put in charge, I did actually apply for that Liverpool job. I did go on to say, in my letter, how well I'd done at Football Manager... I got a really nice letter back from them."
But, to pull on my woolen hat of pedantry for a moment, as Eurogamer rightfully pointed out, the first Football Manager branded game from Sports Interactive released in 2005, a year after Houllier left Liverpool. And FM 2010 released in 2009, a full five years post-Houllier... so Bland could be hamming up the story for the cameras.
But irrespective of whether or not he's telling little white lies regarding applying for the Kop's top job, there is a tale of dedication and big hearts behind the bravado.
"I had a lot of free time so I was playing the game every day like a full-time job," he said. "I was caring for my mum, helping out my family, so I'd be doing other things, but mainly that was there to get me through a difficult time."
And who was the team that helped ferry Bland from good times to even better times? Why, Italy's ACF Fiorentina of course.
"The reason I chose Fiorentina was because I like the color, my favorite all-time player, Socrates, played for them for one season and he's got a bit of a beard, yes."
I guess he mentioned that because he has a bit of a beard himself. And who doesn't like a football team in a purple strip?
Unfortunately, Bland's game saw an unexpected end after a sorry incident involving technology and liquid.
"The game ended with me spilling some liquid all over my laptop, breaking my laptop, and I was so heartbroken I didn't even try and retrieve it I saw it as a natural way of ending what could have gone on, quite possibly, forever."
They always say it's never a good idea to sip celebratory champagne near a laptop with an open Champ save, but when you're in the thralls of excitement all common sense takes to the air like a well-punted football, I guess.
All in all, Darren Bland is a bit of a hero in my eyes. Here's to many more years of champing, sir! Time for me to load up my latest FM 2017 save and slip back into hibernation.