Monday, August 20, 2012

The great FIFA plea!

From the windows at the back of my house, the major facet of the view is a football pitch. It is quite the local focus at times, with days when two or three matches are played. Sometimes, when I look out, I see a practice session taking place. This proximity pleases me greatly, because I have a 5 year old son. Naturally, I would love it if he were to take an interest, and start to play football. It looks very much like he doesn't care, but he is only 5. There is time yet.

My daughter is not yet 3. She doesn't sit with me when I am watching a match on TV. But, she does like to stand on her blanket box and watch when there are matches taking place outside. I truly don't know if she really likes it, or if she would just do anything rather than go to bed. I strongly suspect it is the latter, but just in case I tend to let her get away with it for a while.

A girl who is interested in football might seem like an unusual thing to some. It isn't where I live. And this is not least because about half of the matches that I have seen played on that field have been played between two teams of female players. It is, in fact, the ground where Longhougton Rangers Ladies play their home matches.

So, my daughter is growing up in an environment where it is definitely the norm for girls to play football. She didn't really care so much during the Olympics, as she was generally in bed when the Team GB Ladies played their games, but in 4 years time this may be a different story. (Assuming, of course, that Team GB even enter the football in Rio!) By then, she may well have seen so much football on the local field that she not only wants to also watch on TV, but may even want to play for herself. Which is good, because she won't have to go too far at all.

And, as she gets older, she may even want to play football on one of the games consoles. So far, all she has ever bothered to play is Skylanders, but she does love grabbing the controller to switch them on. It is just a matter of time before she shows interest in other games as well. Her brother recently inherited his own copy of FIFA 09, which he is insistent on playing even though I actually bought FIFA 12. Since she adores her brother, I have no doubt that she will force her way into playing alongside him. Maybe they will argue over who gets to be Liverpool? (I can but hope, even though right now I question why I would want to inflict being an LFC supporter onto anybody at all, let alone two people I love.)

Sadly, what she won't be able to do is to play as a Ladies team. None of the FIFA games offer this option. This is despite the ever increasing popularity of the women's game, as well as the ever increasing amounts of females playing and buying games. For whatever reason, EA have done their internal maths and decided that the cost to implement women's football into the game would be more than they would expect to recoup.

Understandable? I thought so.

At first.

But then, I thought about it a little more. And I came to a somewhat obvious conclusion.

Dear EA Sports. You know that catcphrase you use? I think you need to stop using it.

"If it's in the game, it's in the game."

Oh dear. That desn't quite add up, really. Clearly, this is a sizeable aspect that is NOT in the game at all.

Please, EA, think about this. My daughter is already going to grow up in a world where she won't be treated the same as her brother will by many. She will be held to a different set of standards, because there is not full equality between the sexes as things stand. You show this yourselves, by simply not including females in any of your sports games. With a title that sees a new release every single year, often updating little but the playing rosters, what genuine reason is there to not push this boat out and see how many fish it catches?

Let's face it, the games industry in general could use the positive press. EA, you could especially benefit from having something positive to announce, to deflect at least a small part of the bile and hatred that the gaming community is oh so ready to throw your way.

I'll put it another way, shall I? I hereby promise to not buy another FIFA game UNTIL you include women's teams. I don't care how many litle marketing gimmicks you throw in along the way, such as making my team reflect the real version. Why the hell would I want to do that? The real version of my team is having a terrible time of things! At least my digital version can give West Brom the hammering that I was hoping to witness, thus leading to partial easing of the pain I feel when reading message boards today. My virtual team can play on, safe in the knowledge that Luis Suarez will be treated by the referees exactly they same as the other players are, and not as he is in the Premier League as if he is the actual father of all evil in the Universe. (A yellow card for waving an arm at the referee? REALLY? I'll bet £50 with ANYONE that Rooney and Terry get away with much worse before this month is out.)

Whereas, the game that does include women's teams, not only will I buy a copy on launch day, I will also buy another copy to gift to my sister. She doesn't even play games outside of fitness stuff on the Wii, but she does like football. She would NEVER buy it for herself, so you will demonstrably be gaining sales if you include this option. Take this to your accounts department, marketing teams, Mr. Riccitello, Mr. Moore, whoever you need to. Bank on this, because I am not alone. I am just one of many who wants to see this change.

The rest can be found in this petition. That's plenty for now, isn't it? And that is just from those of who actually talk about games on the internet. The vast majority of your FIFA buying fans don't. If you are ignoring this percentage of us, what about THEM?

I am aware that there is a tiny chance that some people reading this are not employed by EA. If you are one of those, then I would like to implore that you go and sign the petition yourself. Please? Ta, loves! And, spread the word.

My blog is small, and humble. It may not carry the weight of many of the big sites out there. But, it carries as much meaning as any other outlet, more so to me personally. This is a cause I am happy to champion. This is a challenge I am willing to share. Because, this is a development whose time has come. The Women's Football Gold Medal in the Olympics went to the US, which probably means that a new generation is ready to become fans. By not including women in the game ... well, you run the risk of being left behind by the first software house that does include them.


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  2. As a father I'm with you. As a fellow writer and videogamer and internet friend, I thank you.

    The petition now has over 4300 signatures, which must now make up a significant chunk of EA's overall fan feedback. And it's still going.

    But it's not just 4300 signatures, there are thousands of signatories who have taken extra time to give their reasoning to EA.

    The great news, is that EA are listening, they've set up a telephone interview between FIFA Producer David Rutter and petition starter Fernanda Schabarum for tomorrow to hear what she has to say.

    Before we start throwing bile and vitriol around, it's worth remembering that EA have always listened. But this is a BIG ask. I got my fingers crossed though, the ramifications could be massive in lots of areas.