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FIFA 12: How I learned to love rage quitters

Or, how I learned to stop worrying...

Slightly worried that my nine year-old son has the mind of a griefer.

I'm 2-1 up as Tottenham in FIFA 12's new Head To Head Divisions (designed to combat the myriad complaints over FIFA 11's online matchmaking). It's the main way to play ranked matches online, pitting you against teams of the same star rating and players in the same division - everyone starts in division ten, with ten games to earn promotion.

At 2-1 up against Man City (Spurs now being a five star team it's rare for me to face anyone else aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid) a grim tackle in the area earns me a penalty.

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I pass the controller to the boy because, frankly, he plays more FIFA and I really want the two-goal cushion. Instantly he's flashing through the menus. I start to disagree, but by now he's selected goalkeeper Brad Friedel for the spot kick. My jaw drops.

"What are you...?" I stare in horror at Friedel's wire-thin green sweet spot just as it's dissected by a perfectly timed button press. By the time I recover, Friedel is streaking across the pitch towards the camera with a cupped hand held to his ear. "What are you doing?" The boy shrugs. "It was funny," he says.

FIFA has a reputation for attracting preening, spiteful online players - rage quitters being the headline morons, followed by idiots who pause the game randomly in the hope you'll quit, or make you watch their fugly scrambled equalizers on lengthy replay. The Friedel incident gave me an insight into what they might be thinking.

The new structure of Divisions has done a good job of eliminating quitters. In the 50-odd games I've played to this point I've encountered just one - a Barca baby, who couldn't handle going 2-0 down after 14 minutes.

Everyone else has clung on, and I've been good or lucky enough to hand out a couple of five and six goal beatings. In that one instance, FIFA 12 analysed the disconnection and awarded me the points - it's difficult to see what more action the game itself could take.

The other offenders are still out in force. And without being able to see these people, every random pause and every drawn out goal replay becomes a deliberate attempt to infuriate and upset; each flamboyant over-celebration a skilful fusillade in a psychological war.

But, as the episode with the boy taught me, maybe they're just having a laugh. Maybe they're not trying maliciously to wind you up - maybe they don't care about you at all. Maybe they want to have fun. Losing isn't fun, so they sometimes quit. Scoring is fun, so they watch it again. And again.

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With Friedel swamped by his team mates on the halfway line, my son tells me he would have had the manager take the penalty if he could. "It would have been even funnier," he says.

And he's right. FIFA 12's new Divisions setup goes a long way to providing a structure of reward and punishment that encourages people to play nice. The rest of the distance could be made up by everyone taking a deep breath and remembering that it's supposed to be fun.

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