Log in or sign up to comment
49 Comments
Edited by GrantHeaslip

I haven’t had much time to play, and what I have played hasn’t been particularly eventful, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to address an aspect of Final Fantasy XIII I was particularly worried about going in: the portrayal of female characters.

Based on the art and trailers I’d seen of Final Fantasy XIII, there was a large part of me that was reflexively offended by it. I’m politically progressive, Canadian, an urban dweller, and someone with very little time for bigotry and sexism — being offended on behalf of others is something that, for better or worse, I’m pretty good at. Growing up in prudish Canada (fairly similar to the U.S. or U.K., I believe), one also tends to develop a weird disconnect between what they’re personally offended or made uncomfortable my, and what they’re offended or uncomfortable by behalf of others. In the case of Final Fantasy XIII, my issues largely fall into the latter category.

With that out of the way, here’s an obvious jumping-off point: with one exception (Nora/Hope’s mom), every important female character I’ve run into thus far has been wearing no pants. Lightning has a short skirt, Vanille has an even shorter skirt and some conveniently placed furs, Fang has a structurally flawed dress, Lebreau is straight-up wearing underwear, and Serah is wearing a short schoolgirl-esque skirt and stockings. Lightning and Serah are the only two wearing something that could be fairly (though loosely) characterized as a shirt. The male characters in this game are dressed a bit absurdly, but with the arguable exception of Snow’s deep V, nothing they’re wearing is particularly suggestive.

During my first play session, my reflective distaste for the female character models was very much at the surface of my perception, but a few sessions later, I realized that I’d almost entirely forgotten about it. Upon reflection, I think it’s because I don’t find the character models gross in the way that I might in a Dead or Alive or Soulcalibur game (neither of which, I should say, I have much experience with). In large part, I think that’s because the proportions are realistic (or at least plausible), they don’t look like creepy rubbery sex dolls, the costumes are aesthetically pleasing in ways beyond "look, boobs!”, and there’s no pandering breast physics. I find the models a bit distasteful, and I think what they represent about the way Japanese developers approach gender is troublesome, but they’re not they’re not actively ruining the way I experience the characters.

It also helps that the female characters are mostly a strong, independent, self-reliant group. Lightning and Fang (who I haven’t seen much of yet) are badasses with no time for bullshit, and Lebreau seems like the most adult member of NORA. I think I might be too early to judge Vanille since cutscenes (particularly in chapter 6) have strongly indicated she’s putting on an act and has way more to her, but even if her character weren’t to meaningfully evolve, she’s still not needy or helpless. Serah, like Vanille, I don’t think I can judge at this point, especially considering what I know about her role in Final Fantasy XIII–2. If anything, one could make a (somewhat flawed and selective) case that the male characters are the ones inhibiting the traditional (sexist) female gender roles: Snow is infatuated and irrational, Hope is needy, impulsive and obsessive, and Sazh was escorted by a female companion through most of the beginning of the game.

I don’t have much Japanese cultural context, I haven’t played many JRPGs, and I can’t speak to other games in the series. I’m inclined to be annoyed by overly sexualized depictions of female characters, but my perception of Final Fantasy XIII’s female characters has been largely ambivalent. I can’t speak for others’ cultures, I can’t speak for others of my culture, and I certainly can’t speak for females, who I genuinely do worry may be alienated by the female characters in this game, but I’ll give Square Enix credit: this aspect of the game has been pleasantly inoffensive.

Edit 2013-01-14:

I want to clarify a few things, as I did a poor job communicating my views in the original post. I like the almost all of the character designs quite a bit aesthetically. My only issue — and it’s quite a minor one — is that almost all the female characters’ costumes (with the exception of Lightning) feel a bit pandering. I don’t have a problem with short skirts, exposed midriff, attractive female characters who are comfortable with their bodies, or any other single characteristic of the characters — it’s considering all of them at once that gives me pause. When every costume it the game seems very deliberately designed to almost show underwear (in a culture that, more-so than others, fetishizes womens' underwear), I'm forced to consider the idea that dozens of concept artists, 3D artists, managers, and creative directors spent a lot of time thinking about and tweaking these designs, and this is what they arrived at.

I wouldn’t call it “gross,” and calling it “suggestive” was a clear misuse of the term (because simply dressing one way or another doesn’t suggest sex, which wasn’t what I meant), but it doesn’t sit well with me either. Again, this is on a completely different level than problems I have with games that legitimately feel gross to me, like Dead or Alive. For what it’s worth (not much, I suppose), I’ve talked with a couple of female friends about this game, and they were very much turned off by the costumes. Both are long-time fans of the series, and continue to be. I know I’m a bit of a prude, and if you don’t see where I’m coming from, that’s totally okay.

And yes, I know what's going on with Vanille and Fang, and it may somewhat justify their dress.

Online
Posted by believer258

Lightning looks pretty modest to me, comparatively.

who I genuinely do worry may be alienated by the female characters in this game

Final Fantasy doesn't seem to be a series where you have to worry about that. I'm more worried that they'll include another guy like Vaan. Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot of dudes in the Final Fantasy series who aren't particularly strong as far as emotions go.

Posted by killacam

Reminds me of when Fumito Ueda was asked if he ever considered making the protagonists of Ico or SotC female. His reply was something along the lines of "girls wear skirts, so jumping and climbing wouldn't be appropriate".

I don't know too much about Japanese culture other than through media such as games, film, and manga, so maybe that sort of stereotype is just the way things are over there? Does that make it okay? I don't know!

Posted by Hailinel

Girls don't need to wear pants to be empowered.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@believer258 said:

Lightning looks pretty modest to me, comparatively.

Yeah, it's mostly just the skirt. In some ways, she kind of bugs me more than the others since a skirt seems anathema to her character.

@believer258 said:

Final Fantasy doesn't seem to be a series where you have to worry about that. I'm more worried that they'll include another guy like Vaan. Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot of dudes in the Final Fantasy series who aren't particularly strong as far as emotions go.

I should have mentioned that I know more female FF fans than male, which probably says something, though at least a couple of them didn't like XIII's characters.

Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Hailinel said:

Girls don't need to wear pants to be empowered.

Totally true, but I think it says something about XIII that not a single playable female character is wearing pants and most aren't wearing shirts either.

Online
Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@killacam said:

Reminds me of when Fumito Ueda was asked if he ever considered making the protagonists of Ico or SotC female. His reply was something along the lines of "girls wear skirts, so jumping and climbing wouldn't be appropriate".

I don't know too much about Japanese culture other than through media such as games, film, and manga, so maybe that sort of stereotype is just the way things are over there? Does that make it okay? I don't know!

Neither do I, which is in large part why I'm trying to not be too judgemental. Western/English-speaking culture has a lot of its own gender issues, so it would be unfair to pile onto Japan too enthusiastically.

Online
Posted by Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel said:

Girls don't need to wear pants to be empowered.

Totally true, but I think it says something about XIII that not a single playable female character is wearing pants and most aren't wearing shirts either.

They're not exactly running around topless, either. Even so, pants are not a sign of anything other than a person's desire to wear them.

Posted by Slag
I’m inclined to be annoyed by overly sexualized depictions of female characters, but my perception of Final Fantasy XIII’s female characters has largely ambivalent.

I hear that.

To its' credit Final Fantasy generally is fairly decent about it, certainly far better than most of the JPRG series I've played. In some cases they've done very well at portraying great female characters. Celes and Terra in particular, maybe not as much by today's standards, were pretty trailblazing female characters when FFVI released. Perhaps because Square's size and international market they have to be more aware of how Westerners perceive the depictions than some of their other counterparts. Whatever the reason, it's something I enjoy about the series is knowing these games will have interesting female characters as well as the males.

I know this much I've met a large number of female Final fantasy fans (especially after Vii released). Probably impossible to know for sure but I would bet Final Fantasy has more female appeal than just about any major console franchise of its' stature out there.

Posted by golguin
@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.
Online
Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.

But none of the characters in FF XIII look Asian...

Posted by JZ

Chie wears a skirt.

Posted by Phatmac

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Posted by DoctorWelch

If I was an attractive anime looking woman, I'd flaunt it too. Fuck you and your campaign to force us to wear pants. Tell me you wouldn't just wear no pants all the damn time if it was socially acceptable and you had fucking sexy ass, ripped ass legs.

Posted by EXTomar

There were plenty of Japanese games that came out in 2012 with girls with bigger "assets" and skimpier clothing and cruder, more childish personalities. The way these guys are handling the FF13 girls is actually quite conservative.

Posted by golguin

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.

But none of the characters in FF XIII look Asian...

I beg to differ.

Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.

But none of the characters in FF XIII look Asian...

Setting aside the hair, almost every major character in the game looks pretty asian to me. Even Sazh sort of looks like a Japanese dude with dark skin and an afro.

According to the internet, Serah is 18, Vanille is 19, and Lightning is 21. If anything, they all look a bit older than their age. Snow is supposed to be 24, though I think he looks older as well.

Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Slag said:

I’m inclined to be annoyed by overly sexualized depictions of female characters, but my perception of Final Fantasy XIII’s female characters has largely ambivalent.

I hear that.

To its' credit Final Fantasy generally is fairly decent about it, certainly far better than most of the JPRG series I've played. In some cases they've done very well at portraying great female characters. Celes and Terra in particular, maybe not as much by today's standards, were pretty trailblazing female characters when FFVI released. Perhaps because Square's size and international market they have to be more aware of how Westerners perceive the depictions than some of their other counterparts. Whatever the reason, it's something I enjoy about the series is knowing these games will have interesting female characters as well as the males.

I know this much I've met a large number of female Final fantasy fans (especially after Vii released). Probably impossible to know for sure but I would bet Final Fantasy has more female appeal than just about any major console franchise of its' stature out there.

You might be right, and I think that's interesting. Anecdotally, it seems to be the story and relatively accessible gameplay that makes them more palatable to females that don't usually play AAA console games. I do wonder if Square Enix actually thinks about this, or if it's just happened to work out well for them.

Online
Posted by Aetheldod

@GrantHeaslip: Yeah like god damn them for making females that wear skirts and embrace their feminity .... hell friggn no right? Sheesh

Edited by Bourbon_Warrior

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.

But none of the characters in FF XIII look Asian...

I beg to differ.

Nope sorry. Unless they are like most rich Koreans that get plastic surgery to look more European.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@DoctorWelch said:

If I was an attractive anime looking woman, I'd flaunt it too. Fuck you and your campaign to force us to wear pants. Tell me you wouldn't just wear no pants all the damn time if it was socially acceptable and you had fucking sexy ass, ripped ass legs.

I'm not anti-no-pants (pick apart that triple-negative!), but I do think it stands out that none of them are wearing pants.

@EXTomar said:

There were plenty of Japanese games that came out in 2012 with girls with bigger "assets" and skimpier clothing and cruder, more childish personalities. The way these guys are handling the FF13 girls is actually quite conservative.

You're right — I'm only calling out (to the extent that this post is even that negative) this game because it's the one I'm playing. I agree that it's notably conservative compared to other games — hell, even Xenoblade had some conspicuous breast physics and a few stupidly revealing costumes.

Online
Posted by EXTomar

Come now. Serah looks like she could have walked out of 109 after shopping there for that exact outfit.

Posted by FancySoapsMan

I like Lightning's outfit, and her character model in general.

also I will never understand why it's offensive to see women wearing skirts.

Posted by DoctorWelch

@FancySoapsMan said:

I like Lightning's outfit, and her character model in general.

also I will never understand why it's offensive to see women wearing skirts.

Because it's only not sexist when women are ugly and wearing loose jeans with a baggy sweatshirt.

Posted by Zomgfruitbunnies

I like sexy women in revealing clothes.

Posted by golguin

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@golguin said:

@Bourbon_Warrior

I was always put off by Snows GF\Fiance he looks 30 she looks 12....

Asai girls generally look young. A lot of the younger female professors were mistaken for students at my school because they were asian.

But none of the characters in FF XIII look Asian...

I beg to differ.

Nope sorry. Unless they are like most rich Koreans that get plastic surgery to look more European.

Then we have reached an impasse.

Online
Posted by Slag

@GrantHeaslip said:

You might be right, and I think that's interesting. Anecdotally, it seems to be the story and relatively accessible gameplay that makes them more palatable to females that don't usually play AAA console games. I do wonder if Square Enix actually thinks about this, or if it's just happened to work out well for them.

I'm inclined to think they do.

In fact I think X-2 was their fairly blatant (largely failed) attempt to try and cash in on it. What other JRPG of that budget/prominence had an exclusively female cast? None I can think of before or since. They got the appeal mix wrong I think in that game, while trying have characters aimed at women, they unfortunately put them in probably the most revealing outfits of the series and had them do some male fan servicey type things in out of character ways. So it ended pleasing no one and is justifiably generally disliked.

X-2 was a heavily flawed game (extensive recycled assets and environments, throwaway story, oddly upbeat tone), but it did have a lot of really interesting ideas. Actually its' battle system is very similar to FFXiii in many respects. Instead of shifting paradigms you could change jobs on the fly. The battle system was a lot of fun, the main problem with it was that most of the enemies were retreads from FF X and the X-2 battle system made them zero challenge.

Ancedotally that era FF Vii-X was when I felt the series was at its' commercial peak and perhaps not coincidentally seemed to have a large female following. But then after that WoW hit the scene (while Everquest was certainly around it wasn't Wow) and I think that may have taken away a lot of their female fanbase (and zeitgeist since it had a social element FF never did). FF of course had FFXi but in the MMORPG space it was WoW and everything else.

I don't really hear the buzz for the series like I once did. But I'm also older now so I may not encounter the age groups to really tell.

Posted by Hailinel

@FancySoapsMan said:

I like Lightning's outfit, and her character model in general.

also I will never understand why it's offensive to see women wearing skirts.

I agree with all of the above.

I would go so far as to say that Lightning is one of my favorite protagonists in the series.

Posted by Aetheldod

@Hailinel: She is my fav character alongside Squall.

Posted by GrantHeaslip
@Hailinel

@FancySoapsMan said:

I like Lightning's outfit, and her character model in general.

also I will never understand why it's offensive to see women wearing skirts.

I agree with all of the above.

I would go so far as to say that Lightning is one of my favorite protagonists in the series.

I feel like I wasn't clear enough about this in my original post, but I like Lightning's character model as well. In fact, I think most of the character designs in this game are great. I have no problem at all with female characters being attractive — I've quite enjoyed it.

I don't think it's offensive for women to wear skirts either — I simply think the relative state of undress of *every* major female character in the game (thus far) is conspicuous. It's the collective nature of it, not any single example.
Online
Posted by Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel

@FancySoapsMan said:

I like Lightning's outfit, and her character model in general.

also I will never understand why it's offensive to see women wearing skirts.

I agree with all of the above.

I would go so far as to say that Lightning is one of my favorite protagonists in the series.

I feel like I wasn't clear enough about this in my original post, but I like Lightning's character model as well. In fact, I think most of the character designs in this game are great. I have no problem at all with female characters being attractive — I've quite enjoyed it. I don't think it's offensive for women to wear skirts either — I simply think the relative state of undress of *every* major female character in the game (thus far) is conspicuous. It's the collective nature of it, not any single example.

You have an odd definition of undress.

Posted by EXTomar

I expected the chapters with Lightning and Hope to be boring but they are actually good stuff for a back story.

Posted by GrantHeaslip
@Hailinel You don't think Vanille and Lebreau (at the very least) are conspicuous? If so, we'll have to chalk it up to a difference in opinion.
Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip
@EXTomar

I expected the chapters with Lightning and Hope to be boring but they are actually good stuff for a back story.

Yeah, I just hit the end of that (in that Snow and Fang are back), and the stuff at the end was some of the best storytelling thus far.
Online
Posted by Turambar

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel You don't think Vanille and Lebreau (at the very least) are conspicuous? If so, we'll have to chalk it up to a difference in opinion.

Both Vanille and Fang fall into the same (western) stereotype: How do we make people look exotic / tribal? Make their clothing structurally strange and revealing, and add a tattoo here or there.

Posted by Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel You don't think Vanille and Lebreau (at the very least) are conspicuous? If so, we'll have to chalk it up to a difference in opinion.

Not really. I could probably say more about Vanille, but there would be spoilers involved, so I'll hold off.

Posted by Mr_Misery

1. Whats suggestive about skirts?

2. Maybe you should be mad all of the guys are wearing pants.

Posted by GrantHeaslip
@Hailinel

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel You don't think Vanille and Lebreau (at the very least) are conspicuous? If so, we'll have to chalk it up to a difference in opinion.

Not really. I could probably say more about Vanille, but there would be spoilers involved, so I'll hold off.

I've got my suspicions :). I'm pretty sure I had something spoiled by a Google suggestion.
Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip
@Mr_Misery

1. Whats suggestive about skirts?

2. Maybe you should be mad all of the guys are wearing pants.

It's that they're all wearing skirts that basically (or very nearly) reveal underwear. Maybe "suggestive" isn't the right term, but it's definitely something.
Online
Posted by golguin

@Hailinel said:

@GrantHeaslip said:

@Hailinel You don't think Vanille and Lebreau (at the very least) are conspicuous? If so, we'll have to chalk it up to a difference in opinion.

Not really. I could probably say more about Vanille, but there would be spoilers involved, so I'll hold off.

I beat the game last year and I'm not sure what you're referring to. I typed something into google thinking a certain thing was it, but apparently I'm getting my games mixed up and that scene never happened.

Online
Posted by xyzygy

Vanille and Fang have a reason their attire is so... tribal. You'll have to find out more about their backstory, if you haven't already

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

I think the character designs in FF13 are excellent. Even Vanille.

Edited by Dixavd

Anyone who thinks Vanille is the generic ditsy female character didn't pay enough attention. She easily has the most depth and writing put into her of any Final Fantasy character ever made (and easily one of the most "layered" characters of any current gen game). It is a key part of the game for why she acts so child-like (a core for her as a character, and the entire crux of the game from what made the events occur to the events in the end).

There are a lot of problems that can be put towards Final Fantasy XIII - but calling it sexist isn't one of them.

It's even a game which brings up overtones of masculinity vs feminity in male characters (from: dealing with problems by fighting through or being wiling to cry; to a parents place as a single father). Something which most other games refuse to touch on.

--Edit-- I should point out this isn't aimed at anyone - especially someone who hasn't finished the game. I just have seen this topic appear before and it always comes down to these sort of arguements, so I wanted to pre-empt them.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

I just added this addendum to the post:

I want to clarify a few things, as I did a poor job communicating my views in the original post. I like the almost all of the character designs quite a bit aesthetically. My only issue — and it’s quite a minor one — is that almost all the female characters’ costumes (with the exception of Lightning) feel a bit pandering. I don’t have a problem with short skirts, exposed midriff, attractive female characters who are comfortable with their bodies, or any other single characteristic of the characters — it’s considering all of them at once that gives me pause. When every costume it the game seems very deliberately designed to almost show underwear (in a culture that, more-so than others, fetishizes womens' underwear), I'm forced to consider the idea that dozens of concept artists, 3D artists, managers, and creative directors spent a lot of time thinking about and tweaking these designs, and this is what they arrived at.

I wouldn’t call it “gross,” and calling it “suggestive” was a clear misuse of the term (because simply dressing one way or another doesn’t suggest sex, which wasn’t what I meant), but it doesn’t sit well with me either. Again, this is on a completely different level than problems I have with games that legitimately feel gross to me, like Dead or Alive. For what it’s worth (not much, I suppose), I’ve talked with a couple of female friends about this game, and they were very much turned off by the costumes. Both are long-time fans of the series, and continue to be. I know I’m a bit of a prude, and if you don’t see where I’m coming from, that’s totally okay.

And yes, I know what's going on with Vanille and Fang, and it may somewhat justify their dress.

Online
Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Dixavd said:

Anyone who thinks Vanille is the generic ditsy female character didn't pay enough attention. She easily has the most depth and writing put into her of any Final Fantasy character ever made (and easily one of the most "layered" characters of any current gen game). It is a key part of the game for why she acts so child-like (a core for her as a character, and the entire crux of the game from what made the events occur to the events in the end).

I don’t want anything beyond where I am (having just learned about Vanille and Fang being from Pulse) spoiled, but the child-like stuff is supposed to be kind of obnoxious until it’s explained, right?

Online
Posted by Dixavd

@GrantHeaslip: Yes. (At least, I found it that way - and it made the later parts even the more stronger - especially if you replay the game later and you notice what the parts which seem like bad acting mean in context).

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Dixavd said:

@GrantHeaslip: Yes. (At least, I found it that way - and it made the later parts even the more stronger - especially if you replay the game later and you notice what the parts which seem like bad acting mean in context).

Okay, that’s good to know. I guess I was putting people in a weird place of trying to tell me that she was okay without letting slip why.

Online
Edited by John1912

I guess I largely dont understand being upset over the way women are depicted in video games. In the case of FF characters their personalities take away any overt sexuality their outfits may inspire. That being usually childlike overly cutesy, or kinda dull in the case of say Lightning.

That aside, I dont see the point in calling out what is by nature a sensationalist form of entertainment. Games are a visual medium, and meant to be eye catching. If I have to explain it to myself metaphysically, games are usually violent in some form of fashion. Thats a primal act. So by proxy sex, being a primal act, and by far one of the most visual is a subconsciously ingrained route to take. Women are by far the more visual half of sexuality. A over sexualized man come off as kinda gay or really gay. So in that respect women do have a wider option in fashion then men do. Gender neutral is kinda boring.

I guess the personality plays a large part in if I view a woman as over sexualized. Which goes back to my opening paragraph. If the woman or girl doesnt come off like a tramp, isnt making overt sexual presenting poses with her boobs flopping every which way I may not really see them as sexualized. Least not consciously.