In Football Manager 2018, fictional football players generated in-game (“newgens” who replace retired members) will have a chance to come out as gay. “It’s not a message that everyone is going to see in the game,” Miles Jacobson, the game’s director, has stated. “It is quite rare, but we want it to be seen as a positive thing.” Because in some nations homosexuality is ruled illegal, newgens based in those countries who join the player’s club will not be able come out. However, for the newgens who do come out, the club with an openly gay player will obtain a slight boost in revenue, which is implied as support and interest from the LGBT community.
Football Manager (Worldwide Soccer Manager in North America) is a franchise from Sports Interactive in which players can manage their own football club. The 2018 release features a “Dynamics” team morale system that allows players to view team hierarchies and a team cohesion rating. The scouting system for the game was also made to be more realistic, and the scale of information about the players being recruited can range from 0% to 100%.
As a simulation game, Football Manager 2018 aims to be more lifelike. In a statement to BBC Sport, Jacobson said, “Part of the reason we decided to do this is because there are gay footballers. We know from the amount of information about professionals that there has to be players who are gay but feel they don’t want to come out. I find it weird that it’s still a problem in football, so we decided to try and show people that coming out isn’t a big deal and can be a positive thing. I just think it’s crazy that in 2017 we are in a world where people can’t be themselves.”
The Brexit feature in the previous installment was “quite controversial” as it complicated transfers between football clubs in the United Kingdom and European Union nationals, including players from Scotland who decided to break away from Britain. However, Jacobson said that the reception that the development team has received in the 2017 edition of Football Manager had emboldened them to be “a bit more outward in our thinking in trying to make the world a better place.” He said that this new feature in Football Manager 2018 was not about changing opinions, but instead, it is about “normalising the issue” because “We are not going to be able to change the mind of someone who is homophobic, we don’t have that power, and if someone has that issue and decides not to buy the game for that reason then, to be honest, I feel really sorry for them. Hopefully, it will make some people look up and think, ‘this is ridiculous.’”
Hopefully, this move will at least make people more comfortable living in their own skin. There are multiple reasons why someone would be afraid to come out, but what Sports Interactive is doing is a forward push towards positivity and inclusion. Like Jacobson, I wish that one day people will “feel 100% comfortable with who they are, whatever their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality.”
Football Manager 2018 will be available for PC, Mac, and Android. Football Manager Touch 2018 will be released for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, and Football Manager Mobile for iOS and Android. All three versions launch November 10th.