Tactical Diversity: New FM18 Feature Introduces Gay Footballers

Joel Harvey

Inclusivity is a wonderful thing, especially in gaming.

People who play video games come from all walks of life. And those who are different from whatever is classed as ‘normal’, shouldn’t have to feel marginalized from the gaming world. Somewhat unexpectedly, Football Manager 2018 has become the latest game that’s proudly waving the flag for minorities.

Sports Interactive has recently released the beta version of their annual Football Manager update, with fans already lapping up the game’s new features. And some out there have quickly discovered an interesting easter egg, which has now been confirmed by Miles Jacobsen (studio director at Sports Interactive):

There’s a random probability that a newly generated player in the game (a regen) will come out as gay. And with that news, your team will receive extra merchandising revenue. Now, we’re used to seeing new updates and swathes of tweaks in every yearly FM release. But this one was a surprising little treat.

As a gameplay feature, it’s a relatively small thing. As a watershed moment in sports-based video games though, it’s a huge deal. Some developers in the past have featured LGBT characters in games, but never has this happened in a sports game before.

Football Manager play things differently though. With regen players inhabiting the game world, FM has a certain freedom that other sports titles don’t have. It isn’t bound by legal or trademark issues with these completely fictional characters. And this means they can allow for these regen players to ‘come out’ in the game.

FM has no qualms about diving into real-life social topics either. Last year, they introduced the potential for a Brexit scenario to occur in FM17; which caused all manner of work permit issues and headaches for players. But this wasn’t a political statement, it was a reflection of reality – which is exactly what FM is supposed to be.

There was a mixture of criticism and praise for Sports Interactive for this feature. Some hailed it as a pioneering moment in gaming. Others hated introducing any kind of real-world politics into their game. It seems that not everyone likes their video games to be too real; ironic for FM, because quite often players hate on it for not being real enough.

Predictably then, the more homophobic sections of players out there (and yes, unfortunately there are still plenty of them around) have been loudly dragging their knuckles at this new ‘gaygen’ feature. “Publicity stunt” and “virtue signalling” are the familiar rallying cries of the angry horde. Another criticism has been: “what’s the point?”.

For these folk – many of whom have probably never experienced issues with being ostracized in their own lives – making games like FM a little bit more inclusive is just a pointless exercise.

But it’s not. Of course it’s not. Any developer who introduces positive inclusivity in games should be applauded. Especially in a game based on a sport where homophobia is still an issue.

We know that football has been trying in recent years to become more of a safe space for the LGBT community, but there’s still a way to go. With small steps though, things can change. And hopefully, this new feature in Football Manager will play a part in opening up the gaming (and the sporting) world just a little bit more.

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