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A list of sports games omitting EA Sports’ Fifa franchise will be considered either incomplete or biased. Each year the Fifa franchise records millions of sales. The sales usually peak with the release of a new edition like in 2022 when the Fifa23 was released in late September.

EA Sports Fifa23 poster featuring Mbappe and Kerr (Photo credit: EA Games)
Fifa23 poster featuring Mbappe and Kerr (Photo credit: EA Games)

Available data shows that EA sold 14.4 million copies of the game in the UK making it the most successful release in the history of the franchise. It also topped the list of the highest-selling game in the UK in 2022.

However, a new study has accused the Fifa franchise of racism, claiming the game was guilty of misleading viewers on the difference in abilities between black and white soccer players.

The franchise which debuted in 1993 has sold over 260 million copies across the 29 different editions that have been released. There are also speculations that the Fifa games will be rebranded to EA Sports FC in no distant time.

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Damning findings of the two researchers about EA Sports Fifa20

Ea Sports Fifa20 poster featuring Hazard (Photo credit: GodisaGeek)
Fifa20 poster featuring Hazard (Photo credit: GodisaGeek)

The study conducted by the duo of Paul Ian Campbell and Marcus Maloney using Fifa20 was published in volume 23, issue 8 of Soccer & Society. According to the researchers, the performance of the players in the game is determined by a score ranging from 1 to 99.

The player’s overall rating is determined by values they were assigned in 29 different competencies which include long shots, jump height, aggression, and strength.

The score each player is assigned in their competencies is determined by data collected from a team saddled with the responsibility of interpreting the competencies of soccer players in the real world.

After analyzing data from Fifa20, the researchers claimed the game developers gave top black players greater attributes in competencies that were considered ‘physical’ like higher jump and greater speed.

On the other hand, white players scored higher in technical and cognitive skills. In other words, black players are stronger and faster while white players are more technical and smarter.

To back up their claim, the researchers presented a point comparison assigned to black and white players in competencies that were considered physical.

CompetenciesBlack PlayersWhite Players
Sprint speed79.1571.63
Jump78.1971.24
Physical strength76.6972.0
Balance76.6975.45
Aggression74.0471.5

The researchers discovered that white players were given the edge when it comes to competencies relating to the cognitive and technical ability of the player. They found a repeating pattern where white players scored higher than black players in almost all the competencies in this category.

CompetenciesBlack PlayersWhite Players
Ball crossing71.3572.29
Free kick accuracy64.5367.98
Pass curve accuracy71.0474.53
Composure84.6285.4

The importance of the numerical values assigned to players

Unlike in the real world where soccer players can be unpredictable, digital players act based on the numerical values they were assigned. Any action contrary to their assigned codes is considered a glitch rather than a genius.

The argument of the researchers is that as a result of these differences, video game players get a certain experience when they use black players and another when they switch to white players. Thus, players of Fifa20, from a young age, will begin to learn racial differences by associating certain attributes to certain races.

Another researcher, Soraya Murray also highlighted that video game is a powerful space that can influence the racial judgment of kids and adults. The researcher revealed this through her book “On Video Games” published in 2021.  

Campbell and Maloney stressed that their findings show the subtle ways through which stereotypes are reinforced. The researchers said, “there is a risk of teaching children that black and white athletes are meaningfully different through sight, sound, and touch”.

EA Sports highlights critical flaws in the study design

Fifa23 featuring Alphonso Davies model (Photo credit: EA Sports Steam)
Fifa23 featuring Alphonso Davies model (Photo credit: EA Sports Steam)

Apparently, The Conversation reached out to EA Sports, for comments regarding the findings of the study on their Fifa 20 game. A spokesperson of the company said the researchers presented a “narrow and incomplete data view of overall player ratings”.

The EA Sports spokesperson emphatically said that there was no correlation between skill and skin tone “when accounting for a position in our game”.

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“The study did not account for the player position, which is crucial when determining a player’s final attributes,” the spokesperson said. “Furthermore, the study accounted for 88 of approximately 17,000 players found within EA Sports Fifa20. In our most recent game, EA Sports Fifa23, this total is now over 19,000.”

Opinion from a video gamer perspective

Campbell and Maloney are likely not video gamers or they would have understood that the attributes given to the players, although important, cannot be compared to the skill that video game players develop.

An armature player can use a team with a maxed-out rating and still lose to a professional using players with average ratings. To excel in Fifa20 (and most other games) what the player requires are quick decision-making and good hand-eye coordination.

Gamers will probably be too busy with building their playing skill to notice any racial bias. While it is good to call out racism in all its forms, researchers are often guilty of making trusting followers think in a certain way—which is what Campbell and Maloney might have done here.


4 Comments

- Ezeneto Nebe- · January 22, 2023 at 2:38 am

This is really impressive, the world of gaming will experience a new kind of upsurge

Stained_mouse on instagram · February 12, 2023 at 12:33 am

Wow! 19,000 players. That’s a huge number. The football gaming universe is slowly becoming a vast universe.

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