The demo to Final Fantasy XV has been out for a little while now, which means people have had time to play it and weigh in with their opinions. One of the more controversial things about the game is that all four main characters are male, breaking the game’s tradition of featuring female playable characters. When I first heard about this, I heard that the designer’s reasoning was that he had a story to tell that story involved a male-only cast. I considered that fair enough.
I mean, I wish he was telling a different story, but a storyteller is going to tell the story they want to tell. I can respect the author for being up front about it and not beating around the bush. I may not agree with their decision, but at least they were being honest.
However, in a more recent interview, the designer said a few things that rubbed me the wrong way.
Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behavior, 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. 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.
Now, I could be snarky about this. After all, when you get right down to it, the secret story of boys has been told multiple times throughout multiple media, and pretending it’s some kind of untold tale is stupid. However, that’s not what I’m going to talk about.
Instead, I’d like to address the idea that boys somehow act differently when there’s a girl around. Now, there’s always the fact that a person will act differently around someone they’re trying to impress. However, the assumption that boys will naturally act differently around girls, comes, it seems to me, from a convergence of two mistaken ideas and one truth.
The one truth is that we will naturally act more ourselves around people who we trust and have a close friendship with. That’s simply true. If we have a close friendship with someone, we are more likely to stop putting on the act we put on for society at large, and act more like ourselves.
Then there are the two mistaken ideas. The first involves the fact that culturally, we assign certain sets of actions as “male” and certain others as “female.” Simply put, we expect boys to act one way, and girls to act another. This is, on the face of it, complete and utter bullshit. People are people, and a woman who works on cars and has farting contests is no less a woman than a man who does the same. Likewise, a man who enjoys wearing dresses and putting on make up is no less a man for it.
This idea is, quite frankly, horrible. But if you’ve internalized it, it would only make sense that men would act differently when there aren’t women around. Because naturally, you can’t just be close friends with a woman. Every woman is, potentially, a romantic partner.
This puts a huge amount of stress on people! This means that you have to keep up an act around roughly half the population. And of course, it’s a complete lie. There’s no reason why a man can’t be close friends with a woman, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being who you truly are just because a woman is around. The same, of course, goes for women being themselves around men.
When we acknowledge that women aren’t potential prizes to vie for, and a woman isn’t a potential romantic interest for no other reason than that she’s a woman, we actually free ourselves to be ourselves in a way that we simply can’t as long as we believe the lies cultural misogyny tells us.