Digital Divide
When Saturday Comes|December 2019
From earnest post-match punditry to being used in actual players’ matchday preparations, the virtual game is becoming increasingly blurred with reality.
Percy Preston

La Marseillaise plays as the camera pans across the teams. Compared with the usual line-up of 11 players, match officials and ball boys, the spectacle is sparse: just two sets of two teenagers wearing tracksuits, each with what looks like a chaperone, possibly their dads. One of the teenagers has their eyes closed, a picture of focus. As the music stops, the players applaud, before breaking off. But we are not in a football stadium and there is no field on which they can now take up their positions. Instead they are in a recording studio in Maidstone, Kent. The players are taking their seats, and we are about to watch them play FIFA.

This is the FIFA eNations Cup, where gamers play EA Sports’ FIFA on behalf of their countries. Representing Argentina are nicolass99fc and Yago, while DaXe and Maestro play for France. The pre- and post-game proceedings are carefully designed to mimic those of a televised football match. As well as the national anthems, pundits and then commentators describe the teams’ run to the final and dissect each player’s playing style. Post-match interviews with the gamers are framed in much the same way as those you’d expect after a Premier League encounter.

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