Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

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Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Sonic# » Sat Dec 24, 9:30 2016

I'm about 30 hours into Final Fantasy XV. It's making me think about what I'm complaining about when I complain about the lack of diversity in storytelling. I think I have more to complain about in terms of genre.

First, the game itself: good on several counts, shaky on others. There are four main playable characters, all guys: Noctis the prince, Gladiolus the bodyguard, Prompto the cheerleader, and Ignis the strategist. They bro the hell out of everything they do, taking pictures, cooking meals together, confiding in one another and generally bantering through the adventure. I find it extremely amusing, and their interactions feel pretty healthy for the most part, if relentlessly performative.

Female characters work their way into the story at points. There's Lunafreya, the princess who Noctis is travelling to marry
before things go sideways
, Iris (Gladiolus's sister), Aranea Highwind the mercenary captain, and Cindy the mechanic. Most characters I don't have much to say about; so far, they're fine. Cindy is fanservice incorporated: besides being dressed in hip-shorts and a low-cut cleavage-baring jacket, cutscenes show her flexing to pump gas and clean the front window of the car.

I certainly roll my eyes at these scenes. Maybe I should be harder on FFXV for this, but all I can think is, well, how typical. How ordinary. How normal for an RPG to feature a character whose role is primarily visual fanservice, and how typical that she's a woman. In a way, what concerns me isn't an exceptional depiction of a character, or even a particularly terrible one, but the ordinariness, that sexist motifs are common enough that they have names: "Fanservice" itself, for instance.

The bros too invite this comparison to typicality. On the one hand, it's less common for RPGs to focus solely on a main cast of men, and so FFXV registers as an important and novel variation on the genre. At the same time, I can only think of one RPG that has focused solely on a main cast of women, and that's Magic School Lunar, a Japan-only RPG. Across the genre, there's room for individual games like FFXV; at the same time there remains so much to be done regarding featuring women in main and supporting roles. I think it's important to maintain both viewpoints at once - the individual and the systemic - because it's possible for an individual game to do something very well, and for that very same thing to be exclusionary if it were done by most games across a genre.

I feel like the distinction I'm drawing comes up again and again in the things I enjoy: I like Star Wars but reject the predominantly male-focused elements of the original trilogy which are typical in sci-fi (fanservice, having one prominent woman in a supporting role).

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Pikachu » Sun Dec 25, 13:49 2016

Out of interest, if you had to choose, would you rather "endure" a female character with a fanservice look or have them written out or killed off?
and do you prefer non sexualized male leads over female leads with "sexualized" elements. Meaning skintight suits etc.

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Sonic# » Sun Dec 25, 14:29 2016

would you rather "endure" a female character with a fanservice look or have them written out or killed off?


I don't think of it on an individual level, so I can't really answer that question, or my answer would be trivial (I wouldn't choose; why is writing out or killing off the only other response?). Individual characters who offer fanservice only bother me a little. Usually I find them silly and banal, but that's no reason for any individual example not to exist. What bothers me is a genre-wide preference for female fanservice, which reflects a culture-wide preference for catering to a particular player base (usually heterosexual men) in a particular manner (visual, camera angles emphasizing parts of bodies). I don't think there's any one solution or any simple solution to this; widening our conceptions of what is erotic might do as much good as bringing more male characters into an explicit fanservice mode.

I'll mention one thing I think FFXV does well: its photo feature. Prompto snaps about 10 photos per day, and the player can choose between them to save different photos. In this case the player is in control of whether they want cool battle shots, odd or goofy moments, photos of Gladiolus looking sexy, photos of Prompto posing with Cindy, or some combination of the above.

do you prefer non sexualized male leads over female leads with "sexualized" elements.

Hard to answer because, again, hard to think of it on an individual level, but I think "No." I'm pretty good either way when it comes to individual games, which is why I'm okay with FFXV's leads but still consider genre-wide trends to be troubling. What bothers me is when there are far more male leads than female leads, when the ratio of sexualized leads skews female, or when the ratio of nonsexualized leads skews male.

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Pikachu » Sun Dec 25, 14:42 2016

You don't think change begins at the individual level?

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Enigma » Tue Dec 27, 12:07 2016

Change doesn't begin by every fan answering a weird ultimatum.

This seems relevant. http://arctic-hands.tumblr.com/post/155 ... g-this-you
"Human beings are amazing... we might be horrible, horrible, but we're wonderful too. Otherwise, why go on?"

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Pikachu » Tue Dec 27, 18:54 2016

Enigma wrote:Change doesn't begin by every fan answering a weird ultimatum.

This seems relevant. http://arctic-hands.tumblr.com/post/155 ... g-this-you


You're being a smartass.

Curiosity is not "weird". Questioning is not an "ultimatum". I want to know the order of preferance between Non sexualized male character and sexualized female character. The desire for female inclusion vs the desire for non sexualization. While those things are not mutually exclusive, in practice they typically are. So if pitted against each other, which interest wins out?

The second question was asking about sexualized female character vs writing her out or killing her off because as a creator myself, I would rather do those things than breach continuity. Meaning if I had a sexualized character that was heavily criticized by feminists, were I to find merit in the criticism, It's easier to focus elsewhere rather than trying to retcon.

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Sonic# » Wed Dec 28, 9:22 2016

Enigma wrote:Change doesn't begin by every fan answering a weird ultimatum.

This seems relevant. http://arctic-hands.tumblr.com/post/155 ... g-this-you


:) "Hajima Tabata, I am a man, and you are a man, so let us talk to each other like men."

That's a big reason why I'm finding Pikachu's questions hard to answer. He's mixing how individual games are made and how individual games are played - either I "endure" a game or I suddenly have an integral role in the design process? But not that integral, since I can only choose between two things? In actuality, I can play on or not, and I can complain or not. They're not going to patch FFXV to take Cindy out.

As for the effects of criticism on future games, I can't say as a rule what should be done. There are probably several changes that could affect the balance and quality of representation. Would helping more women enter game development? Maybe. Would spreading basic analytical mnemonics - like the Bechdel test - as revision tools help? Maybe. Would having someone in the room who asks, "Why is this scene here?" help? Maybe, if they're a producer. Would a systemic cultural change towards valuing the perspectives and bodily integrity of women help? Probably, but that's slow work.

So maybe there are two different things going on here: what genre-wide forms of representation are sexist? What individual artifacts can begin to budge those genre norms? FFXV helped me think about the ways genre-wide features persist, but even if Cindy were absent or changed, I find it hard to imagine that FFXV would change the genre's treatment of women. Four guys as protagonists, even well-executed, don't really do that. Single changes - this to that - aren't really how games work.

Final Fantasy VI would be a better candidate for changing women's representations in JRPGs, or Phantasy Star IV, or a few others - a number of JRPGs clustered together in the mid-1990s which encouraged later JRPGs to put women in roles beyond that of love interest/healer/dark magic user. They did this not in one single character or scene, but in the way characters like Celes and Alis were worked into the story. I think these games encouraged other RPG designers to include more women, as seen in JRPGs in the later 1990s - Noa as a martial artist befriended by a wolf in Legend of Legaia, Jean as an assassin turned dancer in Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, Tifa as a boxer in FFVII, Kid as the consummate thief in Chrono Cross, and so on. These are games still laden with some peculiar or sexist design choices (two bath scenes both centered on a female character's nudity in Lunar 2: Eternal Blue), but they represented progress in their genres.

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Enigma » Wed Dec 28, 11:39 2016

Pikachu wrote:
Enigma wrote:Change doesn't begin by every fan answering a weird ultimatum.

This seems relevant. http://arctic-hands.tumblr.com/post/155 ... g-this-you


You're being a smartass.

Curiosity is not "weird". Questioning is not an "ultimatum". I want to know the order of preferance between Non sexualized male character and sexualized female character. The desire for female inclusion vs the desire for non sexualization. While those things are not mutually exclusive, in practice they typically are. So if pitted against each other, which interest wins out?

The second question was asking about sexualized female character vs writing her out or killing her off because as a creator myself, I would rather do those things than breach continuity. Meaning if I had a sexualized character that was heavily criticized by feminists, were I to find merit in the criticism, It's easier to focus elsewhere rather than trying to retcon.

You're not wrong. But with Carrie Fisher gone someone's gotta do it.

Seriously though. I don't care. There is very little difference to me between no female characters in a game and badly written uninteresting female characters. Both don't show me me, or someone I can be, or my female best friend, or the awesome independent women who were my real life role models. How about option three? Suddenly a new backstory is introduced. The overly simple sexy female character suddenly has other motivations. Maybe she's working against the male protagonist's goals. Plot twist! Her parents were actually killed by the good guys and she's been leading a double life to get revenge. Or plot twist! She's not actually interested in the protagonists sexual advances, she's just not into him, sorry. Or any other more complex story lines which show she's actually a human being not just a robot there to serve the dudes in the story.

So in summary, you're right it's not an ultimatum. It's a false choice. It really doesn't matter how an individual gamer rates the various bad options. We want better options. And yes they do exist occasionally already, but the majority of games have silly paper thin badly written women or none. And those are shitty options.
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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Pikachu » Wed Dec 28, 14:58 2016

Here's another "odd" question. Is a sexualized character still problematic if the character weighs 400 pounds? Does the subversive nature of portraying that character as a sex object in a fat phobic society make it feminist?

And I doubt it's enough to put more women in the industry. Because:

https://broadblogs.com/2010/11/29/women ... etish-too/

and

https://broadblogs.com/2011/01/10/women ... -than-men/

It would have to be more feminists walking the walk and creating what they want to see. If the feminist message is so powerful Sarkeesian can get hundreds of thousands of dollars online for some youtube videos, it should be possible. However even that will be "problematic" in some way, either too violent, not inclusive of some group, plays to stereotype in some way. The closes one has ever got to a purely feminist film is Ghostbusters. It would have been beyond critique by feminist standards if Leslie Jones wasn't a caricature of a screaming black woman.

So I go on a writing forum for advice. I have a female martial artist character who survived a nuke and clothes are all shredded. I'm encountered with the problem of do I show nudity or do I always conveniently cover her parts up with smog or hair, or extra double sided tape, whatever. The response of hearing a female character that accomplished was "You should have the male opponent swing her by the boobs and rip them off as it humanizes the character" I'm not making this up! http://www.writingforums.org/threads/nu ... em.149889/

Post #11
Well unless her clothing is invincible, you could show that there is some realism.
It can be used against them as it is a grab-able thing that they can be tossed around
by, so pull all the stops out and make it as gritty and nasty as you seem to want to
portray it. Hell you even show how much they don't care by using her breasts against
her, by thrashing her around by them. How is that any worse than dragging them
up off the ground by their hair just to punch them in the face? If they are just as
happy to stick their fingers in her skull, then they are not above using her
giant boobs to toss her around like a plaything. Get freaking gruesome and
have one of these horrible beings actually tear them off. It would definitely
be one hell of a twist, that no one would see coming


And:
No, but even the best get their asses handed to them at some point or another. Also like I said no one would expect it.
If Batman can go toe-toe with Superman, then it is not out of the realm that your character can't get knocked down
a peg by one of your antags. It would actually give the MC sympathy from the reader for suffering such a painful and
humiliating injury, as well as show just how vile and viscous the antags. really are.


---

Because she's powerful, and a female, we have to knock her down a peg.
This involves having breasts torn off. Humiliation. Total loss of dignity and wholeness.

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Re: Final Fantasy XV: bros and fanservice

Postby Nech » Fri Dec 30, 9:13 2016

I'd love to see some characters that can be sexy, but also in control of their sexuality. FF wise, I think Tifa probably came the closest (short tank top and booty shorts could be classified as fan service) she had some depth to her (although it did mostly revolve around Cloud) and definitely had her own agency. But when it came to instances in the game where she had a chance to own that sexuality the creators had her exude, she suddenly becomes squeamish or bashful. I think JRPGs are in a good spot to start putting in sex positive/sexuality positive role models. They already incorporate fan service, and it's such a minor and subtle shift I don't think it'd be difficult and it'd give the characters some depth. You can practically count on one hand how many role models like that there has been (male and female).

So I suppose for myself, I believe that fan-service should "stay" in a limited form (not everyone of any single demographic should be fan service) but that it should also evolve to allow for the agency of the character filling that role. We also specifically need more males in fan-service roles, because outside of FFX (those were all basically incidental anyways with the beach wear theme of the game) and like...Johnny Bravo you don't really see it in games, shows, or movies that much. And if you do it is in a fairly toxic manner anyways.
Where there's smoke, there's fire. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So just shut up, and bring some water.


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