In a recent interview, Final Fantasy XV Director Hajime Tabata responded to questions of why the upcoming game features an all male cast for playable characters. His response already has the internet in uproar, but let’s look at it critically:
“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
Before we label Tabata the next coming of the anti-Christ (You meet that guy the first time around? He was a jerk!), we should probably get the whole story. Habata has already discussed how he wanted the game to feel like a round-trip with friends, and wanted the game’s theme to deal with male to male intimacy in ways that we hadn’t seen in games prior (No, not the male intimacy only dating sims can show). Let’s not dance around it: He’s trying to show a bromance between four different characters and to accurately create this bromance he’s excluding female characters because he thinks their presence would naturally change the dynamic of the group.
…He’s not wrong? This isn’t to say that a group of males can’t hang out with a female without having their friendships dramatically altered, but if your theme is male bonding and what males are like when females aren’t around then a female character certainly will have a dramatic effect on that theme. Funnily enough, the lack of female characters really hadn’t been that big of an issue with most gamers until Tabata made this statement, which can be taken some different ways.
Tabata further had to say:
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
…Hopefully what Tabata has been doing when girls aren’t around is PG and not strange and bizarre. He’s really trying a little too hard to justify something that is kind of a non-issue, which makes it seem like a bigger issue.
So, should we be outraged by the team excluding female characters and thinking that a female character would change the dynamic of a game with a theme of male bonding? Probably not. The Final Fantasy franchise is many things, but I wouldn’t call it a franchise that is particularly male dominated….Though its representation of females isn’t all that positive in parts (Seriously, what mechanics dress like that?). In the end, it’s a narrative driven game with a specific narrative that unfortunately doesn’t lead to female characters being incorporated into the gameplay. Unlike with games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, which purposefully chose not to include female characters despite the characters being customizable and blank, you can’t really fault a developer for wanting a specific narrative and creating characters that only fit that narrative.
We’ll have to wait and see until the game is released to judge for ourselves whether or not the exclusion of playable female character really does increase the male bonding dynamic between the characters.