Last summer, Ubisoft explained that they didn’t include any female avatars in Assassin’s Creed: Unity because “It was really a lot of extra production work.” More animations, more voices, more everything. Though Ubisoft backed down from the “challenge” of including women (at least temporarily – it looks like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate will include a female assassin), EA has stepped up to the plate, or, rather, the pitch: FIFA 16 will include women’s national teams for the first time in the series’ history.
As the trailer above shows, EA used motion capture, as well as other technologies, to add realistic portrayals of 12 women’s national teams to the upcoming game. Though this took more time and effort than simply keeping the same male teams from the previous titles, EA pursued the goal of adding the female players from the very start of production. Says FIFA series vice-president and general manager David Rutter, “[Including women in the game] has been in the pipeline for a few years, and really it was just a case of making sure that the game was in a good enough state for it to work properly.”
Rutter’s comment is great evidence for the fact that including women in a game is 100% achievable – if it’s something that has been planned from the very beginning of the development process. Adding in anything – not just new characters – last minute is never a great plan, but creating space for greater representation right from the start means you can deliver something amazing in your final product. For EA, setting aside the time and effort it took to create new animation rigs resulted in a greater variety of available player types in general – not just in terms of female characters. Again, Rutter states:
“Now we’ve had to implement a new system that allows for the hips to be moved, the shoulders to be moved vertically, and the width of those bones and joints to be a factor too. It’s a pretty big change. The cool side effects are that we now have scalable skeletons, so we can also support different body types in the men’s side of the game…A large number of female athletes have long hair, so we’ve had to focus on improving that element too. Again, that enables us to improve the look of male players with similar hairstyles.”
Including women’s teams allowed EA to expand the horizons of the entire FIFA series – a fantastic example of how equality benefits all of us, rather than a certain sect or group within society. And the inclusion of women in the game means the inclusion of female role models for young girl gamers – following the “if she can see it, she can be it,” idea, accurate and wider representation in media is an important step towards empowering young women to pursue their passions and their interests. And now girls can play as women in some of the biggest soccer matches and stadiums in the world. U.S. forward Abby Wombach commented on the importance of this representation: “We obviously attract the younger girl fan, and for all the younger girl fans out there who play and are gamers, this will be another way for them to connect with us. And maybe we can create new fans.”
There are downsides, of course – the women’s teams can only play each other, and there are only national sides, rather than domestic teams or clubs. You won’t be able to play as Barcelona or the Seattle Sounders just yet. And there are those voicing their displeasure on social media about the inclusion of women:
“Women’s national teams on FIFA 16? What the fuck why would I want to play with women, they shouldn’t even play football! Get gone”
— alexanderowen01 (@Alex Williams)
“So now there’s gonna be women’s football on FIFA 16, why do women have to interfere with everything we do?! ✋”
— StevenDiickens (@Steve)
“i dunno why EA’s introducing women teams on fifa 16 yazi…unless they gonna exchange jerseys at the end of a match 🔥”
— bathwese (@￼)
(These are just a few choice samples. See Buzzfeed’s article on the game for more.)
Obviously, things aren’t perfect yet. But they’re better than they were, and heading upwards. The repeated mantra of “we’re in the game” in the trailer gave me chills the first time I heard it – first and foremost, ‘game’ means the sport of soccer, obviously, but in the context of FIFA 16 it’s also video games, an arena that women and female characters have too often been excluded from. The idea that “we’re in the game” now – FIFA 16, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Last of Us, and the list goes on – and that we will continue to be in this game and more and more games as time goes on…well, that’s certainly something to celebrate.