"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," Tabata said....
For Tabata, the journey will have the cast adopting what he dubs a "boys will be boys" type demeanor. "It was the story we wanted to tell and what we wanted to show players," he explained.
"The world might be ready to see the curtain lifted on what boys do when girls aren't around, when they come out of the tent all prim and proper."
Ugh. So much ugh, I don't even know where to start.
Maybe I'll start by saying that, for me at least, the all-male player cast of FFXV wasn't a deal-breaker. Given Square Enix’s past track record with providing gender-balanced casts with interesting male and female characters in the Final Fantasy series, I was hoping for better, and the decision to break with that tradition disappointed me. But I had still planned to buy and play the game, to give the story and the characters a chance.
Tabata's interview has pretty much killed that desire for me, and if I'm reading reactions correctly, there's a lot of people who agree with me.
Claiming that male characters are “more approachable” is basically the same as saying “women are weird alien beings and only men are normal”, which is both sexist and demeaning. Whether Tabata realizes it or not, this is a way of denying women full personhood. Equally troubling is the assertion that men can't be their true selves in the presence of women. At least one commenter on Tumblr has suggested that this statement is code for "we don't want to include romance". While entirely possible, the idea that female party characters are only viable as romantic interests is not only offensive, it's obviously untrue in the context of the rest of the series. I can think of multiple Final Fantasy games where romance was a side theme at best, and of female characters who were not primarily (and in some cases even secondarily) love interests.
It's all so tiring, these same sexist arguments that we've seen a thousand times. Speaking of things we've seen a thousand times: games with exclusively male protagonists and a “boys will be boys” mentality. How many stories out there in the world are focused on boys acting like stereotypical boys? How many books, movies, games, shonen manga and anime? A game in this mold is hardly groundbreaking media, and it’s clueless at best for Tabata to assert that it is.
I suppose, given some of their more recent incidents of developer sexism (jiggly boob physics in FFXIII-3, anyone?), I should've learned not to expect better of Squeenix, but I really did. They haven't had a perfect track record of representation, by any means, but they have created a number of exciting and memorable female characters, and at least from Final Fantasy IV onwards, they seem to have made creating gender balanced parties at least some level of priority. Even when they remade the two previous games with all-male parties (the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III), they added female characters to both teams. Going to an all-male team -- especially for a game that fans have been hotly anticipating for nearly a decade -- feels like a huge step backwards, especially when they insult their female fanbase in the process.
If SE wants to break with their traditions and make a Final Fantasy game with an all-male cast, that’s their right. It’s their game, their company, their choice. No one is claiming otherwise. And who knows, maybe Final Fantasy XV will break free of the expectations that Tabata is setting up for us here and be an awesome game. But given his commentary, I have serious doubts. As it stands now, I expect I'm going to have to give this one a pass.
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