FIFA 16 has women’s football, and that’s brilliant

If you’re the sort who even slightly follows gaming news you’ll probably already be aware that FIFA 16 will feature women’s football teams for the first time in the series’ 22-year history.

To say I’m excited about this is an enormous understatement: not just because it offers the ‘new content’ FIFA critics demand on an annual basis, but because of what it stands for.

Let me be honest: I’m not a massive follower of women’s football. I would be lying if I pretended to know a lot about it. I’ve only been to two women’s games and though I keep an eye on the Celtic Women and Scotland Women teams, my involvement doesn’t go much further than knowing Kelly Clark is a bloody good player:

What excites me, then, is what I might end up learning about women’s football by playing FIFA 16. I’m not the sort of person who’ll just randomly watch a football match (men’s or women’s) if my team isn’t playing, but I am the sort of person who’ll play a random match on FIFA regardless of what team I’m controlling.

I’m looking forward to learning all these new players and discovering why the likes of Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan and Stephanie Houghton are considered stars of the game. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one doing so.

It opens up women’s football to a larger audience, then, but it also does the same for the FIFA series itself. My wife will be more willing to try FIFA out now she’ll be able to play as Canada Women (she’s from Ontario) and I’m sure there will be plenty of other female gamers (particularly in North America, where women’s football is massive) who had no interest in FIFA before but may be curious to try it out now.

There’s another reason I’m happy about this news though, and it’s perhaps a more pressing one given the state of the games industry right now: inclusion.

There’s a lot of negativity surrounding gaming right now. Some of it’s justified, but you can read up on that elsewhere. As I’ve already said, this is a site about positivity.

You may not realise it yet but we’re currently experiencing the start of a revolution in gaming equality.

Both those who go out of their way to make women feel unwelcome in gaming and those who mean them no harm but have been blissfully unaware they’ve been under-represented for decades now know in no uncertain terms that female gamers are sick of being ignored.

The situation is still nowhere near ideal but progress is being made, partly thanks to ongoing scrutiny and campaigning on social networks (and I mean real campaigning, not that other pish that masquerades as noble but is in reality anything but).

In a year we’ve gone from Ubisoft saying “sorry, Assassin’s Creed doesn’t have a female protagonist because it’s too much extra work” to “the next Assassin’s Creed will let you play as a man or a woman“. Seems that extra work suddenly becomes worthwhile when the alternative is negative press.

We’ve gone from a Ubisoft writer admitting that we probably won’t see notable gay characters in games for a while because they’ll impact sales, to Dragon Age Inquisition including gay and transgender characters, and even Mortal Kombat X – the ‘manliest’ of games – including a gay character and, importantly, not making a big deal about it as if it was something abnormal.

Slowly but surely the games industry is beginning to give us characters who represent the entirety of their fanbase, not just men aged between 16 and 35. And that can only be a brilliant thing, no matter what the knuckle-dragging minority who feel ‘their’ hobby is being taken from them will tell you in between gnaws of their teething ring.

"That's right, I'm in your precious football game. Deal with it, mate"
“That’s right, I’m in your precious football game. Deal with it, mate”

FIFA is one of the biggest series in the games industry, with each annual instalment easily selling well over 10 million copies a year, a figure due to keep rising as football increases in popularity in regions like North America. FIFA 15 sold 2.66 million in the UK alone in 2014.

This is EA’s biggest franchise. It sells more than Battlefield, it sells more than Madden, it even solds more than Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel (believe it or not). When you then take its Ultimate Team mode into account, FIFA is EA’s biggest money-maker by a country mile.

FIFA 16 Xbox One screenshot 5Crucially, it also has an enormous social fanbase, with nearly 2.8 million followers on its Twitter account (ten times that of Madden and double that of Battlefield). It had been hyping up today’s big announcement for a long time and people had been keen to get their first look at FIFA 16.

That EA’s opening statement for the next instalment of its most important franchise is “we’re representing women too” is infinitely more important than the content itself.

It’s a declaration – despite the inevitable backlash from the darkest corners of its fanbase – that not only are women now featured in its most important game, but their inclusion is important enough to have it celebrated as a key feature, not just some novelty mode tucked away in an Exhibition mode menu somewhere.

It’s more than just twelve new teams, new animations and the like. It’s a new standard that all big games will now be expected to meet.

And that’s brilliant.

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  1. I’ve never been a FIFA fan (I’m not even a football fan) but this is a good thing and I’m glad (and honestly surprised) this has happened. Just wish the people who think this is a bad thing would just spontaneously evaporate, though the idea of fully grown men being threatened by women being in their precious video games makes me laugh

  2. I’ve been a women’s game geek since the olympics so this is increadibly significant for me (after all those petitions it finally happened woo). There’s still a long way to go. Whether it’s adding more teams, clubs or including female players in modes like ultimate. But I want to show full support for what’s currently being done.

    And they need to add Scotland in, I need to play as Kim Little, Lisa Evan and co (I’m sure Kelly Clark will be on the nt sooner or later too :P). This and the women’s world cup in less than 10 days, have made 2015 a real highlight for me. These role models usually never get recognised, I’m so glad that they aren’t being ignored anymore.

  3. I am glad that FIFA 16 will be introducing women’s football and I am also delighted that this article doesn’t link the certain hate to #GamerGate because doing so will be untrue. I think the hate really comes from some young male teenagers who are really annoying on the internet. I reckon in FIFA 17, EA will introduce women’s club teams, probably not Scotland’s club though.

    But many people like Anita Sarkeesian are going the wrong way in terms of creating a more diverse atmosphere, they have created this environment where if there is not a woman or a ethnic minority in the game, Twitter is the solution and complain on there to hold the creator at gunpoint metaphorically until the creator folds. I think the solution is to encourage more women and ethnic minorities into the industry because its certainly less hostile than this outrage culture.

    It’s funny that this narrative created by radical third wave feminists says that white males dominate the industry because when you look at statistics at the hair and beauty industry, its heavily dominated by females, with 25,622 males and 220,173 females.

    So don’t take this as hate towards women because its the complete opposite, I like this new age but forcing creators is simply not the solution. Tomb Raider is great example of not being forced to include a female protagonist, and the franchise was created in 1996 at a time when not many female protagonists were being created, and look how successful the franchise is.

    1. So in other words, women should stop moaning that they aren’t being represented in games and then they’ll be represented in games? Um… I don’t buy that.

      And it’s hard not to take that as “hate towards women” when you are literally blaming women for the situation.

      1. No I am not trying to say that, but why should developers be hounded on the internet for not puting a male or female in their video games? It’s their choice at the end of the day. Who I am blaming at is this outrage culture that seems to never learn that videogames are difficult on every developer because they take forever to develop and they usually work really long hours and get hounded on the internet for such a small thing. I want more women in the industry as you do but there has to be a different way of doing it instead of the constant complaining and shamining.

      2. To be honest, I don’t see many developers being “hounded”. The reason the Assassin’s Creed thing kicked off was because their reasoning for not including a female character was, frankly, bullshit.

        Saying “this is the way we’re doing it because that’s the character we’ve designed” is one thing and usually people won’t complain about that: look at The Witcher 3 for example, there’s been no “hounding” there.

        But saying “we don’t have a female protagonist in the game because that takes up extra resources” when your game is a multi-million dollar project taking years to make is, frankly, bullshit.

        I really don’t see the issue here in female gamers making their voices heard. It doesn’t affect you so why should it matter?

  4. Yeah, I think that animating a female is not that difficult, and of course women should get a voice in the industry like men do, but when you get people like Anita claiming to the mass media that it’s every white male gamer is this bad person, it affect me because it shames us for simply being born white. Yes she does get threats but she shouldn’t assume that every white male gamer is a misogynist, and for all we know its thirdteen years old that are sending these threats. Whoever sends death threats on the internet to anyone should get a jail sentence.

    1. Sorry man, but I’m done here. Life’s too short to be trying to argue with you about this. Try to live and let live – there are more important things in life than worrying if someone’s trying to “shame” you. Some people wish they were fortunate enough to be in a position to be “shamed”.

  5. Yeah, I want this gender politics bullshit to end, so all of us can go back to gaming and be happy about our hobby.

    1. Then I suggest – and please don’t take this the wrong way – you do your bit by not complaining about it. Let women fight their fight and you just focus on gaming.

      1. Perhaps you’re right, but I will continue to fight for ethics in video games journalism because articles like The End of the Gamer is insulting to the industry and I don’t know how Gamasutra/Kotaku/Polygon can attack their own readership. By the way, I really enjoy reading content from Future Publishing like Edge, Gamesmaster, Gamesradar, and OPM. And I am sorry you lost your job at CVG because I loved reading articles from the site everyday. Good luck with The Old Hack website.

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