Square Enix announced that two new races are being added to Final Fantasy XIV via the Shadowbringers expansion. This includes the Viera, a female rabbit race, and the Hrothgar, a male cat race. Gamers are somewhat disappointed but showing amicability toward the decision given Square explained the cost and resource strain on why they had to gender-lock the races for now, but games media went in the complete opposite direction, throwing a tantrum the likes of which even a soiled-diapered toddler would find embarrassing.
It started on March 25th, 2019 with an article on Gamespot, where they gritted their teeth at the concept of the racial gender-lock for the Viera and the Hrothgar, peppering game director Naoki Yoshida about possibly making male Viera and female Hrothgar. He deflected the question by saying they hadn’t had time to consider all of the feedback. The comment section was far less accommodating of Gamespot, and basically let them know how they really felt.
But it didn’t end there.
Kotaku‘s Mike Fahey went on a rant against Square, writing…
“While Final Fantasy lore features both female and male Ronso, in Final Fantasy XIV they will be a male-only race, included as a counterpart to the female-only Viera.
“This is, frankly, some bullshit. First off, adhering to the lore only matters for the Viera? Players cannot be male Viera because of lore, but they also cannot be female Hrothgar because, what, it wouldn’t be fair to everybody who wanted to be a male Viera? Nonsense.”
Kotaku points to some threads of people commenting on the trailer, with most of the people feeling bad for Square that a bunch of non-core audience members will shame them for gender-locking the races.
Others took a dive headfirst into identity politics like Reddit is oftentimes poised to do at a moment’s notice.
PC Gamer criticized Square Enix for the decision while trying to fulcrum the same Left-wing Reddit audience as Kotaku to predicate their argument, writing…
“The response to the reveal has been largely negative, with Final Fantasy 14’s subreddit being filled with threads criticizing the decision. Before Final Fantasy 14 was relaunched in 2013 as A Realm Reborn, the feline-like Miqo’te race was originally female-only, but Square Enix changed it (among pretty much everything else) in response to player feedback. Its decision to reintroduce gender-locked races is baffling.”
If you actually follow the links to the Reddit threads, the first thread is mostly about people needing to chill out and not harass Yoshida since other subs were calling the gender-locking sexist, while the other thread is people giving their opinion on what they feel is a lack of quality on the tiger-men models, which is the same thread that Kotaku linked to.
There are more criticisms aimed at the quality of the model than the gender-locking. But those two threads don’t speak for the entirety of Reddit, which is mostly steeped in Left-wing politics and only have a passing interest in hardcore gaming.
Outside of game journalists whining about the gender-locking to no end, it’s not quite as big an issue as the media is making it out to be. A quick trip to social media renders some scant discussion here and there, so much so that there were people complaining that there wasn’t enough evidence of people complaining about the gender-locking in Final Fantasy XIV for the two new races. I kid you not.
What the fuck is going on with FFXIV?
They’re people complaining about people complaining. But that initial group is no where to be seen. As of the counter outrage is entirely manufactured.
Link me one, just one, person calling the gender lock trans/homophobic.
— Xhiel, Matron Saint of Sadism 🏳️🌈 (@Miss_Xhiel) March 24, 2019
Now it’s not to say that people aren’t discussing things like the male Viera variant, because they are. There’s a 100-page thread over on the Square Enix forums about it, and even a Change.org petition that has garnered a 766 signatures since March 23rd, 2019.
The question is: is the outrage really as bad as the media is making it out to be? Based on the feedback across social media and the Final Fantasy XIV communities, there’s a lot of discussion and some people wanting the races to be freed from gender-locking, but they’re no where near as vitriolic as the game journalists.
The weird part about it is that when you attempt to look for the histrionics and lengthy Twitter threads, instead you come across posts like this…
I know I complain a lot and get passionate about speaking my thoughts but, separating how I truly feel from that, it’s not really a big deal. Right now I’m hesitating to use fantasia potion because I honestly have characters I adore as they are.
— .Obiri//FFXIV ( ´_ﾉ` ) (@_obirii) March 24, 2019
And even in the case of the Change.org petition, some users actually chided against it, saying it felt like a misuse of the services.
I feel like going so far as to make a https://t.co/8ysSObVGxP petition is a bit inappropriate, maybe?
— Astral (@Astral53977448) March 23, 2019
Don’t get me wrong, i signed, albeit hesitantly, it just seems like a bit of a misuse of the site. :p
— Astral (@Astral53977448) March 23, 2019
While the community is definitely vocal, they’re not really persistent about it, not as far as anyone is concerned looking from the outside in.
In fact, even ResetEra seemed relatively chilled about the news, with only a few members going down the “sexist”, “bigot” route when criticizing the decision. Majority of the forum members didn’t necessarily defend Yoshida’s decision, but calmly explained why they understood it, given that the developers had limited resources to work with and could either have two genders and one race, or two races and one gender. It was either/or and Yoshida decided to make the most of what he could.
A few of the members who wanted to keep the pot stirred were miraculously put into place by the more level-headed members trying to maintain a sense of sanity. They even linked to an interview that YouTuber MrHappy1227 had with Yoshida-san, in which more clarity was brought to the issue concerning the gender-locking and why the team decided to do it that way, citing — once again — limited resources.
If you’re unable to view the video, it states…
“Short answer is we haven’t made a decision on that. The reason why we can’t say for sure. We need to optimize our work flow with the existing races and the new ones. After that, perhaps we do the other gender. But we don’t know right now.
“We did consider Male Viera instead of adding an extra race, but we tried to take player feedback on adding a more beast like race as well as the strong desire to receive Viera. We did expect strong feedback on the gender lock. It was a tough decision, but we decided to do our best to meet both the player feedback and our development team’s vision. It will be very costly to add a new race or genders. So I won’t say no, but I would not like to set expectations high.”
Yoshida asked for MrHappy1227’s take on the feedback from North America, and MrHappy1227 explained that some people were okay with the gender-locking, some people weren’t, some people were heated about a lack of male Viera, while others were more concerned about female Hrothgar. Yoshida responded by saying…
“Thank you for the insight. Currently, we are putting together all the feedback. Depending on the feedback we are considering an official statement on the forums.”
The full interview between MrHappy1227 and Yoshida can be viewed over on the Google Docs page.
So what did we learn here today, folks?
Well, it appears that some people didn’t like the gender-locked races, which is a typical response from most gamers, and a constant pet peeve for anyone who plays Japanese or South Korean MMOs. However, the issue was escalated and blown out of proportion by games media in order to turn it into an issue about sexism and gender identity.
Most people on Reddit were more worried about backlash Square might receive rather than trying to initiate the backlash themselves. And on Twitter you sort of have to fish around for the actual outrage. Even ResetEra was a lot more understanding than one might have expected from a community that foments as much unnecessary outrage and hate on trivial topics as they do.
Were there people disappointed about the issue? Yes. Was it as bad as the media made it seem? No. Regardless of what the media is reporting, Yoshida already said he’s gauging the feedback and will address the issue if necessary on the forums.
(Thanks for the news tip San)