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FIFA Scripting, Handicapping & Momentum – Does it Exist?

19.04.2020 ©FUTfacts.com
FIFA Scripting, Handicapping & Momentum – Does it Exist?

Rumours about scripting, handicapping and momentum (SHM going forward) have haunted the FIFA community for years. Despite EA's repeated denials, polls suggest that a majority in the FIFA community believe that the game is manipulated.

When I first heard about SHM, I definitely could relate to the frustration which nurtured these claims. But at the same time, there was a nag of scepticism in the back of my head.

Features like rubber banding are common in video games. The reason we know is that game designers typically are completely transparent about it. A good example is EA's own Battlefield series, which uses behemoths to level the playing field. Another good example is in fact FIFA's kick-off mode, which shows a dialogue, where it is announced that it determines the difficulty dynamically when you open a new account!

And what strikes me about SHM in this context is that I really can't think of a good reason to implement it secretly. The controversial part of SHM wouldn't be the things it does to the game – it would be the fact that it is done secretly!

Another thought, which has nurtured my growing scepticism, is that SHM also might work as a convenient excuse. From a perspective of human psychology, it is easier to explain to yourself that you lost because of foul play and not because you aren't as good as you hope. And convenient excuses are common everywhere in competitive environments. An example that leaps to my mind is the complaints about referees in real football.

As an undecided sceptic, I decided to take the debate a step further back in 2014 where I published a couple of articles on the topic. Soon thereafter, I started the FIFA fact checking blog called FUTfacts.com together with a friend.

The idea behind FUTfacts.com is that we want to collect and test evidence with relevancy to the SHM debate to see if we could bring the debate to a conclusion.

Since then, we have analysed and written about every piece of alleged evidence that we possibly could get our hands on as well as conducted research on our own.

You may of course ask: Is it really possible to reach a certain conclusion over these matters? My answer is a clear yes. Below, I will go into detail with the research we have conducted and explain what our conclusions are and why we are so certain about them.

Flimsy claims about FUT scripting

Goals Per Match FIFA Manipulation Claim Analysis

When we started our work, we needed to get our hands around the claims we were to test. But defining scripting, handicapping and momentum is not as easy as it sounds.

The terms scripting, handicapping and momentum cover a broad range of more or less consistent and more or less compatible claims. The bullets below should give you an impression of some of the main streams, although there are other claims and variants as well:

  • Scripting typically refers to the belief that natural or unnatural events deliberately are put into the game for some reason.
  • Momentum can either refer to the belief that EA imposes momentum shifts in matches or to the belief that EA invokes winning or losing streaks on players.
  • Handicapping can either refer to the idea that the better player is handicapped or that the better team is handicapped, meaning that stat differences either are neutralized or even reversed.

I often hear people claim that there is a consensus in the community around that SHM exists, and this alleged consensus is claimed to be evidence in itself. But given that SHM isn't a belief but rather an umbrella term covering a multitude of beliefs, I had to question whether the alleged consensus was real.

To test this question, I made a survey where I asked the respondents whether they considered ten common claims about SHM likely or not. I wanted to know to what extent people shared a common set of beliefs across the ten claims or not. It turned out they didn't. Far from actually.

The survey confirmed that there is a consensus around the overarching idea that FIFA matches a


What we have learned from all the debates and the analyses conducted over the last five years is that absolutely nothing indicates that scripting, handicapping and momentum exists in any shape. I know that this conclusion will disappoint and even provoke a lot of people, who have come to rely on the narrative that their lack of success with the game is a product of foul play.

The reality is that if you do practice and do all the right things in order to improve, you most likely will win more matches. If you are the type of person who have the least doubt about SHM, I can give you one piece of advice: Stop wasting time on conspiracy theories. Go watch some tutorials, practice and player the game instead!

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