Sports Games Are Becoming Increasingly Feminine Here’s How
Sports and video games have long been male-dominated areas. Female sports did not even come into formal existence before the past century. But the tide is turning. More and more women are making a splash in individual and team sports alike. Following a similar trajectory, female gamers now account for about 45% of the global population. So, will the future of sports video games be a woman’s world? While we might not be there yet, here’s how the sports genre is pushing female representation in video games.
The 2010s: a pivotal decade for women in sports video games
In the early days, women playing sports video games only had male avatars to choose from. In 2011, it took one teenage girl to bring about change. In a letter, she penned to EA Sports, hockey fan Lexi Peters lamented the lack of female figures in the NHL series. Her letter eventually made her way to the producer of the upcoming NHL 12, David Littman. And that wake-up call bore fruits, as the game introduced the first female playable character. In a nod to Lexi Peters, the teen girl was included as the default face for that brand-new female avatar.
Many games from massive franchises followed suit. The UFC series was notably ahead of the curve, adding eight playable female fighters to its roster as early as 2014. In 2016, the cover of UFC 2 featured Ronda Rousey alongside Conor McGregor. Fast forward a few years, and players can pick one of 45 women characters in the infamous MMA franchise.
But female representation made headway like never before with EA’s decision to include women football players in its flagship series. The top-selling sports game franchise in history moved toward more inclusion with FIFA 16. US superstar Alex Morgan shared the North-American cover with Argentinian icon Lionel Messi. Eleven years later, FIFA 23 was released globally with its first female cover star, Australian forward Sam Kerr.
Going past mere representation
Amassing the largest numbers of players at launch in the series’ history, FIFA 23 showed female representation was no deterrent for long-time fans. Professional footballers like French right-winger Faustine Robert expressed their enthusiasm about being able to play with their own avatars, saying it proved “female football was going in the right direction.” And EA Sports made waves in the disputed market of football video games.
Female footballers are set to make their way into Football Manager. Head of Sports Interactive, Miles Jacobson posted on Twitter in 2021 that the studio was looking for researchers with knowledge of several women’s football leagues in Europe and North America.
Yet, developers are intent on pushing further than sheer representation by adjusting the game to the economical and societal ecosystem of women’s football. They wish to account for the difference in playing styles between male and female players. Ultimately, Sports Interactive also reflects on tackling such issues as motherhood and the impact of the menstrual cycle on performances and injuries.
An upward trend on-screen and beyond
Women’s sports and female gaming are on a converging rise. Despite the occasional backlash and misogynistic comments, games featuring female characters have performed as well, if not better, than their predecessors.
Meanwhile, female athletes draw in fans by the millions. Cumulating a viewership of 365 million worldwide, the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro became the most-watched edition in history. And according to research by The Women’s Trust, a record 17.9 million people watched women’s sports from January to April 2022.
With audiences growing, women’s sports have entered the mainstream. Female competitions are now even available to bettors. In the home of the former European football champions, before England snatched the prize, for instance, Dutch punters can find the best betting sites in the Netherlands to wager online. Expert reviewers have compiled tips for newcomers to pick a reliable and profitable bookie. Free reviews factor in such decisive criteria as competitive odds and juicy bonuses. So, Dutch gamblers can bet on a wide array of global sports and tournaments, whether male or female.
Inclusion is coming to the sports gaming world. Incidentally, major developers are carving a similar path toward more female inclusivity. From the Horizon series to the upcoming GTA VI, female characters are no longer an odd exception. Thus, both male and female gamers can now look to inspiring models on and off the screen.