Hello, welcome to something written rather than you seeing and hearing me, this might well be of some relief to some of you!
Ordinarily, I keep these posts to Patreon only, but for something like this I think it’s probably important that it’s accessible to everyone. As we begin to say goodbye to 2022, it was a year that I was hoping would dramatically improve on 2021, the world had been through a torrid time, and in some places it still is, and normality was slowly starting to return for everyone around me. I look back at that time period and as I’m sure as it is for many of us, a blur, a complete disconnect from the people that we are to the person we became during that period of time, to think I went from being a relatively responsibility free 29 year old, to now being a father of a 2 year old son, where the fuck did the time go?!
People’s mental health has been taken on an uncomfortable ride and for others I’m sure the sense of normality has allowed them to step back into their comfort zones while still capable of feeling that overwhelming sense of what it was like when we were caged to protect others, and that ‘new’ sense of freedom I suspect gives people a fresh new perspective, whereas others perhaps went into themselves and are yet to remerge as someone they recognise.
For me personally, and this is a side of me that’s open and closed on my own instruction, one thing people potentially don’t know about me, is that I’m unhealthily self aware, there’s probably a word for it that I’ve not yet learnt, but it regularly boarders on it being destructive. I remember listening to Gary Neville talk to Steven Bartlett on his Diary of a CEO podcast, he said, ‘I don’t spend enough time being present’, and it summed me up, I spend almost all of my time in a different headspace to the one I’m actually existing in, rarely am I in the moment, they’ll be times with Elly and Doug that they have an unfiltered version of myself that can just focus on being the best fiancé and Dad in the moment, and I like to think my abilities as a father are what the people around me expected of me before he arrived and are proud to watch as we grow as a family together. It’s the one area at the moment I actually feel a degree of confidence sweep over me with any sense of regularity. Long may it continue. But the side of me that remains distracted from the here and now still controls me, and I’ve spent the last few months trying to understand it better.
People who venture into my livestreams are often kind enough to ask how I’m doing, and occasionally someone will ask the deeper question on my mental health, this know doubt due to how open I’ve been about my struggles over the years, which is exclusively in an attempt to help others in their own personal journeys. Recently I’ve become almost too accepting of the current truth, to the extent where I actually just say, and to some it must appear flippant, ‘Yeah mate, spend most days having a little cry’ or ‘Yeah not good, battling on though, everything will be fine right?!’, it’s almost the perfect blend of wanting to move on from the topic but not lie, I think honesty in human connection is vital, without it, it’ll all fall apart, and my bond with people who enjoy what I do has been a mark of who I am as a creator of content, and much of that I feel is built on a trust we have between us. Maybe to someone that’ll seem very… ‘wankery’? Is that a word? The spellcheck doesn’t think so, and I understand for many viewers and creators, maybe you reading this your/their relationship is simply that of, ‘I watch stuff’ or ‘I make stuff’ and that’s fine, I actually envy the simplicity of that idea, but for me, my audience helped me in huge ways to dig myself out of a life that was, depressed, sick, poor and unfulfilled, to one where I’ve experienced some tremendous highs and some moments I never thought would be possible, I can’t begin to explain the joy I’ve had in this content journey, but the reality is, that with the extreme highs come extreme lows.
I mentioned before that my excessive self awareness as a personality trait is often destructive, it’s a diluted conversation I’ve had with people either on streams or patrons before now, or even the odd late night tweet, but I think if a few more people stumble across this, the very idea that it’ll connect with someone or help someone better understand me, well, that gives me a desperate sense of comfort. Those that know me well will know I’m a people pleaser, I’m incredibly insecure when it comes to people in my closer and wider circles having dissenting views about me, to the extreme where I’ll reach out to those people and almost demand that we talk about it, I could rationalise it as being protective over ‘Brand Benjy’ or ‘Brand Streamer Showdown’ – but ultimately, I’m just trying to give people a full picture, and if after that the conclusion is ‘yeah, not for me’ then I can accept it, I just despise being publicly misrepresented. I realise this isn’t a position most people get themselves into, they bypass it, move on with their lives, don’t give the opinions of others so much power. So much like with people who share a content relationship at the very base level, I envy that ability, but it’s not currently me.
So to expand on this self awareness being a bigger problem, that brings us to a side of me you’re likely reading this much more aware of, and that’s the content side of everything I do, and now with some of the additional context provided you can probably work out where this is going. Let’s take a look at my last 12 months of making content, at the start of FM22 I was really ill, probably covid but not 100% sure, but it meant my launch period was horrendous, I basically didn’t have one, and anyone will know the start of a new game is the time for growth, growth, growth, forget everything else, just pump stuff out and attract new eyes. Well, I missed the boat on that, and brought things back with a new iteration of my previously successful Glory Hunter, which started off really well until the worst thing possible happened, I made a series which is based off the idea of difficult decision making obvious and easy, that was my only real crime. And then I got in my own head, I listened to the minority of comments, and I saw the viewing number half in less than 10 episodes, and I panicked. Retrospectively, could I have continued through it and made decisions that could have engaged people in the way the first version of Glory Hunter did? Potentially, I guess we’ll never know, I didn’t like the idea of forcing a narrative that wasn’t natural, but that’s what maybe could’ve been done. To some reading this it’ll probably all sound rather dramatic, but when you spend every single day of your life creating and building something for people to enjoy, the moment you get the feeling they’re not, you have to begin to question why, and if in those moments you can’t find the answers, well for me, I shut down. If we’re all honest with ourselves, I’ve obviously not recovered, the series that followed have been half baked, half arsed and often half finished, and as you can work out by now, I’m hyper aware of that, I certainly don’t need to be told.
One thing I’ve always prided myself on is this honesty I talk about between me and the people who take the time to watch, and it’s deeper than that, it’s a respect, I’m not someone who’ll put out content for the sake of it and keep smiling, the reason Parma, Salford, Thames, Glory Hunter and the like have being so great for me is that we’ve shared the excitement of every upload, I knew what I was putting out was at it’s best, the best FM content available on Youtube and even at it’s worst, fantastic fun. In recent years? We’ve lost the spark, and up until recently I was unable to explain where it’s gone. But I finally have the answers, we’ll get to those shortly. The respect element of this is important though, the reason I’ve barely uploaded Football Manager videos in the last 6 months…. I’ve just counted how many FM videos I’ve made on Youtube since July 9th 2022, it’s 26. To give you some context, From July 9th 2019 to Christmas Eve 2019, I’d uploaded 147 videos in the same time period. Quite the drop off right?
So what’s the cause? We should absolutely address my actual desire to make content first, I’m sure there is a belief out there that I simple don’t love doing this anymore, the excitement and joy for it as my life has changed is slowly fading away as I enter this new period of my adult life? Ok, yes, you’re right, there is absolutely an element of that, I’d be kidding myself to claim that wasn’t true, but my overall desire to make stuff is still on fire, it’s there, I can feel it, it’s the reason I tweet about wanting to make a new series, it’s the reason I’m writing this post in the first place. I want to make stuff that me and you can enjoy equally, look forward to and tell other people about, I’m desperate for it, but I respect you all too much to just stick up any old shit in the hope that it get’s X amount of views a month to keep the lights on, I won’t do it, it’s one of the destructive elements I’ve mentioned, but especially when Football Manager 2023 is as problematic as it is.
I could probably fake my enjoyment of it, the skills I’ve picked up over the best part of the last decade allow it, any creator of anything will confirm that you don’t feel like creating on camera every minute of every day, you occasionally have to flick the switch on, but in the last few months, I got tired of flicking that switch, because I realised that my big issues lie with the career path I chose 7 years ago, it’s Football Manager.
I could go into loads of the technical details regarding FM23 specifically, details that have driven me to fall out of love with things slightly, but let’s save us all some time and give the summary at the beginning. Cards on the table time if you will, I think we’re being fed was is essentially the same game with minor changes year on year, and hardcore players, of which FM heavily relies upon, and game reviewers who help to sell it, are happy with it, but as someone that plays excessive amounts of the game, and then has to edit that game, and upload it, and play it for another 2-4 hours a day between videos, I’m bored of doing the same things, bored of looking at the same game. Much like with anything that’s classed as a job, unless you’ve hit the job jackpot, there comes a time when you’re looking for a career change up, and I don’t mean going from the Latvian Premier League to the Slovenian 2nd tier. You yourself reading this may have been through it in your own life, or maybe you currently feel trapped into doing something you don’t have the same enjoyment from the day you started, I think this process is completely normal for most people! So while the knock effects are obviously slightly different, and hey, I know if I stopped uploading or streaming, you’d all be fine, creators come and go, your favourites change and while you might wonder ‘what happened to insert random creator here’, life goes on. But the reason you’ve got this far in the post I assume is because you’re somewhat invested in my journey, well, I’m pretty invested too.
Now look, I have many of my own issues that we’ve talked through in this post, let’s not lay all of the fault here at the feet of a video game that I have chosen to build a career around, much of this is my responsibility. The creative problems though, when I analyse all of this in my very own data hub, is that Football Manager hasn’t done enough to engage me as a player of the game, never mind a creator of content, and my short term fix for this? Stop playing it. That’s why you haven’t seen as much from me on Twitch and Youtube in the last 6 months, I’m trying to limit how much I play in hope that the same spark I’d get in my late teens early 20’s would hit me, and a new save would begin and I’d never look back, and trust me there is a part of me that believes that’s still possible, and considering the love and time I’ve put into the game, I really hope it does, fucking hell, if it’s gone completely, that’s not good is it?!
I can talk to you all for hours about the issues and solutions I think are out there for Football Manager in the short and long term, and I’ve got a dialogue with some of the people that work on the game, so I don’t think it’s hopeless, but I do think they’re in drastic need of change, a change that do I believe will be happening any time soon? No. History dictates they’ll be limited and relatively ineffective change, I can’t control that, and when you life depends on it, that’s scary. Nobody inside the Football Manager community to my knowledge has defended and protected Football Manager to the community more than me in the last 7 years, lots of creators have reached out to me to either question themselves or Sports Interactive on a number of topics, and I’ve been a bit of a go between, a community manager without the title, but it’s not a responsibility I was given, it was just one I adopted by being a bit more vocal than others. Luckily I enjoy leadership and importantly, I think I’m good at it! I’d hope anyone involved in the Streamer Showdowns knows that, or anyone who has attended events at the SI Studios has seen it first hand, I’m not afraid to say what I think, but I do respect the need for there being a time and a place for that type of feedback. I’ve already been open about the fact I believe this years game launch was comfortably the worst I can remember, from the announcement video, to the feature set, to the match engine, to the lack of innovation and more recent updates that have provided more questions than answers, I’m exhausted by it.
My position and perhaps reputation in the scene has changed a lot both on and off screen, I’m no longer a 26 year old wannabe comedian making Football Manager videos, I hope I’m a pillar of the community, and as mentioned a moment ago, I’m a leader in the scene both in front of and behind the camera and now I want to be apart of those bigger conversations, in fact I believe it’s important people similar to me are part of them, so if anyone at Sports Interactive is reading this, and isn’t too cross about my ‘review’ of FM23, let’s start having those conversations. (Let’s save them for the New Year though!)
Ultimately then, where does this leave us/me? Well, I’m not going anywhere, this isn’t a content retirement post, and it still comes from someone who wants to be a huge part of this community, but the timing must be right, I have to want to make something I believe deserves your respect, and I have to make something that you enjoy as much as I do. If I was a viewer of me, I’d be hyper aware of my failings in recent series, and I’d be reluctant to invest into them, but all I can say is, I’m very aware of that too, and I won’t return until I’m certain it’ll be the best series I’m capable of making, so until then, have a lovely Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to seeing you on Youtube or Twitch soon.
With love, with care