The FIFA 23 lords giveth, and the FIFA 23 lords taketh away. Fans have been asking for the National Women’s Soccer League to be added to the game for over a decade, and EA finally dropped all 12 teams (plus the UWCL) into the game yesterday. Unfortunately for the women on those rosters, their in-game likenesses are the stuff of uncanny valley nightmares.
Not only do many of these players look nothing like their real-world counterparts, but in some instances FIFA 23 whitewashes the hell out of them, as shown in the above tweet by Houston Dash player Caprice Dydasco. “I’m grateful EA Sports is finally including the NWSL but this does not represent me,” she writes alongside an image of her in-game character and one of her in real life. Dydasco, who is from Hawaii but identifies as “mostly Asian,” is notably lighter-skinned in the video game screenshot.
Angel City FC and former USWNT player Sydney Leroux has been the most vocal on social media, pointing out how much more realistic her likeness looked back in FIFA 16, when she was added along with the entire U.S. Women’s National Team.
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Leroux then quote-tweeted several players’ tweets about how they look in-game, laughing at the absurdly bad character models. “Found my long lost twin! Fraternal obviously,” tweeted Portland Thorns player Janine Beckie. Leroux’s teammate Madison Hammond wrote “Somebody please lmk when they find me, Madison Hammond #99 from Angel City! Because this...is simply not!” Leroux wrote “mam that is Didier Drogba” in response, referencing the male Ivorian retired professional player. Hammond is, notably, of Black and Native American descent.
Leroux also shared a screenshot of the bald character model of San Diego Wave keeper Kailen Sheridan and wrote, “I know you expect women to just be thankful and grateful that you’ve given us a little sliver of publicity but please stop wasting our time. Some of us are bald.”
Sheridan responded to the tweet with a picture of a different character model of her saying, “Bruhhh how I go from shaved had [sic] for Canada and a full bun in San Diego, this Bosley hair grown [sic] ain’t no joke.”
Both Leroux and Hammond have changed their Twitter profile pictures to their in-game models, clearly poking fun at the situation.
FIFA 23 does utilize EA’s facial scan technology to create more realistic avatars of professional players, and did appear to do this for the Arsenal and Manchester City women’s teams back in July of last year. But EA does not appear to have the resources to incorporate these hyperreal scans for every single player, which is likely why they often add new scans in updates.
But it doesn’t look like FIFA 23 used any sort of facial scanning technology for the NWSL players, even though Leroux alleges that she was scanned for the game. “Please tell me I did not do an entire body scan for that...” she tweeted in response to a video of gameplay where she is unrecognizable. Kotaku reached out to Leroux’s representation as well as EA for comment.
Considering women’s footy is still frustratingly under-appreciated despite the USWNT being more successful than the USMNT and women’s soccer being more enjoyable to watch overall, it’s frustrating that every time they get a crumb of recognition, it’s undermined by shit like this.
Update 03/23/23 at 2:45 p.m. ET: Updated to clarify Caprice Dydasco’s identity.