Technical area: a brief history of women’s football in video games

Video gaming has gone hand in hand with the beautiful game for four decades but women’s football was conspicuous by its absence – until recently. Now with the growth of the game, the world is at their feet and our fingertips. Here we bring you a brief history of women’s football within the industry and where it’s heading…


The FIFA franchise, developed by EA Sports, is the world’s biggest title, with tens of millions each year picking up the title. Last year, EA said that over 30 million people played the game, but this year that number looks set to be beaten as over nine million players had taken to the virtual field within a week of its release.

In the 80s, International Soccer first brought a true representation of the game to the Commodore 64, before the original Football Manager was released on the 8-bit computers. Since then, interest in digital versions of the game has developed, with some even moving away from the more traditional forms of football.

Some titles even take football as their theme and adapt it to other genres. For instance, Gala Casino includes online slot titles, such as First Person Football Studio and Top Trumps Football Stars on their site. These lean heavily on football, but without putting you into the action. Another title is Puppet Soccer Champions which looks more like Street Fighter than a football game, with power-ups and comedic representations of real players.

However, what ran through all these titles is that developers had primarily ignored women’s football. Now though, things are changing, as not only have we noted previously on The Offside Rule that the game has moved beyond the crowds, game developers are actively catching on too.

Mia Hamm Soccer

The first game with a female player on the cover was endorsed by one of the sport’s biggest icons at the turn of the millennium, Mia Hamm. The two-time World Cup winner was chosen as the star for the game, Mia Hamm Soccer 64, released on the Nintendo 64. It was released simultaneously with Michael Owen World League Soccer, and aside from the graphical representations of the players looking like women, the gameplay was identical. With 32 international teams and 18 made-up USA league teams, there was plenty to go at but, in truth, the gameplay let it down somewhat.

FIFA 16 – FIFA 22

When FIFA 16 introduced women to the game, it was huge to see EA using motion capture to accurately represent females, with Alex Morgan amongst the four players whose actions were recreated digitally. Since then, women have had a growing influence on the title, but it wasn’t until the latest iteration that we’ve seen the most significant inclusion of women in FIFA to date. Although the domestic sides still aren’t playable in the game, the inclusion of creatable female players to add to the Pro Clubs mode has been a real plus, as noted by Eurogamer.

Football Manager

While women aren’t yet in the latest version of the game, Sports Interactive aims to bring women’s football to the world’s biggest management title. While women have been able to control and manage the men’s game, there’s been no inclusion of the women’s game. With the level of detail needed, that’s why it’s taking so long to see the introduction. However, it’s great to hear the developer’s intentions to bring the world’s most significant women’s leagues to the game alongside their male counterparts. It’s resulted in Chelsea boss, Emma Hayes, commenting that it’s a good sign and massive for the sport.

Overall, it’s a real plus to see females included in such a prominent area of popular culture, which has previously only paid a passing interest to the women’s game. But what’s even more significant is that all the signs point to females being just as prominent in football gaming as their male counterparts in the near future.

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