People seemed to have more to say on this and related subjects. Sir_Laguna deleted the other thread, so here’s a forum post.
Yoshi P made some comments a while back about racial diversity or lack thereof in FF16. You can read his comments here:
Ultimately, we felt that while incorporating ethnic diversity into Valisthea was important, an over-incorporation into this single corner of a much larger world could end up causing a violation of those narrative boundaries we originally set for ourselves. The story we are telling is fantasy, yes, but it is also rooted in reality.
There is diversity in Valisthea. Diversity that, while not all-encompassing, is synergistic with the setting we’ve created and is true to the inspirations from which we are drawing.
I think his comments have been misinterpreted. He wasn’t arguing for a lack of diversity, but rather explaining why the game is majority white. Now that the game is out, and it has become clear that the game does indeed have some racial diversity, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize what he said here. I think what he said is consistent with the final product: A fantasy world inspired by Medieval Europe, featuring mostly white people with some racial minorities. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me, especially in a series that has never shied away from portraying different races and cultures in the past.
But people see it differently, and I’m curious to see what others may have to say.
Speaking for myself, I think it was perfectly understood that Yoshi P isn’t arguing on behalf of having a lack of diversity, it’s just that his excuse is not a good one. No matter what its influence is, this is a fantasy game, and it’s a bit strange that racial homogeneity is the thing they really defend copying from their supposed inspiration… The game also has giant titans, monsters, magic and stylish emo swordsmen boys, none of which are realistic to Medieval Europe.
I really want to hold off any actual criticism until I play the game, though, but it’s something that the series has never been great at. Even in the few times they have introduced characters of color into the main cast (Barrett, Sazh), they tend to rely on boring racial stereotypes, and I’m someone who considers Final Fantasy VII to be one of the best games of all time. To me, this topic is not something that probably tips the balance of the game being good or bad, it’s just something I wish they were better at.
What’s funny is that Game of Thrones, which I understand is an inspiration to Final Fantasy XVI’s story, did the exact same thing and got the exact same criticisms. For the prequel show, House of the Dragon, they tried to work more diversity into the show by making a prominent family in the story be dark-skinned. It’s not something that was in the source material, but it made sense to the lore of the world, since the family was of foreign ancestry. In my opinion, it only enhanced the story, not only because their skin color is something that played into the plot of the show, but because it made the cast more interesting. Not saying House of the Dragon was perfect either, but it’s just an example of how it can be worked into a fantasy story.
Edit: Also to add, while I understand there may be some diversity in the NPCs, what I would really want is more diversity in the main cast of the game’s story. This is where I need to play the game to really be able to dissect for myself.
To be fair, we Western people shouldn’t talk about “racial diversity” in a Japanese work, since most of Western works, even those ones that try to be diverse, still ignore Asian people.
I mean, if you say “your work doesn’t have racial diversity” to a Japanese artist, you should be sure you ask for Asian diversity when there is not in almost any Western artwork.
I probably shouldn’t have learnt what Eurocentrism is.
Some games have made great attempts–The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima and Prey just off the top of my head–but yes Asian representation in western games is definitely far from where it should be.
But I think it’s deflecting from the core issue to say western people can’t critique this in Final Fantasy because of that. Two things can be true at once. Final Fantasy is literally one of the best-selling RPG franchises in the entire world, it’s ultimately created for (And advertised to) a global audience.
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I understand where you’re coming from. You would like a mainstream product to better represent the world as it is today.
I disagree with your reasoning. I think saying that medieval Europe is your inspiration is a perfectly reasonable defense. Racial homogeneity is not the key factor there, it is one of many. The game’s locations, architecture, clothing and armor designs, music, voice acting… all of it is clearly inspired by medieval Europe. If they can put a medieval castle, clearly inspired by Earth’s history, in a fantasy video game, why can’t they also be inspired by the racial makeup of that time?
I’d flip this right around and say, what’s wrong with wanting them to make a world with more diverse characters that give more people the opportunity to feel included and represented? Meanwhile, I can think of a few reasons depicting a “racially homogeneous” pseudo-Europe is problematic, amidst the modern day reality of rising Neo Nazi and xenophobic movements in many countries of that continent that specifically romanticize a time when their people were the overwhelming majority as a justification for their xenophobia.
There would be nothing wrong with them wanting to create a fantasy world with a more diverse racial makeup. Nothing wrong at all. I think both choices are fine, it’s just not our call to make. Their vision was a fantasy world inspired by medieval Europe, and for them, part of that calculus included a white majority. Essentially, I think storytellers have the right to make that call themselves.
You are free to make that argument, but rather than go down that path, I’ll simply point out that the game’s world, Valisthea, is not really racially homogenous. I should have said that earlier, my bad. It does feature racial minorities. So, I just don’t think that line of thought is quite relevant. It would be worth asking about a game that really was exclusively white. FF16 is not that game.
Sure, it’s not our call, but it’s not wrong to make the criticism, either. It’s fine for people to feel like a specific creative decision is not a good choice.
I’ll have to circle back to the conversation after playing the game, since I can’t speak about Valisthea itself yet. Probably going to start sinking into the game this weekend after I get done with Final Fantasy II.
Now that I finished the game I think I can return to this topic. While there IS a middle-eastern coded kingdom, the actual range of skin tones in the game is still very narrow and very white, and pointing to medieval Europe and realism as a reason is still quite silly considering how fantastical the world is. At the same time, given the prevalence of slavery in all of Valisthea’s kingdoms, I can see how they might have found it problematic to display dark-skinned characters as slaves, but it still doesn’t really serve as a justification and I’m still reaching to rationalize it.
On a side note, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see an explicitly gay central character with a lot of character depth and an on-screen romance that feels wholesome and isn’t played for laughs. In that area, it does feel like Square made an effort.