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LGBTQ communities in Britain have made huge in-roads regarding their representation, but there are still parts of culture where homosexuality is taboo – professional football being one. Video game Football Manager is doing its part to change that by introducing gay players. We explore the science of how simulated gay footballers can contribute to equality.

The 2018 edition of Sports Interactive’s Football Manager will include homosexual players for the first time. During gameplay, gamers may receive news updates about computer-generated footballers coming out as gay. “Part of the reason we decided to do this is because there are gay footballers,” says Miles Jacobson, the game's director. “We know from the amount of professionals that there has to be players who are gay but feel they don't want to come out. I find it weird that it's still a problem in football, so we decided to try and show people that coming out isn't a big deal and can be a positive thing.”

In reality, very few professional football players have ever come out, despite a BBC Radio 5 Live survey from 2016 finding that 82% of supporters would have no issue with them. But video gaming has been found to influence the values and views of players, so even a small feature such as the one added to Football Manager could help to combat the taboo and possibly influence the 8% of fans who said that such a revelation would lead them to stop watching their team.

Additionally, increased representation within a game can affect how people behave while playing. Researcher Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee found that the skin colour of other gamers’ virtual avatars can affect how likely players are to use their own ethnic features when creating a character, and how likely they are to bring up their actual race during in-game chat. A full 65% of LGBTQ gamers feel that all sexual orientations aren’t adequately represented among game characters, so tackling this imbalance could appease that vast audience while levelling the playing field of representation.

Katy Young is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a degree in American Studies and Film, and an MA in Journalism. Her interests include wild swimming, thinking of podcast ideas and singing in an all-female choir.

Canvas8

01 Nov 17
2 min read

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