There's a lot of excitement surrounding the news that U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan is on the FIFA 16 cover, sharing the video game's featured image with Lionel Messi. It's been a great summer for Morgan, who is coming fresh off a win at the Women's World Cup, and now, not only will she and her teammates feature among the first playable female team members of the FIFA franchise, but Morgan will also be the first woman to grace the cover of a FIFA game.
Because FIFA dominates the EA Sports market and is one of the most popular video game franchises ever, the decision to include female athletes is a big step. Not only does it make the game more attractive to female gamers, but it gives these athletes a level of fame and notoriety that they greatly deserve. In addition, it brings popularity to female sports and athletes.
However, Morgan and her teammates aren't the first women to appear as awesome video game characters. EA Sports has consistently been showcasing female athletes in their games for awhile now. In fact, EA Sports is one of the only companies bothering to highlight influential females in a positive light. If women want to play as one of their favorite female role models, they've often been constricted to playing as Gwen Stefani or Taylor Swift in Band Hero (a Guitar Hero spin-off game).
There is much to be said about the representation of women in video games. It's an infamously sexist market, where small-waisted, scantily clad women run around with breasts the size of beach balls. But in sports games, at least, females are finally beginning to achieve some level of decent representation. Given the popularity of FIFA, it's likely that other games will begin to include female players, and maybe one day we'll see more realistic female video game characters all across the market.
But until that day comes, the field of women in video games is relatively small. So in the meantime, you'll have to settle for playing as some of the badass females who are represented.
Hayley Wickenheiser, along with Angela Ruggiero, became the first female athletes ever to be featured as playable characters in an EA Sports league-based game. Wickenheiser, a Canadian, and Ruggiero, an American, are both female Olympic hockey players. In 2012, they were both added to NHL 13's roster of hockey legends, joining the likes of hockey royalty such as Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Despite the staggering underrepresentation of female players in professional hockey, the inclusion of female characters in NHL 12 and real-life athletes in NHL 13 was done as a way to increase female interest in hockey. Whether or not it worked is unclear, but it definitely started a chain reaction.
Way before NHL 13 came out, EA Sports was including female golfers in their popular golf games. Not only could players create a female character, but they could play as a number of professional athletes, such as pro-golfer Natalie Gulbis. As one of the more popular female golfers, Gulbis has four professional wins to her name. She's a bit of a pop culture icon, appearing in reality TV shows like The Apprentice and making cameos on CSI. She's also extremely body positive, and has embraced (as well as encouraged) her image as a golf sex symbol. Gulbis made her debut in the 2007 Tiger Woods PGA Tour game. More recently, the PGA Tour franchise has now opened up the ability to play as members of the LPGA tournament.
Serena & Venus Williams
Considering that tennis has long been pretty inclusive when it comes to female players, it's no surprise that female tennis players are well represented in video games. What's more surprising is that there aren't as many tennis-geared games as you would expect. In 2009, EA Sports wanted to see if tennis could draw in the money, so they released Grand Slam Tennis, which was available on Wii only, and featured eight different female players, including Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova. Each of these three women are among the highest-paid female athletes ever.
Williams is the top ranking female tennis player currently, a title she has held six times before. She and her sister Venus are masters of the sport, and you can't help but feel powerful playing as one of these powerhouse women. Williams is featured on several other games, such as the 2011 game Top Spin 4, and was the center of a lot of heat when the game producers leaked a super racy ad featuring Williams playing the game and grunting provocatively.
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