In a bid to check ‘toxic behaviour’ in online games, EA Sports has dropped goal celebrations and a bunch of time-wasting tactics in its upcoming game FIFA 21.
According to a Eurogamer report, EA will be removing the infamous ‘Shush’ and Dele Alli’s ‘A-OK’ celebrations before the game’s release on October 9. FIFA 09 was the first version to feature manual celebrations. But why are these celebrations being removed?
First, what are ‘celebrations’ in FIFA video games?
In what has become as much a part of the online game as football itself, the celebrations are often used to infuriate opponents after scoring last-minute winners or other goals.
Through certain combinations, gamers can trigger specific goal-scoring celebrations, such as Antoine Griezmann’s ‘telephone’ and Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘Siiiii’. There are also some celebrations that have to be unlocked first and others that your favourite player just can’t do (like Aubameyang’s front flip or other somersaults that only ‘agile’ players can perform).
FIFA 20 featured close to a hundred different celebrations. But while they started out as flairs of individuality and creativity, celebrations in online games are chiefly used to troll or humiliate opponents.
Why is ‘shushing’ being removed?
The ‘shush’ celebration is being removed for being downright toxic. Gamers who post tutorials on YouTube add the disclaimer: “I am begging you, please don’t use this unless your opponent has been toxic the whole game”. (See above)
That’s no hyperbole either, as lead gameplay producer Sam Rivera explained during a recent virtual preview.
“We were told by the community that there are toxic behaviours in the game and we wanted to make sure we removed them,” Rivera told reporters. “So we removed some of the celebrations that people thought were not the best idea to have in the game.”
Celebrations can be skipped but it takes both players to do so. Professional e-sports events generally have them ‘off’ by default.
The ‘shush’ is hated by the FIFA players community because it is used to both annoy opponents as well as kill time.
While most celebrations are prompted as soon as the goal is scored, a player who has netted the ball can ‘shush’ while running up and down the pitch, extending the humiliation.
In real life, footballers often indulge in the ‘shush’ to silence the opposition fans, their own fans or specific critics.
What about the ‘A-OK’ celebration?
The ‘A-OK’ — aka the Dele Alli celebration — was unveiled by the Tottenham midfielder after scoring at Newcastle on the opening day of the 2018 Premier League season. Soon, the #DeleChallenge went viral, news publications started posting tutorials, and EA Sports took notice and included it in FIFA 20.
But why is it being removed after just one season? Perhaps because the inventor Alli himself ditched the trend after a few games.
Another insidious theory is its resemblance to a white supremacist symbol. The ‘OK’ sign was added to the Anti-Defamation League’s list of hate symbols in 2019 as it was found to be used as a “sincere expression of white supremacy”. EA hasn’t specified the reason, but another mega-popular video game franchise removed the symbol recently.
The gesture was silently removed from ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ and ‘Warzone’ soon after developers Infinity Ward lent support to the Black Lives Matter movement and promised a crackdown on racism in their games.
— Infinity Ward (@InfinityWard) June 3, 2020
Are there any other changes?
EA Sports is also reducing the amount of time players can time-waste at set pieces. Currently, a player can wait 30 seconds before taking free kick or kick-off, a tactic often used to run down the clock. For FIFA 21, time for kick-offs will be 10 seconds, a throw-in 12 seconds, and goal kick, corners and penalties will all take 15 seconds. Setting a free-kick is a proven skill, and thus warrants 20 seconds.
Certain unnecessary animations have also been nixed. Earlier, in a bid for authenticity, virtual footballers could be seen fetching the ball for throw-ins, goalkeepers slowly putting the ball down for goal kicks and players lumbering back to the middle after a goal was scored.
“The flow is shorter, which is to try to keep you playing most of the time instead of just waiting. All together, the intention there is just to keep you playing instead of doing other things that may not be necessary in the game,” Rivera was quoted by Eurogamer as saying.
What do the players feel about the change?
The numerous complaints on social media and the game’s official forums indicate that the fan base has wanted this for a long time. Petitions lodged as far back as 2015 have clamoured for the ‘shush’ celebration to be removed.
Professionals, too, have welcomed the change.
— PlanetToast (@PlanetToast1) November 19, 2019
Jake ‘PlanetToast’ Simpson, a professional FIFA player for Newcastle United and who has been playing since 2011, told the Indian Express,”Removing the ‘shush’ and reducing the time from set pieces are both small changes but in my opinion, they are both necessary quality of life improvements to the game. Ever since the introduction of FUT Champions (a competitive game mode), the community has become increasingly toxic. So taking any steps to counter toxicity is welcome in my eyes.”
What do the football rules say?
FIFA rules state that ‘celebrations must not be excessive’ and ‘the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting’. Players can also be cautioned for “excessively delaying the taking of a throw-in or free kick” or other time-wasting tactics.
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Any other celebrations at risk?
EA has hinted that more celebrations could be at risk of being cancelled. Amongst them, one can be Ronaldo’s ‘Calm Down’ celebration, often used by the former Real Madrid superstar to rile up Barcelona fans at Camp Nou.
A 2015 encore, in fact, prompted a statement from the president of Spain’s professional football league.
“We have to be careful with provocative gestures by a player when he scores a goal or with any other provocation or conduct that could incite violence among spectators. It must be sanctioned, from a fine up to a suspension,” said LFP president Javier Tebas.
Much like the ‘shush’, ‘calm down’ is used by players to troll their opponents.
Interestingly, FIFA also recently announced three celebrations that would debut in FIFA 21. Players can now replicate South African midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala’s dance after scoring the opening goal for the host nation at the 2010 World Cup. Erling Haaland’s meteoric rise has also been documented with the Borussia Dortmund striker’s sitting-down ‘Zen’ meditation.
The last addition though goes against the non-toxic reforms. FIFA will allow players to do World Cup-winner and cover star Kylian Mbappe’s ‘cry-baby’ celebration too.
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