It started with a simple equation: TV + Xbox = FIFA.
Nick (my roommate) and I came back to Duke after a semester abroad to a very familiar Central Campus apartment. I guess we lucked out this time around in the lottery because they gave us a nicer couch! We were roommates last year and have never done too much to our room. It’s home-y enough, but not too crazy. I have a TV from sophomore year that we used to watch away basketball games and the occasional Netflix show. This year was a different story. Nick came back to Duke with a new addition to the room: an Xbox. I soon learned that an having an Xbox and a TV naturally leads to playing a lot of FIFA. I’ve never been that good at FIFA, nor have I played that much Xbox so I’m just an observer. (If you want to read a post on my FIFA playing days and my favorite player, check this out, it’s worth a read.) Over the semester, casual FIFA between Nick and our friend Brian has turned into a competitive, bet-oriented nightly ritual.
From Casual Play to Friendly Betting.
I don’t think anyone could have told you what this was going to evolve into when it started because everything started out pretty normally. Nick and Brian had a fair amount of free time around the start of the semester. The Duke student workload hadn’t started to compound on itself at this point so they played a lot of games. It’s a fun time, who can blame them? Brian likes to bet. It makes things more interesting and adds another element to the game. (This is not an unheard of idea.) They’d bet five dollars here and there. As an observer it definitely makes it more fun. Sure, losing five dollars isn’t the end of the world, but the idea that money was on the line made it fun. They didn’t always bet money. Sometimes the loser might have to embarrassingly post on Facebook admitting the defeat. Other times a Jimmy John’s sandwich was on the line. No matter what the bet was, it was all in good fun.
From Friendly Betting to Something’s Not Right.
These bets continued on and they progressively became more intense. It’s wasn’t just one Jimmy John’s sandwich anymore, it was three. This inadvertently happened because Nick and Brian built up respect for each other. If the other person wins the first game, they almost always offer to do double or nothing on the next game. They’re pretty even competitors so doing this usually wipes the board clean. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect process, and you can quickly find yourself multiple Jimmy John’s sandwiches in debt. Brian sustained a hot streak through the end of January and he cleaned out Nick. He kept a spreadsheet to track his new income. (It never totaled more than a couple hundred dollars, but was still significant.)
Towards the end of January, Brian and Nick made an interesting deal. FIFA was becoming too much of their lives so they made a pact. If either of them played a game of FIFA anytime in February, they’d have to pay the other person five dollars per game. This stopped FIFA for all of a few days before Nick found a workaround.
Enter Steve. Steve’s another friend. To honor the pact and still play FIFA, Nick would bet five dollars on FIFA games with Steve. If he won, Steve would just pay Brian directly, that’s where the money was going anyways. If Nick lost, we’ll he’d be out ten dollars because he’d still need to pay Brian as punishment. It was a risk, but Nick maintained this FIFA lifestyle through mid-February. So yes, Steve lost a good amount of money and FIFAless Brian gladly expected random Venmo payments.
From Something’s Not Right to There’s Definitely a Problem.
I guess they couldn’t go the whole month because by Valentine’s Day they were back playing FIFA. Ever since then, the bets have been getting out of hand. I don’t hear five dollars anymore. Somebody always owes the other twenty dollars. I come back from Spring Break and word travels that Brian owes Nick eighty dollars after one night (effectively eliminating anything Nick might have owed Brian.) Since then, that eighty dollars has almost doubled and a pair of shoes is on the line. This current form of betting is the craziest it has ever been and I’ve wanted to understand it all from their prospective for a while. So, when they were playing a game last week, I asked them a few questions.
Brian and Nick Talk to Me
I think their lighthearted responses to my questions really show that, even though the stakes have risen, they still play for fun. At the core, I wanted to understand why they bet money in the first place. For Nick, it, “adds a level of excitement to the game, adds a different element and makes it more real.” Betting has never been about the money for either of them. Brian said that the money, “was just a tangible metric that I could use to assert my authority over Nick in the game, but that has since changed.” If Brian’s debt didn’t make it clear, Nick has improved throughout the semester. Brain explains, “If we parse this into the first half of this semester and the second half, we can classify it as pre-ultimate team Nick and post-ultimate team Nick. I used to win much more. He has practiced a lot.”  (Just think of ultimate teams as a really great way to get people to play FIFA for a long time.)
With Brian’s current debt in mind, I wanted to understand when they actually realize money is on the line. (They are so accustomed to betting now, it’s seems like they aren’t phased by a five dollar bet.) When do they become price sensitive? I like Brian’s response. He told me, “I wouldn’t say I’ve become price sensitive at any one point. I would say that because there’s always the hope [to make your money back]. When in reality, it’s just too far. It’s like the green light in Gatsby, it’s blinking from across the pier. You think you’ll get there, but you won’t.” Even though Nick is up a good amount of money on Brian right now, Nick admits, “it’s gotten to the point where it’s so back and forth that we know the money’s just going to keep cycling around.” 
When it’s all said and done, Brian explained that FIFA, “is just a nice way to spend time with your friend, competitively, and it’s a source of jokes and good banter.” Nick agrees, saying its, “quality time.”  Maybe the betting is getting a little bit out of hand, but it’s still rooted in good. I guess that’s what really matters (as long as Brian doesn’t find himself thousands of dollars in debt by the end of the semester.)
Written by Michael Olson
 EA Sports. “FIFA Cover Photo.” Digital image. Https://www.sparksunderland.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/fifa18-homepage-topterhero-bg-xs.jpg. Accessed March 20, 2018.
 “Brian and Nick FIFA Interview.” Interview by author. March 20, 2018.