In any given year, I play a lot of video games. It’s the nature of the job. There are a few staples, like Street Fighter, but otherwise things come and go. This year was a Zelda year and a Final Fantasy year, for instance – but not every year is. But one aspect of gaming is a constant each year: fantasy football. This year has been especially thrilling.
Some of you may already play, or have in the past. Others might be clueless. But, as an RPG head, it has to be said that this tertiary activity to real life sports has always scratched much the same itch for me as many of the best video games – which is why I wanted to give it its dues at the end of the year – even on this, one of the best
Fantasy Football is about stats. It’s about research, planning, and min-maxing. Obviously, it’s also a little bit about luck. Basically, it’s a role-playing game.
I get a weird RPG buzz out of NFL Fantasy, then, but I have to admit this isn’t the only sporting world where I do this sort of thing. I also enjoy Sega’s Football Manager (the real football, y’know), even though unlike American Football I’m not that into the real sport. I just play it like a role-playing game, thumbing through menus, analyzing stats, and making tactical decisions.
For a few months of the year, though, the NFL Fantasy seriously takes over my life. No matter what I’m working on or reviewing, it becomes the ‘game’ that I think most once the NFL season commences. It’s more time consuming than it seems, too – playing in a couple of leagues, making roster moves, trading, reading research, reacting to injuries and other major events, and making predictions about what’s coming throughout the season.
It’s just… video gamey. Within my friendship group, which hosts a seriously competitive league awash with knowledge and trophies on the line, only our Street Fighter competitions promote more lively smack talk. I love it.
This year has been exceptionally exciting for me, because I pretty quickly found myself in a hole. By week 7 of the NFL season, the halfway point for fantasy’s ‘regular season’, I had a record of 1 win, 6 losses. I was in the pit. I was desperate, and I had to make moves.
A team rethink later, including talking some rivals into some complicated trades, and at the end of the ‘regular season’ I had a record of 8-6 and made it into the postseason competition. At the time of writing, I’m three wins from winning it all.
It doesn’t really matter if I do or not, of course. If I’m being honest, I don’t entirely fancy my chances. But what I can say is the act of righting the ship has been one of the most thrilling, nail-biting, and rewarding ‘gaming’ things I’ve done this year – even though it didn’t involve touching a controller.
This story is true every year, but in a year of high drama and lots of player churn (mostly, sadly, due to injuries) in the real life NFL, it’s been a great year for fantasy. I don’t quite prefer it to Zelda, or Baldur’s Gate, or Street Fighter 6. I admit. The headline was a bit of a cheeky push. But it’s definitely one of the best things I’ve played this year.