Final-ly Fed Up: Why Are Final Fantasy XV Fans So Anti-Woman?
Not even our games are safe.
Final Fantasy, the ironically long-running series, is going to come out with its fifteenth main installment September 30th: Final Fantasy XV. It’s a game I’ve affectionately titled “J-Rock Road Trip.” I mean, look at that main cast.
This game’s a little different than the rest in the series. It’s been in development for an entire decade, dubbed a “fantasy based on reality.” There hasn’t been a lot revealed about it: the basic premise (the protagonist Prince Noctis, going on a road trip with his male friends before his wedding while his home country is invaded); several environments based heavily on real-life locations; the battle system; and the fact that the only characters to fight in your party will be men: Noctis Lucis Caelum, Prompto Argentum, Gladiolus Amicitia, and Ignis Scientia. The developers have stated outright that while some people may drop in and out of combat as guests, and you only control Noctis himself, only men are going to be in the party because of the road trip. Because women in the group would “change their behavior.”
Now, it would be great to get more portrayals of sensitive male friendship instead of the toxic masculinity that passes as it in much of our global media. This series has historically had mixed-gender casts; while often the ladies fall into mage roles, we’ve at least had them. Now, one sequel—Final Fantasy X-2, the series’ first—had a playable cast of only women. Much of the pushback I get when I ask for more women in XV comes because of that game: we’ve had an all-female cast, why not an all-male?
I’m writing for The Mary Sue. I don’t think I need to cover why that’s an issue.
But let me reiterate: I’m literally just asking for inclusion. That’s all. I’ve been careful with my words, but even as a man with a clearly-male screenname, the pushback I get is ridiculous. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a woman who likes video games.
Now, I had someone helping me out there at first, and the worst of the comments have since been deleted, presumably by their original poster.
It’s easy enough to brush this exchange off as Reddit being toxic—it’s the same site that houses the conspiracy theorists of GamerGate, after all; it doesn’t matter how fast they get their news or how varied the userbase actually is. One user even tried to insist that women have plenty of representation, using the myriad of softcore hentai games on Steam as reference.
But the sad thing? This problem is fandom-wide. The developers put out a poll asking for fan reactions to the game’s demo, and when Europe’s biggest complaint was that the sole female character we’d seen interact with the party, the mechanic Cindy, was too sexualized, the fandom responded with scorn and anger.
Maybe you’d think that we’d have some reasonable reactions. Some people might disagree, of course; that’s the nature of life. But no. Instead, we get gamers acting as if wanting women in a game is sexist, is discriminatory, is the end of all gaming. For instance, apparently we should destroy our televisions because women exist:
Or any of us that are frustrated with it are sexist:
Even people on the official forums for the game seem to consider any opinion on women in the game to be ~social justice warrior~ balderdash.
Obviously, I’m omitting the supportive comments. Not everyone is against having women in video games. That being said, though, I can’t critique the game at all without getting people defending it before it’s even released, whether it’s splitting up the plot into various multimedia projects or wanting a woman to be in the party. These comments aren’t limited to just Reddit, or the niche gamers that would populate the official site; they’re from major gaming sites, from Tumblr, or even sites that aren’t specifically about video games.
Like I said before, the games before it have had pretty evenly-split casts; with the exception of Final Fantasy X-2, almost every main title in the series has had at least three female characters in the party, with the rest being men. The last title, Final Fantasy XIII, had Claire “Lightning” Farron, voiced by Ali Hillis as its lead, though the cast itself was split evenly between men and women. Since the reveal of XV, we’ve seen one woman traveling with the group, but there hasn’t been much information about her shown.
Perhaps it’s bias on my part that I thought the fanbase of a series like this would be more comfortable with people wanting women in their games. Perhaps it’s just reactionary feelings in recent years with the rise of people being against GamerGate, with projects like Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency gaining traction, or with franchises such as Star Wars and Ghostbusters including more women than before. This site itself has even reported on the rise of more diverse science fiction and fantasy. I only have experience with Western reactions to it—it could be received completely differently in Japan or other countries.
All I know is that it’s disheartening to see the fans of a series that has historically had nuanced female characters be so disrespectful of even a calm criticism of the newest game. By the same token, it’s depressing to see that a game with male characters that aren’t hypermasculine must mean they’re gay, “dumb,” or dumb and gay, because gay characters in video games must be idiocy, of course. It’s not like there are gay gamers or anything.
All I know is that even a fandom for a relatively-inclusive series is much less welcoming than one would think.
All I know is that not even our games are safe.
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Brandon Ortega is a self-professed ubernerd living in Tempe, Arizona who still can’t believe he has a degree. His publishing history includes the now-defunct Rainbow Hub and The ASU State Press. He’s a writer and a musician and can usually be found shouting about things on Twitter at @BrandoBoySP.
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