Final Fantasy: Returning to First Grade with Its “Girls Have Cooties” Mentality

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.

Final Fantasy XV

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.

This is only one class. Who knows how many more there may be...

This is only one class. Who knows how many more there may be…

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.

Excuse me?

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.

Tales of did it better.

Oh noooo, look at how unapproachable this male-female friendship is! How can gamers survive?

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.

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About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.

5 thoughts on “Final Fantasy: Returning to First Grade with Its “Girls Have Cooties” Mentality

  1. Being a huge fan of the FF series, it is really disheartening to hear such ignorant comments made by the creator. The reasoning behind the characterization is so superficial, I’m still surprised that we haven’t moved beyond a point where the “dude club” mentality hasn’t been removed.

    I have loved many of the female characters from the series but it is undeniable that they are often damseled or inconsequential.

    I’m not going to debate the tales series vs FF XD but just for fairness there are some characters which do deserve mentioning. Quistis from FF8, Garnet/Dagger from FF9, Fran from FF12 and even in some respects Yuna from FF10 are strong characters with depth and agency.

    I can’t say for sure about this game since I haven’t played it but the lack of female characters is disappointing.

    I don’t have a problem with occasional objectification as long as its equal, because that man looks fine

    • I disagree about Fran. She just serves as the exotic eye candy. There is no reason given why she follows Balthier and does what he says. And Balthier is always speaking for her and acts like he owns her, at one point getting mad at a boy for bumping into her butt even though Fran herself didn’t care. And then in the end she gets randomly knocked out by a rock and needs balthier to be her hero.

      Yuna on the other hand is actually a pretty strong character. Just because she’s a magic user and speaks softly, don’t think she isn’t a strong character. The only issue is that she is another love interest for the main character, but so are the other characters you said.

      Interestingly you left out the women of Final Fantasy XIII and Rydia who are in my opinion the most feminist representation in the series. Rydia being from a game in 1991 when damsels in distress were the norm. She actually doesn’t need saving and instead saves the rest of the party from certain death at the hands of the main villain. And she is constantly shown to be an independent woman who gets mad at sexist remarks.

      And Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t have just one strong female character that breaks classic gender roles but 2. With Fang serving as the heaviest hitter of the game and all around strongest character. Also the 3 female characters are the most important characters to the story, and neither of them are love interest to a male character, and none of their motives are driven by men, in fact it’s Lightning’s sister and for Fang and Vanille, it’s simply to be able to stay together forever (actually that’s pretty romantic). And also the way they have internal problems and actually have falling outs with others and then reconciling with them is more realistic than characters in previous games, giving them more dimensions to their personalities.

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