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FIFA VIDEOGAMES WILL FINALLY FEATURE WOMEN’S TEAMS

FIFA VIDEOGAMES WILL FINALLY FEATURE WOMEN’S TEAMS

From Wired

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OVER 20 YEARS after the very first FIFA videogame,Electronic Arts is bringing female players to the mega-popular soccer videogame franchise in FIFA 16, to be released for various platforms on September 22.

The announcement this week came just days before the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will play its first group stage game of the Women’s World Cup in Canada.

I bought my first FIFA game years ago largely because the USWNT was taking the summer Olympics by storm and, as a videogame lover and soccer fan, I wanted to play along. I was excited to see who would be in the game and how they’d be represented. Would there be a killer-header Abby Wambach? Crazy fast Alex Morgan? Versatile workhorse Kelley O’Hara?

When I popped the disc in, I was greeted by Messi and Ronaldo and Dempsey and Donovan, but no Wambach. No Morgan. No O’Hara.

I searched every menu and option in the game for the USWNT, hoping I’d just missed something, but ultimately came up empty. It hadn’t even occurred to me that female players wouldn’t be in the game at all. Naïve, perhaps, but I’d assumed that winning four Olympic medals and two Women’s World Cup titles would earn the USWNT a seat at the EA Sports table a bit sooner.
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Finally, with FIFA 16, women’s soccer joins the ranks of the hundreds of men’s teams already represented in the virtual soccer world. The game will include twelve women’s national teams: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States of America.

EA says that the inclusion of female players has been a top fan request, and that it’s considered adding them for years. Working with key US Women’s National Team players Wambach, Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe, EA Canada used advanced motion capture technology to ensure that the female characters look and move naturally on the virtual pitch. Good thing, too, because I can’t imagine that scanning Hope Solo’s face onto Tim Howard’s body would’ve made for a very successful first foray into women’s soccer.

“We’re making sure fans get an authentic experience when playing with Women’s National Teams thanks to our innovative player capture and reference tools,” said EA’s David Rutter, general manager of the FIFA division, in a statement.

Though FIFA 16 will finally include female characters, they won’t yet be full-featured. You won’t be able to add female players to your Ultimate Team, which is a bummer, given that women’s soccer doesn’t just feature the best players in the women’s game, but some of the best players in all of soccer.
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Abby Wambach is the leading international goal scorer for women as well as men. Breaking Mia Hamm’s 158-goal record in 2013, Wambach has now reached a staggering 182 goals scored in international matches. In fact, each of the top six female international goal scorers have made it to the back of the net more times than the male player who holds the men’s top spot, and Canada’s Christine Sinclair is within spitting distance of being the second woman to break Hamm’s record. By comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 52 international goals.

Where gameplay is concerned, little is likely to change, largely because the game itself doesn’t differ greatly from men to women. The rules, the size and specs of the pitch, and the length of the game are identical in men’s and women’s soccer. It’s true that men and women play the game differently, but the differences have everything to do with style, not the regulations or the quality of the gameplay. Women’s soccer is often heralded for its pace, subtlety, and lack of “diving” or faking injuries in an attempt to sway refs–something that’s viewed as increasingly common and problematic in the men’s game.

It’s a great victory to finally see the women’s national teams in FIFA 16. It’s an encouraging first step towards equal representation in a game that’s only really told half of the story of world soccer. But that’s exactly what it is: a first step. I’m excited to play the game with the women’s national team players, but I can’t wait for the day when I can finally add Amy Rodriguez or Lauren Holiday or Ali Krieger to my Ultimate Team.