Where my interest for Final Fantasy XV comes from.
Or, a weird reference to an old E3 trailer and a summary of headcanons I have about the main boys.
The year is 2013. A quivering, humbled crowd of people gawk at the polite, terse man speaking on a stage. I am there, too. In spirit, watching a livestream. Envision me, a younger man, 20 for only three months. My hair was longer, my voice still contained the timbre of an unsure youth, and I had yet to shave one side of my head. This is relevant information: to perfect this picture of the past, we need to realise that we were, on all counts of personhood but mostly fashion senses, imperfect. So this opposite of an Adonis was glued to his screen, watching a livestream of E3 with his friends. A baccano of excitement swept through the audience as the man on stage disappeared in the dimming of the lights. Then, silence.
And then, this trailer happened?
Despite the only thing linking it to Final Fantasy is the FINAL FANTASY REALTIME TECH DEMO, me and the other people in the chat could tell it was very Final Fantasy. Magic AND guns AND old men? That’s so Final Fantasy! Is it? Probably. What the heck even is a Final Fantasy? At this point the series has become such an inchoate mess of narrative, its most intuitive markers are its fashion, the media surrounding a game, and its magitek (magical technology) aesthetics.
I mean, ‘Final Fantasy’ is nebulous. It’s a concept, vaguely a framework; most of all, it’s a look. A look that covers such an extreme variety of ideas that 1) are ridonkulous 2) never make an attempt to move past their own extra-fictional traditions. Indeed, Final Fantasy is robustly, concretely fantasy, and I think that is one of its biggest flaws of direction. It’s just a very tame series, people! It doesn’t try to do anything with its own politics!
Wait, no, that’s not entirely true. The mobile game Mobius: Final Fantasy asserts you can only gain meaning as the individual through a glorious participation in war. You know, a hip lifestyle choice.
Don’t get me wrong, there are absolutely enjoyable Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is one of my fondest childhood games and I also enjoyed the heck out of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (jeez), which was a game about a rowdy rogue with a great perm using gravity powers to upset monarchy. Not to mention! I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV, the MMO, no the second one, yeah after the meteor crashed, for three-and-a-half years now. But I’m sure you’ve spotted the trend: these, you can’t really consider as mainline, baseline Final Fantasy games.
So I’ve been out of touch with the series since the eight game. But I remained informed! I know IX had a catboy and a horny villain, X had a hearty laugh with itself, XII was about Vaan but really it was about your hot mom and dad Fran and Balthier, and XIII had some motorcycle lesbians of the literal variety. And all the while, for Final Fantasy XV, I’ve assumed that Firaga and AK-47s were going to be the norm.
Until I saw the boys. Four boys, four cornerstones that support the platform of my interests: “If I can believe they’re queer, I’mma find out more.”
Listen folks, you can’t tell me that these boys aren’t just a first-ever, on-campus drunken dorm-room party of sexual proliferation. Noctis, a brooding young man whose only impediment against employing his royal authority to summon an ass-chapless cicisbeo to slide a “Do not disturb” sign onto his bedroom doorknob is that he is already betrothed to Namine from Kingdom Hearts, and it’s robbed him of all sexual appetite forever.
Or Ignis. Ignis Stupeo Scientia. “The fire that stunned science” but really an accepted translation is ‘actually what about men’s rights’. With his skyward coif, a paycheck’s worth of Raybans, his stupid STUPID thumbless leather gloves and his daddy’s shoes, polished with a lifetime supply of wax he won as a runner-up contestant on ‘Smart Boys in Fantasyland’, Ignis I cannot help but want to extend a kernel of my affection to, by which I mean have sex with him. An Achillean finger will hold down the power button of his PC rig, the selfsame digit will then go places, to show him places outside of a life lived on gaming keyboard forums.
What about Gladiolus? A well-travelled, lesser-dressed leather daddy who carries the simple-but-rough memories of the desert ranch he grew up on inbetween those plateaus of ass-cheeks of his, held in check through the sheer lack of elasticity of those pants. It’s strange, because as a blueprint, Gladiolus is a fleshy conglomeration of ALL examples forwarded by cishet gamers who say “men’s bodies in video games are sexualised and exploited too”. And somehow despite, or maybe because of that continuous stacking of lackluster design and slipshod approaches to the perfect amount of horny, it made him eligible to my bisexual sensibilities.
There is one last boy I’d like to talk about, and that boy is Prompto. Prompto is the twink menace who listened to Rob Zombie once and made that the singular anchor with which he grounds himself to reality. He offers to get you a snack from the vending machine, you say yes, and out of 4x10 rows of beautiful choice, he returns with an orange suspended in a thin shell of tasteless chocolate. That is to say, he is lovable and he is my boyfriend that prepares my lunch packs naked apron-style, but I wouldn’t trust him with any basic task beyond that and I certainly wouldn’t allow him to summon a modern army’s arsenal as a combat approach.
Of Final Fantasy XV, the open-world exploration looks cool, the combat seems thrilling and dynamic, but as evidenced here in ways I hope my mom doesn’t read, I’ve put a lot of thought into what type of queers any of the boys would be. Because that is, to me, a bisexual man, the most appealing aspect to their whole thing. It’s not what Square-Enix is presenting or promoting as the most important facet of their characters, but as characters, they’re supposed to be people. I want to know what nuggets of identities, complexities, habitualities, and personalities are stored in those muscled veins of theirs which makes them exactly that: people. I’m digging for that subtext, because I’m invested in finding out more about them, while finding out more about myself.
And like a miner hard at work, I got my water bottle and my pickaxe, I’m excavating their toned dude-bodies for anything that strikes my fancy. And boy howdy, did I hit gold.
We engage with games through a hierarchy of prioritisation that decides what we look at first and what we deem the most important. This can be gameplay, story, character, or music, because immersion is important! But as a player who comes in from outside the confines of Final Fantasy’s narrative boundaries, I’m bringing in my own expectations and ideas, my own desires. I want to see those answered, my desire in narrative. Immersion is feeling at home in a game’s virtual space, but there has to be a line, a tether, a certain je ne sais quoi, that pulls you towards that space in the first place.
And for me, personally, that was that great .gif of Gladiolus pushing the car.