On Thursday, video game and soccer fans were finally able to purchase FIFA 16, from EA Sports. The game has been highly anticipated by fans of the FIFA series, and a major change to the composition and player options for this game are coming at a great time for women. For the first time, a FIFA game has the option to play as a woman. Although the game has been met with mixed critical reactions, the overall response has suggested that it's a great win for women, especially those who have been dealing with sexism in the gaming community. And it's taken as an indicator that games and gaming are moving in a more gender-equal direction.
The inclusion of women in FIFA 16 is big news all around for sports video games. According to a press release from EA Sports that was sent to Bustle,
The addition of women to FIFA 16 is the deepest integration of women in a sports videogame to date ... Fans with the full game on EA Access in advance of launch were so excited about the United States Women’s National Team being in the game that they made the team one of the top ten most selected squads across clubs and national teams already.
The move has gained praise from feminist gamers, and it comes on the tail of a win for the U.S. women's soccer team and record viewership at the Women's World Cup. As for women's response to FIFA 16, the new game is getting mostly positive reviews. Anita Sarkeesian, the co-founder of Feminist Frequency, who has been at the forefront of working towards gender equality both in video games and the gamer community, has made mixed but largely favorable comments about the game. In late June, when the game was announced, Sarkeesian tweeted that "Adding the option for gender-integrated teams to FIFA games could help us imagine that possibility in future real-world sporting events."
But she was also disappointed that it was not possible to have mixed-gender games, saying, "After 22 years FIFA’s video game franchise finally adds playable women. The fine print says mixed-gender teams or matches aren’t permitted." Nick Channon, producer for FIFA 16, told Polygon in May that the game was not offering mixed-gender play to keep it "authentic," citing that there are no real life mixed-gender FIFA matches.
Overall, Sarkeesian has been supportive of the game, writing for her site, "It’s always great to see more games with gender choice and this year we saw a few blockbuster franchises like FIFA and Call of Duty finally add playable women." Other outlets have praised the addition of playable women as well. The Verge published an essay on Thursday, titled "Women Are The Best Thing About FIFA 16." Feminist gamers have also been enthusiastic about the new option, and have jumped on Twitter to express their feelings about this breakthrough.
While there are some mixed reactions, it seems the general consensus is that FIFA 16 is a move in the right direction for the video game franchise, and will hopefully start more of a trend in having empowered women player options in video games. The fact that EA Sports and FIFA were willing to acknowledge that they have a consumer base that is greatly interested in seeing better options for depictions of women in video games is huge.
Women have been advocating for better representation in games for years and years. Now, women's soccer fans can see their favorite players (or at least some of them; only 12 women's teams are included in the game) represented in a FIFA title. And while the change might not be perfect yet, it's a sign that things are slowly improving for women in gaming.
Image: EA Sports