Let's look at what you can learn from Football Manager and FIFA and apply to the other game's playing experience.
Tactical DevelopmentAfter several years of playing FM and FIFA at the same time, I can see that my Football Manager teams tend to play the same way as I would actually be playing on FIFA. That is, during match simulation they would occupy similar positions on the pitch, make the same kind of passes and move the same way off the ball. It's uncanny how similar the simulation would look on Football Manager when I'm sitting back (or making changes from the 'sidelines') and how it would look on FIFA (when I'm actually controlling the players).
I've realised now that it the in fine-tuning my football tactics / strategies in Football Manager that has had a knock-on effect on how I play FIFA - my understanding of football has evolved (along with the realistic simulation capabilities of both FIFA and FM) to the point where I play football the same way as I think about it.
My tactical setup - playing tempo, passing speed, pass length and direction, wing play, off the ball movement - has organically evolved into a simple underlying strategy that was perfected on Football Manager and is now used (with considerable success) on FIFA.
Squad DevelopmentGiven that FIFA is nowhere near as involved in player and squad development as Football Manager, there are lessons to be learnt in that area of the game in FM that can make the corresponding sections of FIFA a cakewalk to manage.
What you learn from youth development, recruitment and player training in FM prepares you very nicely to quickly master those aspects in FIFA and maximise squad development in a very short time (something that takes a lot longer on FM).
Adapting StrategiesOn the flip side, there is one obvious thing that FIFA does better than Football Manager - simulation - and this has helped me develop my FM strategies in certain specific ways. For example, what you learn from FIFA in defensive positioning, pressing, movement with the ball, shooting and dead-ball situations is quite valuable (for me at least) in shaping my FM strategies, especially in how to adapt my team's tactical approach based on the opposition's strengths and weaknesses.
FIFA 12 v FM 12Which is the better game? It's a tough question to answer as both games offer different challenges and fulfill different requirements for football fans. And as we've seen above, there is a learning overlap between the two games that can improve your skills and playing experiences.
But if you want to know which game improves your actual football skills, the answer is simple - playing FIFA 12 may help you understand how to defend or time your pass better, and playing Football Manager 12 certainly give you more insights into how to manage a football team - but you're kidding yourself if you think either will improve your actual playing or management skills.
Although with the number of clubs using Football Manager as a scouting tool, surely it's just a matter of time before a Football Manager fan also becomes a real-life football manager. It's certainly more likely than a FIFA player actually graduating to playing competitive football.
Till then, let's just enjoy the games for what they are - an ever-improving and extremely enjoyable simulation.
About the author
The author, Ahmed Bilal, writes about football on Soccerlens.com.