The upcoming MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, which has been in beta testing, was looking promising. The game has been getting positive reviews and folks have generally been having fun. I had been meaning to write a positive review of the game and community. Folks on my server, Balmung, are generally friendly and I met anyone obnoxious, offensive, or hateful (yet!). I was also delighted to find that the character design doesn’t seem to just be pandering to straight men. Body types could be more diverse, but at least the female characters don’t look like pin-up girls in floss for armor. I am excited to play a seven-foot-tall, muscular warrior woman:
Some of the armor that is skimpy on female characters is even skimpy on male characters, such as the infamous subligar armor:
Some straight male players complain about their avatar in a speedo and don’t see the irony!
So, despite a lot to be excited about, there is a big problem with FFXIV so far: homophobia.
Those of us planning to role-play have been researching the game’s lore in preparation for launch on August 27. One big question is: what are the in-character views on homosexuality? For those of us playing gay and bisexual characters, should we plan on stories dealing with being a sexual minority in a homophobic world, or should we expect sexual orientation is no big deal?
Well, according to the development team, most Eorzeans don’t really care what your sexual orientation is:
In general, how open-minded is the average Eorzean? (ex. Accept same-sex couples? Those who do not believe in the Twelve?)
Answer: Though many of the races experienced rocky pasts, currently, tolerance is, for the most part, the norm in Eorzea. The main reason behind this being that the region is a veritable melting pot of races who have worked together throughout recent history to survive the hardships thrust upon them. This does not mean that there are do not exist groups which are significantly more closed-minded. For example, while Gridania and Limsa Lominsa are fairly open about having dealings with the some of the more amicable beast tribes (such as the sylphs, goblins, and Qiqirn), the sultanate of Ul’dah are wary of the tribes, in part due to their prolonged conflict with the Amalj’aa.
OK, so some characters might be homophobic, but most don’t think anything of someone’s sexual orientation. Then, what doesn’t make sense is the in-game policy on marriage:
Q: Will it be possible to get married? Also, will same-sex marriages be possible?
As for same-sex marriage, this is an extremely controversial topic that has been under discussion in the MMO world for the past few years. First we would like to start out with opposite-sex marriage, and then consider the feedback from our players in order to make a careful decision.I can’t say whether or not it will be possible at this point in time. I’d like to keep dialog open with our players as we deliberate the matter.
Now I am personally not that excited about marriage because of its patriarchal and heteronormative baggage. I probably wouldn’t want to get married in an MMORPG. But if we’re going to have marriage, I don’t want to exclude anyone from it. For me, it doesn’t really make sense that a world where most people don’t care about sexual orientation would ban same-gender marriage. A member of the Hydaelan Role-Players Coalition pointed this out on the beta-testing forums and was banned for “discrimination”. They received this message from Square Enix and reposted it:
Arguments For Marriage Equality in Eorzea
Relevant sections from the FINAL FANTASY XIV Guidelines:
Posting aimed to create a negative impact on the community or its members.
Posting that constitutes discrimination against another forum member or group (also including forming groups for the purpose of discrimination), insults, slander, libel, harassment of a group or individual.
Posting spam, including meaningless characters and white space.
Recently it was announced that marriage would be a feature within Final Fantasy 14 ARR. The system as of now, is planned to be for opposite gendered couples only, with the possibility of same gendered marriages being implemented based on player feedback. I argue that waiting for this feedback is, statistically speaking, a complete waste of time. The numbers already exist to indicate that the players of the afore mentioned game approve of same sex marriage by a wide margin. Let’s consider the following, using the United States, a traditionally conservative country, as a model.
- Among millennials (people born after 1980), support for same sex marriage is over 70%
- Among people born after 1965, support for same sex marriage is over 50%
- According to the Entertainment Software Association’s 2013 data, the average age of video game players is 30, with 64% of all players falling in the millennial category.
These numbers alone show that a good majority of video game players (if not a substantial majority), support same sex marriage. Assuming that Final Fantasy 14 players fall within the “video game players” demographic, it’s quite easy to see in advance that support among the player base would be high.
Square Enix is running a business though, and I understand that. After the debacle that was the initial release of Final Fantasy 14, and all the hard work they’ve put in to revitalizing the game, I can understand that they don’t want any niggling distractions to keep any potential players away. Fortunately, there are real world examples to show that SE shouldn’t be afraid to implement same sex marriage.
First, let’s look at the Old Republic. Bioware has a history of offering same sex relationships in their game, and well before their game launched, they stated that they intended to continue that tradition within the Old Republic. The usual suspects came out in protest, the American Family Association, One Million Moms, ect. (people who don’t play video games in any real numbers by the way), but Bioware was warmly received by the video game community. When the game launched, they had over 1 million subscribers within the first 3 days. The game ultimately took a tumble in the numbers, but that can in no way be attributed to the same sex marriage “controversy”.
Next let’s look at Trion’s game RIFT. In one of the game’s post launch patches, they implemented a marriage system without gender restrictions. There was no controversy, there was no fall out, but they did set the record for most marriages in a video game in a single day when the patch went live.
Historically, video game developers who have taken the bold step of supporting equality have been rewarded for their bravery by the good will of their player bases. There will always be detractors, but support for the issue among gamers has been rock solid, and support grows with every new poll. As someone who first realized he was gay thanks to your video games (Kuja you naughty thing), I humbly ask that you consider my arguments in deciding on the fate of marriage equality in Eorzea.
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So arguing for gay marriage promotes negativity, discrimination, and spam? I am not impressed. Some of us on the role-players forum have been discussing staging in character protests, but will we be banned too?
Some players have started a Change.org petition. What do you think would be the best way to get same-gender marriage implemented in FFXIV? Or should we just dismiss the game and move on to more pressing social causes? Discuss in the comments!