Feminism In Gaming: Final Fantasy 12 with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s back! Since the HD Remaster of Final Fantasy 12 has recently hit the shelves, I thought I’d take the chance to have a brief feminist discussion about the game. I’ve played many a Final Fantasy in my two and a half decades, and to say that Final Fantasy 12 is a treasured memory of mine would be…an exaggeration. The game just cannot compare to any of the others in the franchise for a myriad of reasons. But does it hold it’s own under scrutiny of my feminist lens? Come along with me and see!

The first to know is that a point of frustration in Final Fantasy 12 is the situation involving who is considered to be the “real main character” of the game. I usually see fans argue between four characters, but the typical argument is against Vaan (who Square Enix identifies as the main character) and Ashe (who the story really focuses on). The point Square Enix argues is that the story is told from an outsider looking in; a good example of that in another piece of fiction would be Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby.

The difference between Nick and Vaan, however, is that Nick has the opportunity in the narrative to actually talk about his own feelings about the situation. Vaan hardly ever comments on what’s going on, shows no kind of growth from the events of Final Fantasy 12 and is only really tied to the story by the flimsiest of fringes. All in all, it feels more like he was tacked on at the last minute. His character is not whole in comparison to some of the others. And a main character that does not feel whole in the sense of creation does not make for good story telling.

So why then, is Ashe not the main character? She is the one leading the party; it’s her that makes a difference in the world. We see her struggle with her own personal demons while confronting the antagonists of the game itself. She’s dynamic and interesting. She has all the markings for a great protagonist. Yet the representative for Final Fantasy 12 is Vaan. What happened here?

Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about another Final Fantasy in a similar situation: Final Fantasy 6. When you ask a fan of Final Fantasy 6 who the main character is, usually the answer is immediately Terra. But, Terra is only the the titular lead of the game. That’s right. Square Enix has stated that, technically, there is no real main character of Final Fantasy 6. Terra is simply the poster girl for the game. This situation is quite an odd one considering how beloved Final Fantasy 6 and Terra are. And it’s even more interesting to compare the situations in Final Fantasy 12 with Final Fantasy 6.

If the stories focus around these fantastic women, why are they not considered the leads? Why give these weak responses when the status of central protagonist is called into question? Two even more pivotal questions arise: Is this considered bad writing? Did gender come into play when making these calls?

I’m going to give my own personal opinion to answer these questions, but I’m going to do my best to support my answers. Let’s start with the second question first: did gender come into play when making these calls in Final Fantasies 6 and 12. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” from me. These games were created in the span of decades where gaming marketing was heavily targeted towards male gamers and young boys. Naturally, playing as a character that shares your gender helps you relate better to that character. Hence why there are so many classic games with controllable male characters.

And I hear you already; “Final Fantasy is turn based! You control all the characters!”. Yes, but that doesn’t really dismiss my point. Final Fantasy 6 claims there is no main character, so it’s an easy claim to make when you can control all the characters despite the default sprite falling to Terra. Final Fantasy 12 is in an even more interesting situation, as the game isn’t fully turn based. Not only that, but the camera fixes on the lead character in the party. Vaan is also the default map character. Final Fantasy 6 is taking the focus off of Terra, and Final Fantasy 12 is putting the focus on Vaan.

So, my point still stands. I think that Terra being denounced as the main character of Final Fantasy 6 and Vaan being appointed as main character of Final Fantasy 12 was a marketing attempt to get the game bought by male gamers.

The first question is also easily answered by me: “Is this bad writing?”. Frankly, yes. Saying Vaan is an “outside looking in” main character when he is so horribly created comes across as just pretext. Square Enix had to create a crappy DS sequel of Final Fantasy 12 in order to force that reality down their fans’ throats. Vaan isn’t experiencing the narrative, he’s watching it. And any attempt to tie Vaan into the story was terribly done. So, when push comes to shove, I think Final Fantasy 12 was not well written.

Final Fantasy 6’s writing hasn’t really come into play here, I just think Square Enix’s marketing team is a bit sexist.

So what can you take away from this article? Mainly, that game companies need to let female characters be the main characters of a game if they’re really the main character. Inventing some dumb reason why they aren’t when it’s clear that they are is no longer acceptable in 2017. Game companies need to stop forcing every story to star a male character in order to sell a game. It’s sexist and unacceptable.

The market is not the same as it was in the 80s, 90s and even the 2000s. More women are playing games, and therefore more women deserve the see their gender well represented in a story. The gaming climate needs to adjust, or we will see the fall of beloved game franchises like Final Fantasy. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading this article and please continue to support NWG. Until we meet again!

Feminism in Gaming: Sonic Adventure 2 with Mod Knight!

Hey there, everyone! Mod Knight back with Feminism in Gaming, and we’re here to talk about a game that I’ve logged more hours into than Skyrim and Fallout 4 combined. That’s Sonic Adventure 2! No joke, I was like, addicted to Chao raising for years…but I digress! This game is one of the more story heavy Sonic games out there, and it could be argued that it’s the one that really caused the darker angstier trend that the series (and the fanbase) took; after all, it introduced the poster child for angsty hedgehogs: Shadow.

Now, then! Because the game is so heavy on plot, that also means it has a decent focus on it’s characters and their interests! And speaking of, that’s one of the most interesting points of the game; that you’re given two stories to play through, which for the time, was a good amount. Interestingly, in the villain’s (or “Dark”) story, you learn that all of the dark characters are fighting for their own interests in conjunction with working together; a very classic villain team scenario!

Now, one of the best parts of the dark story? We get a female player character! Like in the previous Sonic Adventure game, there only gets to be one female player character. And now with Rouge the Bat taking that spot, we see Amy Rose downgraded to a side character once again. But now, let’s get into the real meat of this story and take a look at the several female characters who do appear. Warning, spoilers will follow!

Since we’ve already touched on the subject, let’s start with Rouge. Easily the most interesting of the female characters in this entry of the series, Rouge is an extremely deep character for the franchise; she’s a mercenary treasure hunter whom we first meet trying to steal the Master Emerald from Knuckles. Unfortunately for her, the jewel is shattered leaving her to race to find the pieces before Knuckles can.

Rouge (on the surface) seems shallow and a bit ditsy; however, under that guise lies a calculating and clever woman who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, and as it turns out, she is secretly a government agent working undercover to foil Eggman and Shadow’s plot. She appears to only ever truly get caught off her guard once when she was defeated, and then saved by Knuckles, letting herself express slight interest in the echidna before leaving.

Now, then, the game features two other female characters semi-prominently, namely: Amy Rose, and Maria Robotnik.

Let’s look first at Amy, the only returning female character featured in previous games, Amy plays only a small role in this game. Originally attempting to break Sonic out of prison, she mistakes Shadow for him and is captured by him and Eggman. Sadly, Amy spends most of the game playing either tag-along or the damsel in distress, as she is repeatedly captured and needing rescue. Ultimately, her role in the story ends up being that of a motivation for Shadow to become good at the very end of the game.

Finally, we have Maria Robotnik, who died before the story even began! As the story explains, she was a sick girl on the space colony where Shadow was created, and when the military came to shut down the project, she was killed. This created Shadow’s hatred of humanity and his desire for revenge. Later on, however, the memory of her reminds him of what she truly wanted, to give the people of the world a chance to be happy. Ultimately, Maria is a character who was fridged before she could even appear in the story, serving only to motivate Shadow’s backstory.

While I personally enjoyed this game in the past I can definitely see that there was a sad mishandling of the female characters in the game and it’s story. Ultimately, Rouge is the most feminist character appearing within, and honestly is probably the most feminist character in the entire series.

Thanks for reading! – Mod Knight

Feminism in Gaming: Jade Empire with Mod Knight!

Hey there, everyone! Mod Knight back with Feminism in Gaming! This time , I’m gonna dive into a game from my youth (that now that I look back on, has it’s ups and downs when it comes to feminism). The game I’m talking about today is Jade Empire, a game by BioWare released in 2007 for the Xbox.

Jade empire follows the story of a martial artist who is tasked with restoring a powerful guardian spirit of the world, the water dragon, in order to protect the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Along the way, the player can fight, talk, and romance their way through a rich cast of unique characters and fun, world building quests! The world of Jade Empire is certainly a vast and nuanced one, especially for it’s time!

Now, with so many characters, there’s a plethora of ways that we can see plenty of interesting representation. One notable feature of the game is that the characters are almost entirely Asian, which is appropriate for the setting. It’s nice to see that level of representation when so often characters from Asian countries and cultures end up getting white-washed.

Also! Not only does the game give us the option of playing as a female character, there are a several  female allies in the game, and each is an extremely interesting and well thought-out character! As well, we are given two options for homosexual romance in the game. However, I do have my issues with this, especially in the male romance with Sky, the only male romanceable character in the game. When the player first courts Sky, he is shown to be somewhat resistant to the idea, understandably needing time to think. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so different from the female version of this romance.

When the two same sex relationships reach their resolution in game, instead of showing the complete scene as they would in the heterosexual versions, the game simply fades to black on the two characters, leaving it up to the player to infer what occurred. Of course, the very idea of having same sex romances at this point was pretty wild in gaming. However, looking back on it, the game treats them strangely, and simply has a difficult time providing satisfying scenes. Luckily, we know that BioWare has improved somewhat since then.

Speaking of romantic relationships, another folly of the game comes in the form of Henpecked Hou, a character whose entire identity is one big joke about how awful marriage is. In fact, the entire reason he stays with the player as a follower is because he finds it preferable to going back home to his wife, and he constantly reminds the player of his “dear wife, who has turned my life into a miserable cesspool devoid of humor and excitement. Bless her soul”, as he puts it.

While Jade Empire certainly has issues, it’s a game that attempted to touch on several serious topics, but may have gone a bit heavy or perhaps too lightly with them. In the end, it was a starting point for a lot of LGBT representation in gaming, and I, for one, am pretty grateful for that! While the problems with it pain me, I still find it to be a very fun and enjoyable game even years later!

Feminism in Gaming: Blizzard Games (with Mod Loser!)

Hey Nasties! This is Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me. And in this FIG, I’m going to discuss Blizzard’s history with feminism in their video games. It has been a bit of a wild ride, so without any more waiting, let’s get started.

Obviously, the farther back you go, the more problematic you find the situation.  The original Diablo games locked certain classes to a gender (which made no sense), and the various other games released with more boring, white, male protagonists. And let’s not forget WoW, hmm? These games exist, and while they were good at the time, it is important to recognize why they were problematic.

However, Blizzard’s more recent games have shown a drastic shift towards a more inclusive goal, which is significant for representation. The primary contender would be Overwatch. As much as I absolutely despise the loot system in Overwatch, it is incredibly positive towards POC’s and members of the LGBTQA+ community.

The obvious example would be Tracer being in a lesbian relationship (which was confirmed), but let’s dig deeper. For example, Symmetra is a successful person of color who also has been confirmed to have autism. Further yet, she is a support character. This means that in any given match, she is beneficial. They specifically empowered Symmetra while making her an icon to gamers of color as well as gamers who have autism to encourage them to play. But who else?

Sombra is Hispanic and incredibly proud of her heritage. At first, I thought Sombra was a stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was so bad for a Hispanic woman to be proud of her culture? If anything, I’m glad Sombra was added in for that reason. Further, still, we have Mei who was the star of the Chinese New Year event. There’s Hanzo, Genji, Lucio, Pharah, Ana, Reaper,  and this list goes on. Almost half of the entire roster includes people of color, which is so very important.

You may have watched Mod Knight’s video regarding representation in gaming and why it is important (if not you can watch it here), but I’d like to reiterate. The point of seeing someone you can identify with, someone who clearly shares the same culture or background or struggles that you share, makes the player feel so much more invested. It validates us as players, it makes us feel more comfortable and we deserve these feelings.

Thanks for reading my little rant, Nasties! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a stellar day! Mod Loser, signing off.

Feminism in Gaming: Overwatch with Mod Zan!

Hi guys, gals and non-binary pals; it’s Mod Zan, here to talk to you a little bit about feminism in my favorite first person shooter. So settle down and put on your reading glasses if you’re ready to talk about feminism in Overwatch!

Overwatch came out early in 2016, and took the gaming world by storm. As a first person shooter it acts a lot differently than most in that genre and provides the kind of character diversity in both gameplay and identity that we’re unused to seeing. Though it clearly means a lot to us gamers, we must ask: Does Blizzard make the cut when we look a little closer? For the purposes of this article, let’s break it down into three simple but distinct categories: Representation, Sexuality, and Story. 

Image result for overwatch women

Representation: Blizzard’s character roster, as of the addition of Orisa, has 24 playable heroes. Of those heroes, 11 are female and 13 are male. Out of these, 4 male characters are people of color, (not counting Zenyatta), and 6 women are people of color (not counting Orisa). I’m more inclined to count Orisa as a women of color, because of her creator, Efi, and her distinct South African Accent. Zenyatta is arguable, though his voice actor is a POC, but because of that, I’ll count him. Although this is honestly one of the best games for diversity that we’ve seen in some time, it isn’t flawless. Many of the women have outfits and character models that are overly revealing and/or sexualized (Looking at you, Widowmaker.) Additionally, a lot of the women don’t necessarily look their age despite being over forty (looking at you, Mercy!).

This isn’t to say that all women age in the same way, but there’s only one older woman that actually looks her age (though having an older woman of color is excellent!), it would be nice to see a little more. There are also no black women in the playable cast. Even though Orisa and Efi’s existence is amazing and creates an incredible opportunity for better game representation; we don’t get to see Efi in game, and if you don’t read up on the lore outside of the game, we wouldn’t know that she exists outside of Orisa’s sprays. I love having a game where I feel that I can relate to many of the characters, but Overwatch can do better, and they should! They’ve made great headway and hopefully, it will only get better despite its flaws.

Image result for overwatch widowmaker

Sexuality: Speaking of Widowmaker, the sexualization of the characters in this game is relatively important to talk about in this article. Despite the fact that we have plenty of women in Overwatch that aren’t sexualized, like Ana, Pharah, and Sombra, we also have a lack of proper outfitting; especially for battle with a few characters, like Widowmaker, Symmetra, and even Zarya! (Does she really need a titty-plate, guys? The armor would have been perfect otherwise…) These are amazing ladies, and having them in the game is fantastic. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that their armor doesn’t work functionally, and looks a little ridiculous. Especially when many of the male characters have armor that not only looks functional, but fantastic!

It’s kind of a fact that when a character, (no matter how dark, tortured, and badass) is sexualized to the degree that Widowmaker is, it becomes impossible to take them seriously. Overwatch is a game with rich characters and lore, but the ones that are sexualized suffer. They drag the feeling and story of the game down and interrupt the immersion for the player into their universe. Since the universe and world-building is arguably what makes Overwatch unique in the FPS genre, these problematic aspects are stains on an otherwise fascinating game.

Image result for overwatch uprising

Story: That being said, many of the characters in Overwatch are incredibly well made. The universe that the characters exist in is interesting and unique with the Omnic War, the Overwatch initiative and the respective factions, such as Blackwatch and Talon. All of the characters feel unique in gameplay as well as personality; so no two feel completely alike. The characters have different lines of dialogue with one another, changing depending on the location and team makeup, that adds even more depth to them and truly immerses the player. The POC characters have POC voice actors, and their backstory is relevant to them.

Ironically, my biggest complaint about the game as a whole is the lack of a story mode. As of a few weeks ago, we had the Uprising event that has expanded a bit on the story of Overwatch and some of its members (such as Tracer, Reaper, Soldier: 76, etc.). This has also brought in the addition of small character bios attached to skins that gives the player little tidbits about the characters. I genuinely adore this addition, but was slightly disappointed with some of the character’s information provided. While some people get a bit more of an in-depth look from the developers and writers, others are somewhat dismissed and given the most basic overview of what they are and the writing adds very little to their personality and backstory. In general, the game has a lot of depth to it and especially given that the story affects how the characters interact with one another. I would love to see a sequel with a story mode or the addition of a story mode in the future if possible.

Altogether, Overwatch is a great game. It has varied gameplay, modes, options, and lore that keep the player involved. It’s one of the most diverse casts that we’ve seen, possibly ever. (At least in AAA games). They have a lesbian as their posterchild and frankly, that’s a really great step forward. 

However, despite its fantastic points, we can’t ignore the flaws in both gameplay and representation. Critique is an essential part of any art form and in order to continue taking feminism and diversity in gaming into the future, we must continue to talk about the things that we want to change. 

Overwatch will hopefully set a precedent for even more diverse games to be made and promote representation for gamers that often don’t get to see people who look like them in their favorite media. I look forward to their future updates, and I hope that many other games will follow their lead in order to create a better future for all players, regardless of identity.

– Mod Zan