At E3 2014, EA Sports worked to pump fans up about the newest installment of the FIFA franchise, perfectly timed alongside the kickoff of the FIFA World Cup. While the press hammered Ubisoft with questions about women’s roles in Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Far Cry 4, FIFA 15 managed to sidle by unnoticed.
The Internet virtually exploded after Ubisoft Creative Director Alex Amancio told Polygon that Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s four-player co-op will not offer female character options due to production stresses.
“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” Amanico said.
The decision to cut female representation in particular and the supposed reasons behind it upset many. Critics including Assassin’s Creed III Animation Director Jonathan Cooper further inflamed fans with his tweet saying, “In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two’s work. Not a replacement of 8,000 animations.”
While the gaming community forced Ubisoft to backtrack and reconsider future titles, EA Sports did not get the same criticism for failing to add female soccer players to one of the world’s biggest game.
“It’s something that we’ve been asked quite a bit, and something we very seriously consider, but we don’t have any news on it today,” FIFA 15 Senior Producer Nick Channon told X-One when asked if the game will include women’s leagues. “But it is definitely something we considered and continue to do so.”
While the retention of women’s club level leagues in the United States has been shaky at best, the National Women’s Soccer League continues to grow in popularity and retain stability in its second year, even adding a new team based in Houston this year. Further, since its introduction in 1991, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has also grown, especially in the U.S., as the US Women’s National Team has placed in the top three every time the event has taken place.
Questions about when women will get to star in a soccer game are not exactly new. Petitions have demanded that women be included in FIFA as well as EA Sports’ NHL and PGA Tour franchises. When it comes to women’s sports, soccer tops both hockey and golf in popularity by far. Despite all of the needling from fans, EA has shown no indication of moving in a more inclusive direction with the FIFA franchise other than a non-committal mention of “considering” it.
In an interview last year, FIFA Producer Sebastian Enrique shook off the female players issue in an eerily similar way to Ubisoft’s response regarding Assassin’s Creed this year.
“It is something we have talked about but there are no plans at the moment,” Enrique told GodisaGeek. “There are lots of things we would have to change though, like the physics would be different, it could affect collisions. There would have to be a lot of new models and hair styles, there are a lot of things that are involved.”
In case it needed to be more explicit, his reasoning is basically that developers would have to include breast physics to go with movement and collisions, let alone the complexity of creating long flowing hair that female players have–as if male players all have the same build and hairstyles, and are not just as diverse as females.
The excuse received nowhere near the backlash Ubisoft faced this year at E3 when developers claimed they backed off female assassins for modeling reasons as well. The topic did not come up at all for FIFA 15, instead taking a backseat to the multitude of new features EA Sports is bringing to the latest installment of the franchise.
Flag and net movement, expanded detailing of character models, an interactive pitch and realistic dribbling were all bragged about profusely. But the requirement to model longer hair for some players and the notion that physics would be completely different for female players is unfounded.
It leads one to wonder what the real reason is that the FIFA franchise shies away from expanding its roster to women’s teams–or at least international women’s teams. Considering the rhetoric surrounding women’s soccer in some countries as illegitimate, perhaps fear that they will alienate some of their fanbase is a factor. Fear of upsetting one demographic or another has been reason enough for games in the past to exclude groups including women, particular races, and LGBT.
However, as soccer fans around the globe cheer on their teams, and U.S. fans in particular chant “One Nation. One Team,” it is hard to ignore that half of the team is still missing from gaming’s biggest representative of the sport.