I like playing female characters, not because of the old "If I have to stare at an ass for x hours" excuse—generally I spend games looking at the rest of the screen so I don't die anyway—but just because they're cool and it's nice to have some variety in your protagonists. Which is why when #FinalFantasyXV shipped with more playable dogs than women I was sorely disappointed.
It felt like a step back in a series that had featured strong and interesting female protagonists and party members throughout the series. Even the trailers emphasized the men's relationship over any of the few women in the game:
So while you're trying to figure out your way around the ascension grid, let's take some time to talk about women in Final Fantasy XV.
Final Fantasy XV Is A Boy's Club
The reviews have been rolling in for #FinalFantasyXV and high praise is being heaped on the game's story and characters. One of the high points is the natural banter and chemistry between the main characters of this story. Reviewers have likened their dynamic to a bachelor party or a last road trip between buddies, telling comparisons.
The story seems to leave no room for women to be involved as anything other than supporting characters, as if a mixed gender group couldn't have the same level of connection and camaraderie. There's no particular reason that any of the main four couldn't have been women, they wouldn't even have had to change their names—though they probably should, Ignis Scientia is a ridiculous name for anyone outside of a teenager's fan-fiction to have. It's not hard to see why they weren't put in though, when Director Hajime Tabata goes around spouting retrograde opinions like:
"Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, 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,"
Apparently, Tabata didn't consider the idea that an all male party might not feel as approachable to the 51% of the world that isn't male as it does to him.
Instead, women are relegated to side roles and eye candy. Contrivances abound to make every female character feel like she's there to be gawked at, including the use of anti-aging magic to make sure the designers didn't have to subject horny teens to the horror of a middle aged woman. Of course, they're all into the main character too, all bar one of the female characters flirts with Noctis or acts as a love interest over the course of the game's story.
Is This What We Should Expect For Female Characters In Video Games?
Ironically, the only character that doesn't hit on the main character is Cindy—a character with a design so absurd that she looks more suited to an edition of DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball than an epic fantasy tale.
Throughout her three to four total minutes of screen time during cutscenes she appears to be acting out the entire 12 months of pinup poses in a horny mechanic's wall calendar. Apparently, this is the toned down version, her original jiggle physics were so egregious that the director was forced to remove them, presumably before someone lost an eye.
For the most part their characters are paper thin, they act as damsels in distress, walking deus ex machina or tempestuous children. Aside from Luna, who at least gets a featuring role and a few badass moments, they generally have only a few minutes of cutscene screen-time. This in a story with more footage than the extended cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It really makes you long for the days of Lightning and company.
Things aren't all bad though, there's at least rumors going around that some playable DLC might be coming out that actually lets you play as some of the women in the game. Hajime Tabata promised that if demand is strong enough, some Luna-focused content might be created. Let's hope Tabata figures out that there's as much demand for women with full storylines and inner lives as there is for shiny new swords and costumes.