By Gary Symons
TLL Editor in Chief
EA Sports just announced a licensing deal with the Musqueam Indian Band in Vancouver for its FIFA 23 video game.
It’s an announcement that strikes home for me, as I was born and raised in Vancouver, but also spent decades covering indigenous affairs as a reporter in Canada. The Musqueam Indian Band (also known as the Musqueam Nation) is among the best-known First Nations in the country, and has in recent years been involved in major real estate developments and a variety of entrepreneurial endeavours.
Unfortunately, however, in both Canada and the US many native people are still mired in poverty, and face a complex web of issues that prevent most indigenous communities from fully developing their local economies.
That’s why it’s so inspiring to see Vancouver-based Electronic Arts come to a mutually beneficial deal with the Musqueam people, on whose territorial lands EA’s business resides.
The City of Vancouver is located on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. People belonging to those three nations have lived in the area now known as Vancouver for thousands of years, and collectively are known as the Coast Salish people.
When the new game is released, FIFA 23 players will have the opportunity to play at the Musqueam-inspired VOLTA FOOTBALL Pitch, a fictional representation of Musqueam’s real-life soccer field that has brought together indigenous athletes and fans from across the region since its unveiling in 2012. Through this collaboration, Musqueam cultural elements were incorporated into the game, including a Musqueam longhouse and artwork from Musqueam visual artists, carvers, designers, and weavers.
Like many of the coastal First Nations in British Columbia, the Musqueam have a rich artistic history, particularly in the area of carving, for which they are renowned around the world. If you’re ever in Vancouver, I’d highly recommend a trip to the Museum of Anthropology, or in Victoria, to the Royal BC Museum, both of which have stunning collections of BC indigenous art and artefacts.
In addition to the stadium, FIFA 23 players will be able to unlock VOLTA FOOTBALL apparel and FIFA Ultimate Team kits, designed by Musqueam artists, along with FUT stadium customization elements that feature a variety of Musqueam motifs and patterns.
As EA SPORTS FIFA is primarily developed at EA Vancouver, the company says the collaboration between EA SPORTS and Musqueam was an opportunity to celebrate local creatives and showcase their work to an audience of millions of fans worldwide.
EA says the goal was to create more meaningful connections within native and non-native communities. To do that, EA SPORTS collaborated with ten Musqueam artists, each bringing a unique perspective and design to the environments and kits that will represent the region to a global audience of the world’s game.
“Through this special collaboration with EA SPORTS, Musqueam is showcasing not only our unique and distinctive culture, but our thriving soccer community and love of the sport – something we share with many First Nations in this region,” said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow. “When Indigenous athletes and gamers see an Indigenous field and kits in FIFA 23, we hope it brings immense joy and pride, while sparking countless new ideas for collaborations between First Nations and the sports and video game industries.”
Sparrow says his people have a shared passion for soccer that formed the foundation for this collaboration. Musqueam athletes are committed to the pursuit of well-being through rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual training, and a variety of sports like soccer are practiced in the Musqueam community from childhood to adulthood.
For EA, the task was to communicate Musqueam culture and love of the sport to the world through FIFA 23.
“We are honoured to work with Musqueam artists, athletes, and community leaders to help share their deep and meaningful history and culture with the millions of FIFA fans across the world,” said Nicholas Lammie, Director of Brand Marketing at EA SPORTS FIFA. “This collaboration was so important to our EA Vancouver Studio Team and we’re incredibly excited to bring it to life in FIFA Ultimate Team and VOLTA FOOTBALL.”
The collaboration will also bring direct benefits to the Musqueam community. EA SPORTS is creating physical kits for Musqueam soccer players that bring to life the in-game kits, as well as funding upgrades to the Musqueam Field including improved storage and equipment management facilities, new goals and nets, and custom tents to shelter from inclement weather.
Musqueam artists whose artwork features in FIFA 23 include:
Kelly Cannell – FUT Home Kit
Chase Gray – FUT Goalkeeper kit, FUT Away kit pattern
Deanna Point – FUT Stadium Cosmetics – Tifo, Centre pitch, tournament banner
Krista Point – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Weavings for x2 clubhouse banners + tents
Aleen Sparrow – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Weavings for perimeter board and wide banners
Brent Sparrow – VOLTA FOOTBALL – House Post
Debra Sparrow – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Weavings for x2 floodlight flags + Runner Sculpture
Kamryn Sparrow – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Pitch Artwork
Robyn Sparrow – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Weavings for x2 floodlight flags
Cole Sparrow-Crawford – VOLTA FOOTBALL – Holy Name Collection
The City of Vancouver is located on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. As part of its commitment to reconciliation, EA SPORTS says it aims to use its global platforms to share more Indigenous cultures with the world.
FIFA 23 is developed by EA Vancouver and EA Romania and will be available worldwide on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Stadia, PS4, and Xbox One on September 30. Early access for FIFA 23 Ultimate Edition begins on Sept. 27, 2022.