By Jonny Stone
FIFA sure has had a busy week: Nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted for corruption by the U.S. Department of Justice, and what has unfolded has become one of the biggest football scandals in years. However, there is some good news from FIFA this week for gamers as EA Sports has announced that this year sees the introduction of women players in FIFA 16, releasing the official trailer for the upcoming game in the middle of this enormous scandal. Surely if anything is going to help FIFA’s reputation during their fraud investigation, it will be the inclusive nature of the game and its celebration of women’s football on par with men’s.
But this decision has been a long time coming and was surely inevitable; after all, women’s football is massively popular worldwide and even in terms of professional success the girls often outperform the boys: the English men’s team are 20th in FIFA rankings, while the women’s team are 7th. They deserve to be in the game, and fans will finally get the chance to play as their favourite players in various modes seen in previous FIFA instalments.
FIFA 16 will of course maintain most of the world’s male teams, but will include for the first time women’s national teams from Germany, USA, France, Sweden, England, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, China, Italy and Mexico. And as is the case for players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, the biggest names in women’s football will feature with an authentic likeness, such as England’s Steph Houghton. However, this news of the inclusion of women has divided fans and provoked anger in many, and we once again have seen the ugly misogyny that permeates gaming. The release date has not been announced but it will be available on PS3/4, Xbox One and 360 and Windows.
Much coverage on social media was positive towards the inclusion, with people congratulating EA on actively pursuing equality. But the sexist vitriol that has been spreading over social media platforms is hard to ignore.
Women being on FIFA 16 is a clear example of equality gone wrong.. The standard isn’t as good as the conference so why one and not the other
— Samuel Martin (@SmuelMartin) May 28, 2015
So now there’s gonna be women’s football on FIFA 16, why do women have to interfere with everything we do?! ✋
— Steve (@StevenDiickens) May 28, 2015
Women in Fifa 16? Nice I guess but why would you ever play them unless you wanted to handicap yourself?
— TheGreatCornholio (@modemez) May 28, 2015
i dunno why EA’s introducing women teams on fifa 16 yazi…unless they gonna exchange jerseys at the end of a match 🔥
— ￼ (@bathwese) May 28, 2015
Why is women’s football on FIFA you don’t see men trying to get there way onto NETBALL 16 do we?
— ITK Hector (@ObviouslyHector) May 28, 2015
Trolling women in gaming is nothing new; challenging gender roles in gaming, whether as players or characters, has resulted in female journalists receiving online abuse and threats to their lives. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48% of gamers are women, and only 4% of the main characters in the top 25 selling videogames of 2013 were female: and yet women still endure requests by men to make them a sandwich or play COD from the kitchen.
Thankfully, there are people like Anita Sarkeesian, writer for gaming and pop culture blog Feminist Frequency and the pioneering Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Sarkeesian has been a vocal advocate for women’s representation and gaming and their right to challenge sexism in gaming culture. She herself received death and rape threats, pornographic vandalism of her Wikipedia page and accusations of misandry for defending women’s place in gaming. But she is undeterred, continuing to challenge sexism at all levels of the industry and celebrating the increasing quality of women’s roles in video games. Also, all these haters have achieved is making Sarkeesian and her work more famous and spreading awareness of the issue. Without them we wouldn’t have known about her, and now neither would you. Thanks, haters!
Regardless of the response from narrow-minded male gamers, FIFA 16 is an exciting and inclusive development in what has become a fairly stagnant gaming format. Incorporating women’s teams appeals to the hordes of fans supporting women’s football, broadens the scope of an iconic gaming series and can be seen as an inspiring evolution of women’s status in video games. As for the announcement’s subsequent backlash and beyond, men have to let go of any sense of entitlement regarding gaming; gaming is not a gender-dominated space.