All people who play video games must make a choice: there’s no possible way we can invest ourselves in every game franchise that hits the market, so we pick a certain set of titles to get into, to watch more closely than others. I think I’ve gotten the biggest response from people, however, when I tell them which series I never got into. Yes, people seem strangely shocked that I really could not care less about the Final Fantasy series. The games are okay, and I understand why people like them, but I don’t exactly give a shit when a new one is announced. As such, when people began relaying news of Final Fantasy XV and how it played, it didn’t catch my attention as much as, say, news on the new Tales of game. Still, these new forays into the Final Fantasy series have been garnering attention on a level I can’t just blissfully ignore. No, there’s some bullshit going on that’s indicative of the societal standard in gaming that only serves to cater to the boy’s club mentality.
Recently an image set has been floating around on Tumblr showing promotional images from the upcoming mobile game Mobius Final Fantasy. Previously this game was garnering attention due to its main character’s revealing outfit—more so because this main character in a revealing outfit happened to be a dude for once. However, now it seems that the developers behind the game have backtracked and decided to cover up large portions of the character’s previously exposed skin. Producer Yoshinori Kitase goes on further to say that “After we released the screen shots in December, we looked at the various reactions we were getting online, and in the end, showing this much skin…” implying that the reactions were largely negative, causing them to make the change. Somehow, I’m not surprised.
Though SquareEnix, I’m sure, takes in consideration from many portions of the world, they are a Japan-based company—a country which, as a societal whole, is more conservative than people seem to remember. However, while covering up the character once more is in one part catering to the sensibilities of a more direct target market, it’s also reinforcing the disparity between male and female costume designs within the world of video games. I know lots of people were looking forward to this more scantily clad design because it would add some sense of equality—a very surface level sense—that men were just as at-risk to suffer from impractical armor as ladies are. Yet, it seems that putting men in clothes that show off their stomach and a little side boob is too vulgar and sexy, enough to cause enough outcry to get the outfit changed, while this is merely the status quo for female characters and no one would bat an eye. I still have some hope, though: Mobius Final Fantasy is a class-based RPG, which means the characters will be going through many different classes, and thus different costumes throughout the game. While this particular outfit has been changed (though the developers say if there’s enough support for the more exposing one, they might bring it back), it’s entirely possible there may be other classes that have just as revealing outfits. Until more information on the game is released though, everything is just speculation.
Truth be told, I’m not too riled up about Mobius’s situation. What I’m actually furious about is the recent comment that Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy XV, made concerning the game. For those unaware, Final Fantasy XV follows an all-male team through a time of war and forces them to experience the horrors that come along with that. In concerns to the all-male cast, however, this is what he had to say:
Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behavior, so that they’ll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way.
Listen, if you want to make a game staring a party of all dudes, that’s fine. Go for it. But don’t make it sound like you’re doing some huge, socio-psychological favor to the audience when you’re just narrowing the scope of your own narrative. This party set-up isn’t anything new, and it’s not anything interesting—so far, every character in the party is a huge trope, too. What’s actually being said here is that 1) relationships within a group of females are not approachable enough to engage the gaming audience and 2) relationships between men and other genders just aren’t as important and honest as bromances. By saying that men act differently around women, what you’re actually implying is that men act differently around women they want to romance because let’s face it, girls are mostly in Final Fantasy for dudes to romance. Men also act differently around other men they want to impress or—shock!—men they want to romance, so whatever bullshit this comment is trying to say really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sorry Rikku and Tidus, looks like your friendship just isn’t as good as the friendship between five men. Same goes for you, family-based Crystal Chronicles.
You may be saying to yourself, “well Rin, FFX-2 had an all-women party and you’re not saying anything about that.” You’re right, I’m not. That’s because FFX-2 was never claiming to be some great scion of female friendships. While the friendship between Yuna, Rikku, and Paine was important, arguably the theme of the game was more about finding Tidus than any sort of bonding exercise. Plus, they hung out with the rest of the Gullwings too, a predominantly male group, so comparing this game to FFXV would not be apt in any way. I have no doubt that the characters in FFXV are compelling and interesting, but the whole game just seems like ass-patting to dudes that play games: god, isn’t being a dude great? Sure is great bein’ a dude with no ladies around putting a damper on our dude-ness; they just don’t understand. And if I didn’t already not care about Final Fantasy as a whole, this certainly would have done the trick for this game in particular.
These may seem like small, perhaps insignificant things in the wider picture, but it’s these small insignificant things that clump together and create precedents for all of video games. If men are protected from being sexualized while women continue to be so, then that sets up an environment where the job of the female character is to be sexy first, and an interesting character second. If friendships between men are lauded while throwing friendships between other genders, and men’s friendships with other genders under the bus, then a male-dominated narrative is shown as the only acceptable and desirable type of friendship. Since Final Fantasy is the mega-giant of a series that it is, what producers and directors do really has a sway over other, larger developers, and if these games are widely successful, then this set-up is in danger of solidifying the tired precedents we’re trying to break out of in gaming. While I don’t hope either of these games fail, I do hope that they don’t end up setting progress back—pretty graphics they may have, but the messages behind their narrative, resting in the game’s developers, are definitely not pretty at all.