So I woke up this morning to find out that the director of Final Fantasy XV, Hajime Tabata, thinks that the addition of females in the party would somehow take away from the game.
As an avid lover of the Final Fantasy games and the strong female characters within them, this news has left me feeling angry and undervalued. I was brought up watching my mum play Final Fantasy VII as though it was a very long movie, I loved it, it’s a part of my childhood. However, now Square Enix doesn’t think women matter enough to be represented despite a history of Final Fantasy which shows otherwise.
Let’s talk about the female characters in some of the other Final Fantasy games and their effects on the story.
Tifa Lockheart. Tifa is a playable character in Final Fantasy VII, she also features in other FFVII games and is badass. She is physically strong, and fights for AVALANCHE, she is also empathic and an integral character in offering sanctuary and support to the others in the party.
Also in FFVII, we have Aerith Gainsborough. Although being less physically strong than Tifa, Aerith is independent and outgoing with an intuitive nature. Her existence is important to the dynamics of the party.
Spoiler (Highlight to read): Her death has been cited as one of the most famous and influential moments in video game history. I was seven, I cried for a week.
Moving on, we have Selphie of FFVIII. Yet another example of how women in games do not have to be dumbed down to be noticed, Selphie is talented with computers and vehicles. She flies the Ragnarok Airship for goodness sake!
Not forgetting Princess Garnet of FFIX, she is expected to be something she doesn’t want to be. Expected to follow her role as a Princess but fights against it with everything she has.
General Beatrix, although only temporarily a playable character in FFIX, is also a wonderful example of women being strong, in fact, the head of the Army of Alexandria.
Next we have Yuna, she is the female protagonist of FFX and FFX-2 (The latter leaving much to be desired, in the words of a friend “get excited about three female protagonists in FFX-2 only to find out they are interchangeable and they derive their power from their clothes…”) Aside from X-2 she has a strong character arc, and immense summoning power.
Again in FFX, Rikku’s character is lively and energetic. Her kind-hearted demeanour helps the party to feel secure and her skills in chemistry and alchemy are second-to-none.
Finally, I’m going to talk about Lightning Farron. The protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII and a wonderful breath of fresh air, she is a strong woman, both mentally and physically. She is flawed and real, a relatable character in a wonderful game. Did this make the game any less approachable? I think not.
Square Enix have been one of the only game companies to create brilliant games featuring female protagonists and I loved and respected them for it, but now they’re taking a step backwards. Tabata believes that “Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so they’ll act differently.”
NEWSFLASH. Women don’t have to be there as romantic interests. Something I’ve had to explain over and over again in high school when my best friends just happened to be boys. Did you ever think that the presence of a female in Final Fantasy XV could actually offer something? An extra level of depth, compassion, or even, God forbid, a warrior?
Tabata excuses his decision, telling us: “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.”
Made sense? Made sense to who? Did you forget the sincerity between Tifa and Cloud in FFVII, or the honesty between Vivi and Dagger in FFIX?
Who told you that there can be no natural sincerity or honesty between two people of different genders, or even different species? And, guess what, YOU decide. You decide how conversation and interaction works between these characters you created. You decided that women don’t matter.
I feel let down, I feel undervalued, and I feel angry.
Square Enix, you have taken a step backwards in this world where females are constantly shouting to be heard and acknowledged. I’m not asking for you to make another Final Fantasy XIII, I’m not even asking for another female main character just yet, but why do you feel the need to kick women out of the party altogether? Do we threaten your manliness that much? I was looking forward to Final Fantasy XV so much, I had hoped that despite the lack of females in the trailer that there was more to come and I’m disappointed to find that I was wrong.
All we ask for is representation in this place where it has become the norm to send death threats to women who develop games.
We are women.
We play computer games.
We do matter.