Soccer

No, People Are Not Mad That FIFA 17’s Main Character Is Black

Reports about a racist backlash to EA Sports' latest gimmick appear to be greatly exaggerated

Soccer
Oct 03, 2016 at 12:17 PM ET

FIFA 17, the latest iteration of EA Sports’ soccer franchise, has a brand new story mode called The Journey which has users play as a fictional soccer player named Alex Hunter. Hunter is a mixed race Londoner who’s breaking into the English Premiere League after growing up a soccer prodigy and users play out Hunter’s first season in the EPL, on and off the pitch.

The Journey is one of those bells and whistles EA Sports periodically tacks on to one of its sports franchises in an attempt to not look like it’s just re-releasing the exact same game every year. Many users will try these gimmick features when they first get the game but then move on to franchise mode, career mode, or whatever traditional mode the user likes.

But according to one report this week, The Journey has caused a bit of controversy because users aren’t allowed to customize anything about Hunter other than his team and position, unlike career mode where users can create a players based on their own likeness. The lack of customization forces users to play The Journey as a black person, which, according to the report, has created a racist backlash that was large enough to warrant the headline “People are mad they have to play a black character in FIFA 17.”

But Vocativ searched the internet far and wide and found scant evidence of a racist backlash against The Journey. We read through every Reddit, Polygon, NeoGAF, and 4chan thread on The Journey, in addition to combing Twitter for possible racist reactions. We did advanced Google searches in hopes of finding a wellspring of the supposed racism. Sure, there were handful of racist tweets related to The Journey, and there were a number of people complaining that they couldn’t customize Alex Hunter, but only in a few comments did the complaint appear to be racially motivated. Even in forums for Gamergaters, there wasn’t talk about The Journey, and Gamergaters have a visceral kneejerk reaction to anything that resembles diversity.

Somewhere on the internet, there is surely someone mad about The Journey’s character being black—racists gonna be racist, after all. But there’s a pretty good reason Alex Hunter isn’t customizable, and that’s because The Journey is a cinematic story based on Hunter’s background. When users complained about the lack of customization, other users would explain this to the complainer, and in many cases the complaint was retracted. Other users pointed out that career mode still exists for people who want to make a character based on themselves; that also seemed to placate people complaining about a lack of customization.

As internet discussions about video games go, chatter about The Journey was remarkably civil, and aside from a few stray comments, not related to Alex Hunter’s race.