Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn goes a step beyond Final Fantasy XI towards gender equality, letting you play as a male Mi’qote (FFXI’s Mithra) or female Roegadyn (FFXI’s Galka). Like in FFXI, male and female characters can play as any character class (like Lancer or Thaumaturge), and go anywhere in the world.
Female players, however, may find the game more unsettling, especially if they’re one of the 1 in 4 college-age women who have survived a rape or rape attempt.
There’s no polite way to say it: There’s a lot of rape in FFXIV. Whether implied (such as with the male pirates who demand female prisoners), threatened (like with the brigands who talk about searching your “smallclothes,” or underwear), or explicit, when non-player characters outright state they’ve been raped or want to rape someone.
The Weaver quest chain plays sexual harassment for laughs; which, again, isn’t as funny if you’ve had to deal with it yourself. Meanwhile, the Culinarian quest chain involves an extremely unprofessional manager having you make gifts for a female employee, who is implied to be anti-social because she is constipated and/or on her period (which the prunes and iron-rich steak you give her would help with, respectively).
What FFXIV portrays as a compassionate gesture would be extremely disturbing in person, since it ignores the boundaries set by the manager/employee relationship. It also trivializes women’s complaints or concerns, essentially making a veiled “that time of the month” joke.
Erasing women (and fat women)
FFXIV uses the sort of “mythic” language where “man” means “all people.” A lot. From the intro to NPC dialogue. For some reason, it’s still considered okay to do that, even though FFXIV skips over a lot of the other unsavory aspects of medieval life; like, say, dumping excrement in the streets.
One thing FFXIV does skip over? Women who aren’t conventionally attractive. You can play a physically powerful Roegadyn woman, but there’s no option to play a fat man or woman, the way there is in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Player characters can have any “real life” skin color, but Final Fantasy XIV still puts them all on the side of (essentially) white colonizers against indigenous races. “Beastman” races like the Ixal and Kobolds have their own societies and languages, but are seen as legitimate targets of violence. Even the “cute” ones, like Qiqirn, face discrimination among the races of “man,” which you are rewarded for participating in.
“Civilized” countries like Limsa Lominsa even break treaties with beastman societies at will. When the beastmen in question pray to their god for deliverance, your character responds by physically killing their god, in one especially troubling quest chain.
Many women enjoy playing Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not an unusually racist or sexist game; none of the troubling things in it are unique to it. You can see them in lots of other games, movies, and TV shows.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem.