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EA Sports is one of gaming’s biggest developers of sports games. FIFA 23 is commonly one of the best-selling games of the year, while Madden, NHL, F1, and UFC all sell well in their related countries of interest. Over the last few years, EA has introduced more women into FIFA, NHL, UFC, and now the upcoming PGA game, and has even started putting a few on the covers. But that doesn’t mean that players are excited about it or even using them.

You see women in these sports are included but not really integrated. There are women’s friendlies, a number of female players, and all the clubs from the WSL and Ligue 1 Féminin. However, they are surprisingly absent from FIFA’s most popular mode FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT). FUT is a fantasy mode where you can mix and match players from all different clubs, including deceased players like Pelé and Bobby Moore, but you can’t use even the best female players like FIFA cover star, Sam Kerr.

Sam Kerr FIFA 23 cover athlete

Sam Kerr might be FIFA 23's cover star, but you can't use her in FUT.

The number of FIFA players that play women’s matches will tell you about their integration in the game. There is a bronze trophy on PlayStation for playing a single women’s match, which has been achieved by around 7% of players at the time of writing. By comparison, the more difficult gold trophy, which requires you to play at least 200 matches of FUT, has been achieved by 17% of players. While I’m sure there are those that would refuse to play with women in FUT even if they were available, it’s not an issue of realism. If you can recreate George Best in his prime, I’m sure you can give Alexia Putellas a bit more pep in her step.

When it comes to women’s sports in real life, it is often the funding and the sponsorships that have stopped women from competing on the same level as men. Slowly, more funding has gone into these, but it speaks volumes that there are still no women in Madden 23 or F1 22. The real F1 has announced a new women’s series that will start this year, with the hopes of training aspiring female racers to join in at the professional level. This is a huge step forward for the sport, and we hope to see the first women racers in F1 23.

EA’s decision to include female players in games where possible certainly does a lot to boost the popularity of women in sport. While the first steps are tentative, at least they are in the right direction. We attended the preview for PGA Tour, and things were promising. Only five women players were introduced at the online event, but then we also only saw four men. There were notable exceptions on both sides, including Rory Mcllroy and Lydia Ko, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be announced at a later date.

What was interesting was the new 16-player online multiplayer. The golfer you use is more like an avatar than a FIFA player, which gives you more flexibility in who to play as. Currently ranked men’s number 2, Scottie Scheffler, won’t hit any harder or aim any better than women’s number 33, Jessica Korda. How well they do is all up to you. You can even create your own custom golfer who can be a man, woman, or non-binary. All of these can compete together in multiplayer, and all have the same chance at winning.

Gaming is all fantasy, and while the vast majority of sports don’t have men and women competing side by side, there’s no real reason why they can’t in game. While they may be fictional in FIFA or NHL, they are based on real people who want to raise the profile of their sport. EA’s made the right steps, but it’s time to take a leap.