1:01 AM: After a long, productive night of studying, I decide to retire to my suite in an attempt to unwind and, eventually, fall asleep. Somehow, I know even before I enter my room that the nightly ritual has begun. I steel myself as I approach the front door.
1:03 AM: I enter to find four of my roommates, Walter, Coach, Ludwig, and The Doctor* with controllers in their hands, staring like zombies, mouths agape, at the TV. I instantly know I am too late to intervene, that the game has already started. There is nothing more I can do but sit and watch it all unfold. It’s FIFA time.
1:05 AM: Ludwig chuckles to himself, “Another 10-0 loss… How many naked laps is that, Coach?” I silently shudder at the thought.
1:06 AM: Coach responds, “Fuck you, Ludwig. Everyone knows that whoever has the loosest thumbs always wins, and you happen to have very loose thumbs because you stick them up your butthole.” I consider asking Coach about the validity of his statement but before I know it the new match is well underway.
1:07 AM: I like to think that I am someone who “gets it” – that I’m a person who has an appreciation for things that are hip, trendy, and cool. Over the course of my Princeton career, however, I have come to realize that when it comes to the hip, trendy, and cool soccer video game commonly referred to as FIFA, I do not “get it”. Although every male that I know can’t go more than 24 hours without getting a quick game of FIF’ in, the appeal of FIFA continues to allude me. I cannot count the hours I have watched my friends play this pixilated soccer game and wondered, why? Why do you choose to spend your time this way? Tonight is no exception.
1:10 AM: “Sauce me!” says Walter to Ludwig, in an attempt to get him to pass the animated soccer ball. “What does that mean,” says Ludwig, “does that mean you want my sauce on your face?” Everyone laughs. It’s clear we are all having a great time.
1:12 AM: When asked why they so enjoy FIFA, my friends give me a variety of vague and unspecific answers. “FIFA is my life,” says one prominent lad in the Princeton community. “When I’m down and thinking of things to do…” he trails off lost in thought for a perfect moment of complete and utter silence before uttering, “FIFA.” I nod and pretend that I agree with the sentiment.
1:18 AM: After about five minutes with no utterances from either team, I lull myself into a false sense of security and quietly fall asleep on the couch.
Approximately 30 seconds later: “WHAT. THE. FUCK,” shouts Ludwig, as I jolt upright in fear for my immediate safety. I turn to find The Doctor violently miming jacking off into the face of Walter, who curses silently under his breath. Over the bellowing laughter I am able to gather that The Doctor and Coach have, in fact, scored the first goal of the game to bring the score to 1 0.
1:23 AM: I decide to secretly root for the losing team in the hope that I will become invested in the outcome of the game.
1:25 AM: Someone must have heard my secret prayer, as Walter and Ludwig, respond with a goal on their next possession, bringing the score to 1-1. I find myself mildly intrigued, even interested in the proceedings of the game. I feel the inner “lad” growing inside me. I even cheer when Ludwig scores. I begin to wonder whether I have been unfair to FIFA—this video game whose sole purpose is to bring joy and delight to millions of teenage boys across America
1:32 AM: I’m bored again.
1:35 AM: No one has scored in almost 9 minutes. Apparently we are getting down to the wire, though, and the energy in the room is now slightly frantic, bordering on desperate.
1:37 AM: Ludwig says, “I need to FUCKING score,” and proceeds to accuse The Doctor of cheating, which, of course, he immediately denies. Coach is sweating. Profusely. Walter hasn’t blinked in over four minutes. The stakes have risen.
1:38 AM: Coach and The Doctor make guttural, animal-like noises of despair after missing a penalty kick. I briefly consider retreating to my bedroom and hiding under my covers out of fear, but come to the realization that the thin walls and loud friends really leave me with no adequate available method of escape at this juncture in time. I sit back and try my best to enjoy the show.
1:45 AM: It is at this point in our evening that we all discover that Walter has a five-page paper due the following day which he has yet to start. When asked about the paper directly, Walter says, “I’m so stressed right now… oh not because of the paper, because of this FIFA game. I’m so fucking stressed right now.” FIFA has quickly escalated into a life-or-death, do-or-die situation and, to be honest, I’m kind of into it. What can I say? I’ve always had a flare for the dramatic.
1:49 AM: Walter is really dropping the ball, if you will, on the virtual soccer pitch. Even I, a FIFA newb, can tell that he is not playing at the level necessary for he and Ludwig to emerge victorious. When I question him about it he interrupts me mid sentence spurting out, “Wait! I’m actually upset.”
1:50 AM: He continues, “No, like, I literally feel furious. Like I’m not lying it seems kind of weird that I feel so intensely about this game. Like someone should write about experiencing all the emotions of FIFA. I’m physically nauseous right now.” I take note and move the trashcan beside him, fully engaged in what is playing out on the television screen before me.
1:56 AM: I’m almost positive Walter begins to cry, although it’s hard to tell now that his face is buried in a pillow. Coach and The Doctor have scored another goal putting them up 2-1 with only seconds to spare. Face in his palms, Ludwig says, “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take losing anymore.” Coach and The Doctor engage in a long, meaningful embrace.
2:03 AM: “I’m not going to be able to sleep,” Walter croaks, “like it’s starting to hurt… like physically my thumbs and my joints… but also my heart.”
2:08 AM: As I watch Walter’s slow descent into madness, it becomes clear to me that FIFA is more than just a game to those who partake in its pleasures and pain. It’s a culture, a way of life, a pseudo-religion, if you will. Although I’ll never understand why FIFA is the method en vogue currently used to bring these men together, I think I can respect the power in its ability to create a community. Is it a community that I have any interest in being a part of? Hell no, but I can appreciate its place in Princeton brociety.
2:12 AM: With 30 seconds left in the game and Coach and The Doctor up 2-1, I decide to officially head to bed. As I turn the knob of my bedroom door, I hear Ludwig shout, “THERE IS A GOD AND HE LOVES ME!” Walter and Ludwig have done the impossible and tied it up in the final seconds, launching the game into overtime.
2:13 AM: I briefly debate staying to watch the outcome, but ultimately decide against it – there’s no need. I already know what’s going to happen: one of the teams will emerge victorious, the other will protest, they’ll all decide to play another game and the never-ending FIFA cycle will continue.
6:07 AM: In my dream (nightmare?), I am an absolutely brilliant soccer player, reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo on acid. My athletic prowess is not to be believed. My soccer skills are unparalleled. My stats are off the charts. Basically, I am a golden god of FIFA. I wake with a start, sweating profusely.
6:08 AM: I whisper to myself, “Is this how it begins? Fuck.”