A Brief History of Women's Football in Video Games
Jul 25, 2022
For many years, there's been inequality in soccer between men's and women's games.
Only recently did the USWNT achieve equal pay with their male counterparts, and that's very much the exception in the wider global game. Recently, 90 Minutes explained how the Netherlands has followed suit, and there are sure to be other high-profile nations joining very soon.
That equality will continue to spread to other facets of the game, with gaming as another industry breaking down barriers. The NFT-based soccer trading game Sorare announced they would add women's soccer to their offering as part of a push within women's sports. Sadly, they are the exception rather than the rule.
Women’s soccer in gaming: past, present, future
Soccer games have been popular since the beginning of the gaming industry. Before technology could put a ball at your feet, titles such as Football Manager by Kevin Toms were well-received. As home computers improved, so did the quality of the action, with everything from Pro Evolution Soccer to Actua Soccer bringing different innovations.
Soccer has also proven popular on mobile and other digital platforms; Real Football and New Star Manager are two games with a wide target audience. Then there is the online slot from Gala Spins, named 11 Champions, which brings a soccer element to a different genre.
Some games make you manage a team, be the chairman, and now even card trading games such as Soccer Star 2020 Football Cards. One thing they all have in common is the absence of female players.
That's why the Sorare announcement is big news; it represents another barrier being torn down for women in soccer, another step towards equality and parity between the sexes. Sorare is not the first innovator; these three games all took huge steps towards bringing women's soccer games into your homes.
Mia Hamm Soccer 64
Mia Hamm Soccer was way ahead of its time, as it was a standalone women's soccer game that still hasn't been replicated. In Europe, it was released as Michael Owen's WLS 2000. To appeal to the US market, however, it was rebranded.
Soccer in the US has always been a women's game as much as a man's, and Mia Hamm was the biggest star of the time. The game wasn't great, but it did set the bar which, thus far, none have beaten.
Women's Soccer Manager
Women's Soccer Manager is a game dedicated to the women's sport, but only appears on mobile and iOS. It's in the same mold as the hugely popular Football Manager series, where you can buy and sell players, set tactics and attempt to outwit the opposition.
The NAWSL, the Women's Super League and the European Champions League are all the world's top leagues and are included in the title. The game has proven popular on mobile devices and is certainly one bridging the gap in equality.
FIFA 2016, the annual EA Sports game, was the first major title to include the women's game. FIFA 2016 was the title that broke new ground, featuring women in soccer on the cover and several licensed international sides.
Their inclusion came after Spanish player Verónica Boquete lobbied EA Sports via a Change.org petition. It gained 20,000 signatures in just 24 hours, partially forcing the gaming developer's hand. Little has evolved in the six years since, but women in soccer are still included, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when they shed the FIFA licensing in 2023.