Two weeks ago, Square Enix released a new story trailer for its upcoming RPG. Final Fantasy XVI. There’s just one noticeable problem – there doesn’t seem to be a single non-white character in it. So IGN asked producer Naoki Yoshida about whether or not the game would feature black people or other people of color. Unfortunately, his answer made me go “yikes” in real life.
Yoshida explained that the fantasy world of Valisthea was based on medieval Europe and they wanted to narrow the world culturally and geographically. “Realistically, Valisthea would never be as diverse as, say, a modern Earth…or even Final Fantasy XIV,‘ he said as if asked to include all races on the entire planet. “Ultimately, we felt that while it was important to include ethnic diversity in Valisthea, over-involvement in this one corner of a much larger world could end up violating the narrative boundaries we originally set for ourselves. ”
Which begs the question: Why did they enforce a whites-only limit in the first place?
After acknowledging that the real world is more diverse than Valisthea, he continued, “The story we’re telling is fantasy, yes, but it’s also rooted in reality.” What is it, Yoshida? You can’t say your fictional world isn’t bound by reality and then use reality to explain why black people can’t exist in Valisthea. Pick a fight and stick with it, please.
What’s really frustrating about all of this is that medieval Europe always had black people and brown people. If the creative leadership had done more research or checked their biases, they might have noticed that it was black has lived in Britain for two thousand years. Or that some were black Europeans canonized in the Holy Roman Empire. Or recognized that Iberia was under Islamic rule for about 500 years. Instead of a realistic idea of medieval Europe, we got FFXVI instead of this.
I emailed Square Enix asking how they decided whether or not a story element violated the developers’ “narrative boundaries” and I’ll let you know as soon as I get a response.
I just checked the latest trailer, which nestled above, and saw a giant winged lady throw ice shards. Apparently that’s not too much for fantasy realism, but including real people of different races is a step too far. Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox narrated IGN that inspired the game Game of Thrones. But myself Have had black supporting characters (though very poorly represented). FFXVI might be worse in terms of representation than any of the white bread shows on prestige television.
So why did the developers decide to only include white characters in the trailer? Yoshida has an answer that sounds totally like a non-answer. “It can be a challenge to assign different ethnicities to either antagonists or protagonists without inciting audience prejudice, inviting unwarranted speculation, and ultimately stirring up controversy,” he said IGN.
I believe the developers can overcome this challenge without blowing up the internet. When the AAA blockbuster God of War: Ragnarok
These new quotes make me very cynical about Yoshida’s comments a previous interview. In August he said he wanted to revive that final fantasy Series entangled in its own longstanding tradition. “In terms of whether final fantasy successfully adapting to industry trends, I believe the series is struggling at the moment,” he said in the interview with Vice versa. You know what doesn’t help when trying to make it final fantasy don’t feel like it’s over 30 years old? Giving fans an all-white cast that goes against both industry standards and actual history.
For all of this, Yoshida is credited for being the man who saved final fantasy franchisehis creativity is also limited by a genre that never did justice to Black and Brown fans around the world. FFXVI perhaps the most “mature” game in the series, but its outlook on human history is a step backwards for modern JRPGs.