Teen Girl Convinces EA Sports to Add Female Avatar to NHL12 Game

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It's no secret that girls like to play hockey.  And some of them are pretty darn good. Just look at players like Cammi Granato, Angela Ruggiero, Manon Rheaume, and Hayley Wickenheiser .

Although still a male-dominated culture, girls’ participation in hockey is growing explosively. According to USA Hockey, there were 10,000 girls registered during the 1992-93 season compared to more than  65,500 last year. Hockey Canada reports roughly 5000 girls playing in 1990, whereas that figure has jumped to nearly 100,000 today. 

Girls are allowed to play hockey on the ice, but when it comes to playing videogames, they're forced to masquerade as men. In-game avatars are customizable but the model has always been a guy - a big, burly, enforcer kind of guy.

Well thanks to the efforts of a 14-year-old hockey-loving girl, things are changing.  The latest EA Sports National Hockey League title was released September 13 and  the new edition contains one big, shiny new feature: the ability to create female player avatars. Who's the enforcer now?

According to the Globe & Mail, Buffalo, New York high school student Lexi Peters was frustrated by the fact that there were no female hockey players in the NHL video game series. She'd play with her younger brother and lament the fact that she couldn't create an avatar that looked remotely female. On the advice of her father, the teen girl wrote to EA, calling the exclusion of female players “unfair to women and girl hockey players around the world.”

Initially, Peters was told that the changes were out of the developer’s  hands and the NHL would have to approve the addition of female characters.

But the letter found it’s way to EA’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Moore, who took the girl’s complaints to heart. After consulting with the game’s producer, they decided that female avatars will be used for the first time in NHL 12 currently available now for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

"Lexi's letter was a wake-up call...Here's a growing audience playing our NHL game and we hadn't done anything to capture them."

Peters may or may not ever play professionally in the NHL. But she’ll get to play in the virtual NHL world. Really.

As a tribute to the girl who inspired the change, EA Sports used photos of Peters to design the default female character for the game.

It’s nice to see video game producers add female characters to their rosters. Action sports games have long featured female skaters. Elissa Steamer was the first to appear in a Tony Hawk game followed by Lyn-z Adams Hawkins who made her video game debut as a playable skater in Tony Hawk’s Project 8.

The lesson learned? If you want something, don’t be afraid to ask. The worst thing that can happen is you get a ‘no’. The best is you get to be featured in a video game. Or something like that.

Bottom line: girls should be encouraged to play hockey for all the same reasons boys play hockey. It is fun. It is great exercise. It promotes teamwork, discipline, and accountability. It teaches life lessons – like persistence a courage -  both traits that Lexi Peters capitalized on recently. 

Homework – check.

Hockey practice - check

Change the course of video game history – check.  

Thanks to Peters, it's no longer just a man's world when it comes to the NHL video game series. Now if EA Sports would only add female players to its FIFA series as well.  There are at least a couple of girls who play soccer and the company shouldn’t wait until a letter-writing campaign ensues. However, that might not be a bad idea…  

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