Video games giant EA Sports has received criticism for failing to include women’s players and teams on its popular title “FIFA” in the wake of the United States’ dramatic victory over Japan for the Olympic gold medal.
The Americans’ 2-1 triumph was watched by over 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium and an audience of 4.35 million, a new record for NBC Sports Network.
Yet, there are still no soccer video games that feature women, denying fans the opportunity to perform as stars like Abby Wambach or Hope Solo on “FIFA,” a new version of which is released every year and has sold more than 100 million copies.
Frustrated fan Fernanda Schabarum from Boca Raton, Fla., began a petition this week to try to force EA Sports to change its policy and respond to the additional exposure of women’s soccer following a remarkable Olympic tournament. Schabarum started a campaign on the website change.org.
“Athletes, young and old, look up to these women for their athleticism and sportsmanship,” Schabarum said. “EA Sports should feature them in the next FIFA release so that all soccer fans can have a chance to play as their favorite soccer stars.”
In spite of its current vast selection of game modes and features, none of the FIFA games has an option for women’s teams or female players.
The Entertainment Software Association has stated that 47% of all players are women.
And the US Department of State says that over 40% of soccer players in the US are girls.
Despite the success of the American team, women’s soccer struggles to get attention outside of major championships – a situation that could be helped by the team’s inclusion in the wildly popular video game. U.S. league Women’s Professional Soccer folded earlier this year after three seasons.
“Don’t restrict our choices to Messi, Rooney, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo,” Schabarum adds. “Allow girls and boys to play with Wambach, Sawa, Morgan, Cristiane, Miyama, Rapinoe, Marta, Hope Solo, Mia Hamm, Birgit Prinz.”
Gold-medal hero Carli Lloyd, who scored twice in the American’s final victory, believes adding female athletes to the game could have a positive impact on women’s soccer.
“I would love for EA Sports to add females to the FIFA games,” Lloyd said. “Women’s sports have come a long way, and it will only help grow the game if EA Sports added females to the game.”
An EA Sports official said the company routinely reviews fans’ suggestions for the game. But David Rutter, executive producer of “FIFA 13″ quashed the idea of making change to the line-up.
“We get literally thousands upon thousands of suggestions from our fans for new features and we have to evaluate those suggestions, such as the inclusion of female players in the game, against our resources, priorities and overall fan feedback,” said David Rutter. “At the moment, we don’t have plans to include female players in the game.”
Last year, thanks to the efforts of a 14-year-old hockey-loving girl, EA Sports National Hockey League title was released with one big, shiny new feature: the ability to create female player avatars.
So there may be hope yet. EA would be foolish not to add women to an upcoming version of FIFA don’t you think?