Assassin’s Creed Unity took a lot of heat last year after Ubisoft failed to include female playable characters. The company’s reasoning for this was that it was too time-consuming to make female models; that didn’t exactly fly very well with the gaming community.
Fast forward to 2015, and Final Fantasy XV seems to be getting off the hook for the exact same issues that Assassin’s Creed Unity was grilled for. I don’t see any pitchforks for its all-male cast, and the reasoning behind the decision hasn’t been worded very well. Director Hajime Tabata explains the issue when asked by GameSpot:
“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.”
He further states that they will find themselves in plenty of “boys will be boys” scenarios that wouldn’t be possible with a lady around. This is an explanation I can buy into. Yes, guys act differently in the presence of women whether they notice it or not, and the brotacular themes going on in Final Fantasy XV wouldn’t be genuine with a female character. I get that.
“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. That’s kind of the idea behind it… we think, male or female player, that everyone will feel a certain connection and bond with the four characters.”
However, “approachable” is not the word I would use to describe this. Some people might not want to approach such a story at all. “Genuine,” “sincere,” “honest,” and “more in touch with the story we want to tell” all seem a bit more fitting. Please, don’t use the word “approachable.” That’s a firecracker word, and it insinuates that the game is aimed at an all-male audience.
I’m not anti- when it comes to a story that only stars male characters. Final Fantasy XV just comes with a little poor timing as developers and audiences are pushing for more female roles in games, another movement I also throw my support behind.
I agree with Tabata that telling the story of pure male companionship is a viable premise to explore, and I am more than interested in seeing what happens when a dime-a-dozen Japanese glam rock band tours the countryside after falling from popularity. That’s the story, isn’t it? Or is there something about a fugitive prince and a civil war? I can’t seem to tell yet.
The big question is why does Final Fantasy not get the same harsh reaction that Assassin’s Creed Unity got? I can think of two reasons. One would be a little insulting if proven true, but possibly gamers don’t expect much else from a Japanese studio like Square Enix. It has popped up in a few comments around the net. That is a horrible strand of logic though, considering that Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are pioneers of strong female characters in games.
The other is that Assassin’s Creed Unity had a sense of customization in creating a personalized assassin. Players were limited to male characters to represent themselves in the game’s multiplayer. Final Fantasy XV’s cast is a set group of personalities and characters, and playing their story isn’t the same as creating your own story through a personalized avatar.
That’s my two cents, at least.