The FIFA Playbook – A Guide for Parents and Carers
Last Updated on 6th May 2022
We understand that the world of FIFA (and gaming in general) can seem overwhelming and unfamiliar as a parent or carer, especially if a child knows everything about the game. Our online safety experts have taken an extensive look at the popular game to help you better understand exactly what the child in your care is asking for.
FIFA is a simulated football game, where gamers can choose to play as their favourite real-life footballers in their favourite real-life teams. The first edition of FIFA was released by EA in 1993. Since then, it has become an annual game, with a new version being released every year to stay up to date with current football trends and improve the game’s visual quality while introducing new mechanics to keep the game fresh.
Each new edition of FIFA has a companion app released alongside it. Both are highly anticipated by fans of the game. It is available in a Standard Edition and an Ultimate Edition for those who want an enhanced experience.
What’s different about FIFA 22?
You might be thinking, “If this game is released every year, how much of a difference can there be between the versions? Isn’t it just a football game?”
While this has been a criticism of past versions, FIFA 22 has made its debut with new gameplay mechanics and changes to game modes that are truly upgrades to its regular format.
Cross-play allows players to play the game with others on different platforms (such as PlayStation, Xbox or PC). Cross-play allows for friends on different consoles to play together and for online matchmaking to occur between strangers across platforms, too!
In FIFA 2022, players will be prompted about the addition of Cross-play, be able to add friends on other platforms and given an option to disable Cross-play altogether. This feature will be available for Online Seasons and Online Friendlies matches and players will still have the ability to block or mute other players if needed.
It’s important to note that every new version of FIFA is a completely different game. You are unable to play across versions, and any purchases do not transfer.
If your child or young person plays with their friends from school but does not have FIFA 22, they may experience bullying or exclusion. This is common with pricey new releases and is added to by the ongoing shortage of gaming consoles.
Gamers can play on their own (offline). However – the culture of FIFA revolves around online competition, playing matches against other gamers online. There are multiple modes available to play. These modes allow gamers to better customise their gameplay experience to suit their overall interests. The most popular by far is the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT).
If someone has ever wanted to create their own fantasy football squad, FUT is the mode for them. Gamers can create an “ultimate team” of their favourite players that each have their own FUT item and rating. These players are acquired multiple ways, with both free and payable options available. This is the most popular “extra content” mode among FIFA gamers.
Our online safety experts have found that most parents and carers have little to no concerns about the child in their care playing FIFA. All games can present risks to children and young people. While FIFA may appear “safe” there are still some significant risks found during gameplay.
All videogames that facilitate online interaction can present risks to children and young people, especially with unmoderated chats. FIFA has voice chat and users can see usernames/gamertags of other players and use these to send friend requests on gaming platforms.
Shared interest can help build trust and rapport between strangers, especially when it involves something deeply personal like favourite football clubs and players.
While FIFA is very popular with children and young people, it is also readily played by adults of all ages. This means it would not be uncommon for a young person to interact with someone older on the platform through their teams playing a match.
With parameters like these, it can be harder to spot signs of a predator grooming a child or young person. Further interaction can be arranged through the pretext of wanting to practice against them, play other matches with them, or add them to their Pro-Clubs team. It would then be very easy to move conversations onto an encrypted mobile platform like WhatsApp.
While gamers insist that FIFA 22 and its predecessors are completely playable without spending money on in-game purchases, certain modes and advantages make it clear that the best way to get the most from your FIFA experience is by investing more money in the game.
FIFA packs are this game’s version of a “loot box” – a ‘treasure chest’ containing unknown items. These can be purely aesthetic such as new kits or logos or ‘pay-to-win’ items that affect game progress and give players an advantage, such as valuable players. One thing every pack has in common is desirability. Gamers can win them in events, purchase them with FIFA coins (the in-game currency), or buy them with real-world money. Spending real money is the best way to ensure your prize is immediate.
These packs are controversial, with many criticising EA for introducing gambling mechanics to children and young people under 18. It is easy to see why this is. When a gamer opens their pack, they are taken through a show of each item with spotlights and confetti. If they are lucky, they will get something called a “walk-out” featuring the rarest/most expensive players.
Gamers do not know what they will ‘unpack’ before opening. This means that gamers cannot tell if their pack is worth the cost and can encourage multiple purchases to ‘win’ the desired loot or to ‘recover loses’.
There has also been a trend with streamers and YouTubers recording their reactions to multiple pack openings. These videos have thousands of views and comments.
Through our Safer Schools community, teachers and safeguarding professionals have reported a correlation between FIFA releases and a dip in school productivity and attendance rates. The desire to “perfect their team” and play more to get ahead in the game can overwhelm a child or young person who may not have a healthy concept of screen-time or offline responsibilities. They may stay up late or ignore homework to spend more time playing, especially if they keep their gaming console in their bedroom.
There are design aspects of the game that work to encourage longer gameplay which young people may be more susceptible to.
For example, EA also runs specific FIFA events that encourage gamers to spend more time playing, such as the Weekend League tournaments. These events typically have highly desirable rewards for the top players. A gamer might play for longer than usual hours to secure these rewards.
Online play requires players to finish matches to get points and improve their ranking. They can lose points and have their team reputation damaged if they leave a match early. This means that when you ask the child in your care to “come to dinner in ten minutes” or “bedtime in half an hour”, they may be more inclined to ignore the request in favour of completing their game.
Another potential distraction can also be found in the FIFA companion app. This can be downloaded onto Android and iOS devices. It allows players to access their club and manage their team (by trading players, opening packs, and modifying their team) without logging onto their consoles.
Our online safety experts have created some simple steps to follow to help you ensure your child or young person is as safe as they can be.
Talk and play together. Find a time in which to talk with your child about the game. We recommend finding a moment in which you’re both relaxed and not in a hurry. Ask them what they enjoy about playing the game. Show interest in what they are doing and ask if you can watch or play the game together.
Discuss the risks. Talk to your child about the risks of playing online games and remind them that strangers they meet over FIFA are still strangers, even if they have the same interest in teams or clubs.
Find out about their online friends. Ask them about who they play FIFA with and clarify how they know each “friend” they mention. Remind them that they do not need to accept friend requests from someone they don’t know in real life.
Learn together how to mute, block and report. Live, unmoderated voice chat is a big part of playing FIFA online. To help your child control who they speak to, walk them through the “Mute Voice Chat” settings on their console or PC. Show the child in your care how to report and block other players, ensuring they know this is a valid option if someone makes them uncomfortable or behaves inappropriately. Ask them who they would turn to if they encountered an upsetting situation. Check out our Trusted Adults resource for more information.
Explain the importance of protecting privacy online to your child. Discuss what information should never be shared (full names, phone numbers, email addresses, schools, and physical location) and why.
Enable FIFA Playtime. This feature allows gamers to see an overview of the amount of time spent playing, the number of matches played, and the sum of FIFA points purchased. It also allows you to set limits on things like playtime and spending. Find out more here.
Talk about spending money online. Make sure children in your care know to ask for your permission before purchasing anything. Suggest using pocket money as a way for them to learn the value of money and set realistic limits on monthly spending.
Establish Healthy Habits. Gaming can be a good way for the child in your care to relax, connect with friends, and have fun, but it is important to establish healthy habits. Agree on a set of rules together (e.g., when to play, how long for, etc.) and regularly ask them about what they are doing. Good communication is the best way to ensure your child stays safe while enjoying something they like.