Final Fantasy 16 Producer addresses the lack of diversity

final fantasy 16 diversity

When Square Enix released their trailer for Final Fantasy XVI in 2020, many players pointed out the lack of diversity among the game's main characters. From then it was clear that yet another Final Fantasy game would feature a monochrome cast.

Speaking to IGN, when asked if Final Fantasy XVI would include Black characters or other people of color in general, the game's producer Naoki Yoshida explained why non-white characters didn't fit his vision for a medieval Final Fantasy inspired by Europe.

Before his statement, Yoshida admitted this was a tricky question to answer, yet not one which took him by surprise, seeing as how diversity in entertainment has been a hot topic of late. 

He stated that since early development, FFXVI's core concept was based on medieval Europe's historical, cultural, political and social norms during that time period. Which for him and the other devs meant limiting the game's setting to one homogeneous society.

"Valisthea was never going to realistically be as diverse as say a modern-day Earth...or even Final Fantasy XIV". - Naoki Yoshida, interview by IGN.

Yoshida would go on to say that while racially diversifying the world of Valisthea was important, at the same time, both himself and the development team agreed that an outwardly racially integrated setting would ultimately clash with their envisioned narrative.

To further elaborate, this meant due to the inherent regional, industrial and social constraints of this realm, the world of Valisthea could never realistically be as diverse, as say the current population of Earth.

This long drawn out response may have provided an answer, but where lies the problem is because Final Fantasy 16 takes heavy inspiration from a real life setting which wasn't homogenous at all.

There was actually a great deal of diversity in Medieval Europe, and black people existed in Medieval Britain and Europe alongside other races, contrary to popular belief.

"The story we are telling is fantasy, yes, but it is also rooted in reality." - Naoki Yoshida, interviewed by IGN.

Instead of a realistic imagining of Medieval Europe, what Final Fantasy XVI actually is, is a glamorized attempt at the American fantasy drama, Games of Throne.

 A television show which localization director Michael-Christopher Koji told IGN (in the same interview), the game was inspired by and many members of the development team are fans off. Mind you, this is also a tv series that was criticised for it's lack of racial diversity

But even the Games of Throne had side characters who were blackish, (although poorly represented ). Meaning that even a tv show which was lambasted for excluding people of color for years, seemingly has more has more representation.

The producer would also go on record to say, "The story we are telling is fantasy, yes, but it is also rooted in reality." Which is clearly a contradiction because no matter how you spin it, Valisthea is a fantasy game first and foremost. 

If bone chilling ice maidens and large chocobo birds can exist freely in the world, why is prominently featuring Black people one step too far?

Finally, Yoshida concluded that it was difficult to implement distinctive ethnicities as either an antagonist or protagonist without triggering audience prejudices, attracting groundless assumptions, and fanning the flames of controversy. 

All this respond admits is that instead of embracing change and stepping out their comfort zone, the developers were possibly afraid of presumed backlash and decided to play it safe with a humomgous cast, ultimately stunting the game's true potential.

Just imagine if  Final Fantasy VII never introduced the iconic protagonist Barret Wallace or Forspoken never starred an unlikely heroine in Frey Holland, because of fear of backlash or negative criticism? They surely wouldn't be the same.

In an another interview,  he told Inverse "In terms of whether Final Fantasy is successfully adapting to industry trends, I believe the series is currently struggling," You know what wouldn't make Final Fantasy feel like a relic of the past? prioritizing a richly diverse cast that mirrors industry standards.

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