Social Justice Warriors Accuse Final Fantasy of Cultural Appropriation

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 10:39 am, September 21, 2016

Most people who enjoy video games simply play them for what they offer. They’re fun, engaging, and in some cases, challenging. But there exists a type of person who only plays video games in search of things to be offended by, so that he or she can condemn it and show everyone else his or her virtuousness. Call it political peacocking, virtue signaling, or some other term synonymous with the behavior — the end result is the same: The developers either cave to the special snowflake’s demands or they get shunned for being “problematic.”

Video games, especially role-playing games, allow us to express ourselves in a variety of costumes and garb that we’d probably look silly in if we were to wear them in real life. Unless you’re fond of cosplaying and have the time to dedicate yourself to designing your own outfits, playing dress-up is an event strictly reserved for Halloween.

In online role-playing games like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft, dressing up is a big part of the titles’ roleplaying aspect. You can don a suit of armor and act like a knight, or wear a long silken robe that Gandalf himself might have in his wardrobe. Such video games are highly accommodating to gamers who seek to role-play certain characters, and the game developers usually add new outfits (many of which don’t even have any stats) for players to role-play in.

Enter Final Fantasy XIV’s latest update, which adds new areas, quests, and naturally, a host of costumes. Two of the new outfits — one for each of the two sexes — are inspired by Native American traditional garb. Naturally, this meant someone was going to take offense to it because of that wonderful concept known as “cultural appropriation.”

We’ve talked about it before. Social justice warriors found themselves outraged when author Lionel Shriver condemned the concept as a form of creative censorship. Another video game, Overwatch, also came under fire when several of its characters wore outfits that the perpetually outraged took issue with. Polygon was pained by Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s use of the term “apartheid” as a part of its narrative, claiming that the concept was problematic when used in a video game. It’s really interesting how the status of video games as an artform can be switched on and off whenever it suits someone intending to complain about them.

Final Fantasy XIV is just the latest game in a string of titles to come under the magnifying glass of the all-seeing eye of social justice outrage. Posting on the game’s official forum, one complainer going by the name of “Shofie” asked that the Japanese developers of the game remove Native American outfits from the game because it offended their sensibilities, for some reason.

“War bonnets are extremely sensitive cultural items that are generally ‘restricted’ items,” they wrote. That is, it is offensive for non-Native Americans to wear them, or anyone to wear them who hasn’t earned the right to do so.”

“They are earned through acts of heroism and putting them in the game where player characters can access them at all is trampling all over Native Americans,” they continued. “Native American cultural attire is not a costume. It is deeply offensive and racist to include it.”

Given their argument, one might even ask whether saving the world and helping everyone within FFXIV’s storyline counts as heroism. If that’s the case, then I don’t see the problem.

Furthermore, if the developers at Square Enix were to remove the costume on the grounds that you can’t make costumes out of cultural attire, it would only be a short hop away to removing other outfits in the game that resemble outfits from real-world cultures, including Arabic and Asian-inspired clothing — if someone complained. And given some of these peoples’ propensity for complaining about non-issues, cries for the removal of other outfits would be a complete given.

Fortunately, the SJW’s complaints didn’t get much traction with most members of the forum. The thread, which now stretches over 19 pages, is filled with gamers pointing out the fallacy of the very concept of cultural appropriation.

“I knew that there was going to be a post like this as soon as I saw that there were Native American themed gear,” wrote one poster.

“Stop being so overly sensitive. If you don’t like it, tough. You’re one person in a game that is played by millions, they’re not going to change it just because you find it offensive,” wrote another.

A gamer claiming to be of Native American descent says that she personally doesn’t find the outfits offensive, and that as a Native American, she was actually looking forward to wearing them.

“We have outfits inspired by all sorts of cultures, why can’t we have clothing inspired by Native American culture?” She asked. “At the end of the day this is just a game, and the devs are not putting the outfit in the game in a mocking way, so why take offense?”

Another gamer replied, “Ah yes, lets take away the ability for Native Americans to dress up as Native Americans, because it offends me as non-Native American.”

Ultimately, that’s what it boils down to, and gamers are fed up and calling it out. Outrage mongers who take offense on behalf of others shouldn’t be able to control the narrative, as they so often do — at least in the games media.

If the marginalization of historically oppressed groups is an issue you’re genuinely passionate about, complaining about harmless outfits in a video game might be the least productive thing you can do to make a difference.