This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
It seems that, no matter how hard we try, it is impossible to avoid the looming shadow of Brexit at the moment. It fills our airwaves, it pours forth from our televisions, it accosts us in our sleep and seeps into the very fabric of our dreams. Having adopted the language of a doctor talking about stool samples, our political class are embroiled in a fierce debate as to whether or not we want a 'hard' or a 'soft' Brexit. The language of faecal matter is apt, of course, because it's currently looking like the country is about to go to total shit.
Should you need further evidence of our hurtling towards the precipice of insanity – beyond what you can see with your own eyes, that is – there are several decisive articles of proof. The first, and one of the most compelling, is that a Conservative councillor named Christian Holliday – Satire, why dost thou mock us? – recently launched an online petition calling for people who support UK membership of the European Union to be classified as criminals and traitors to the realm. "So ended British democracy," the historians will say, solemnly, "when a middle-aged Conservative from Guildford decided that everyone who disagreed with him was an ideological heretic." Should despotic online petitions not stir you, further proof of our impending doom comes in the form of the great Marmite war, the proliferation of Nigel Farage memes, and the fact that Brexit is now going to be a crucial component of everyone's favourite football simulator.
Of all the horrible ideas to have come out of Brexit, the decision to include our departure from the EU in the new Football Manager is one of the worst. Video games are a form of escapism, and are not meant to be a reminder of the relentless political misery of the modern world. Football Manager is meant to be about correcting the mundanities of footballing reality, about creating a brilliant alternate universe, about living in a world where Forest Green Rovers can achieve a quadruple promotion and go on to win the Champions League. It is not meant to be a painful reminder of the devaluation of the pound, or the ugliness of demagogue politics, or the fact that we're planning to build an economy on tea, jam and biscuits like a nation of lunatic gingerbread men.
Whatever aspect of Football Manager you most enjoy, the fundamental point is that it's meant to be fun. Whether it's all about the promotions and achievements or you simply adore doing managerial paperwork, the game is a form of vicarious pleasure. Nobody would describe Brexit as 'fun', not even Andrea Leadsom after a few sherries. Brexit is bleak, Brexit is fucking horrible, Brexit is a million arguments between friends and family members, a sullen and resentful after-dinner silence which has descended on the whole country. Brexit is the saddest of banalities, and sad banalities are exactly what fans of Football Manager want to escape.
If we're going to include grim political realities in our football games, we may as well go all out at this point. Sim 15 seasons of Football Manager, and the Great Depression of the 2030s should arrive, heralding a huge exodus of footballers from England, with the remaining players contracting consumption. You've taken AFC Wimbledon to within three points of the Premier League title, but your star striker has been struck down with cholera and you end up losing to Blackburn Rovers. On the way home, rioters storm the team coach, then rob you of transfer funds to pay for a basic ration of bread.
Sim 30 seasons of Football Manager, and the age of the authoritarian dictator has arrived. You sign a promising young winger, only to find out that he has been sent to a re-education camp for joining a trade union. Attendances dwindle as people are gradually 'disappeared', leading to serious financial limitations on the club. In the end, you become an informant for the secret police, ratting out the majority of the squad, who are never heard of again.
The natural conclusion of political realities in Football Manager is that, at some indeterminate point in the simulated future, you are no longer a football club so much as a group of ball-playing cannibals trying to survive the nuclear winter. You kick a ragged football across the empty landscape, occasionally clashing with other football clubs who you either have to defeat on a makeshift football pitch, or attack with daggers made from human shin bones. Football Manager simulates all this, and occasionally intervenes to tell you that you have wandered into a carcinogenic ash cloud, or that one of your players has succumbed to radiation poisoning. Far from the happy escapism of its early years, the game is now about the unrelenting bleakness of our existence, making you confront the harshest of realities and the most monstrous of human fears.
This is why, on a fundamental level, including Brexit in Football Manager is a horrible idea. Then again, if we're honest, it's probably what we, the people, deserve. We have to live with our political decisions and, along with economic uncertainty, internal division and the appointment of Boris Johnson to the position of Foreign Secretary, a simulated football Brexit is just another unpleasant side effect. If it means that, in the future, Football Manager sims an Orwellian nightmare state where people can be executed for thought crimes, then so be it. In fairness, Christian Holliday would probably think it was a bloody marvellous idea.