Fishing On An Acid Trip

We're not in Kansas anymore.

In anthropology there are two terms used to refer to how someone experiences culture: etic and emic. Similar to the concepts of objective and subjective, if you’re talking about your own culture, you’re probably giving an “emic” account. If you’re attempting to describe Final Fantasy XIV, you’re doing so from an “etic” perspective.

Or you’re a nitrous oxide-sniffing space alien. I get the two confused.

Full Disclosure: I have no experience with the first Final Fantasy MMO (FF XI), nor have I played any of the single-player titles (FF’s I – XIV). I’m not sure why I have avoided the franchise for so long. I suspect I may be intimidated by how the games are chronologically ordered: Some sort of Roman numeral, base 23, pentadecimal system?

So yes, I freely admit that I may not be this Japanese MMO’s target audience. But regardless of how etic my perspective may be, a game’s story and characters need to have some universal elements that are easily identifiable to any audience, regardless of their cultural background. Or at least I would expect an MMO of this caliber and budget to try to aspire to that level of appeal? Instead, my first hour with FF XIV was filled with enough incomprehensible psychedelic weirdness to make Hunter S. Thompson think he was Gomer Pyle.

After creating my dark-skinned, but distinctly Asian-featured fisherman (why is it almost always impossible to create a black female character in a fantasy game?) I was immediately subjected to a rather long and involved cut scene. Followed by another cut scene. Which was immediately followed by yet another cut scene. And another one. This long series of cut scenes was only briefly interrupted by a very protracted and awkward fight sequence in which I threw rocks at a pack of wolves for over 10 minutes, (seriously, it took me 10 minutes to kill three wolves!) and the 15 minutes I spent doing a boring and unintuitive fishing sequence.

My entire time in this game felt less like a game and more like an interact-able movie. The art design was gorgeous, but I rarely had time to explore it as I was yanked from one cut scene to the next. At every turn the game seemed to be yelling, “Look at this magnificent story we have created for you!” Never mind the fact that the story they were trying so hard to impress me with was nearly incomprehensible. Treants. Moogles. Woodsin taint. Greenwrath. Dance lessons? After a while I gave up trying to make sense of it, as the game didn’t seem to care whether or not I was actually having any fun.

I often complain about the fact that many MMO’s don’t have children in them. Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online are two notable offenders. This omission is always a bit immersion breaking for me, as I begin to wonder just how the inhabitants of a given world exist if they don’t procreate. But Final Fantasy XIV has the weird distinction of having too many children. And not just regular kids, but also adult humanoids who look like kids. This was further compounded by the fact that it was impossible for me to create a female player character who looked more than a day over the age of 17. As an adult woman I’m not interested in having a teenage avatar, but the game’s rather creepy fixation on young, scantily-clad girls dictated otherwise.

“Yes we’re sexist and ageist, but isn’t that flying, flute-playing marshmallow kitten thing just adorable?”

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4 Responses to “Fishing On An Acid Trip”

  1. […] Final Fantasy and Anthropology January 27, 2012 // 0 Fishing On An Acid Trip « Serial MMOgamy In anthropology there are two terms used to refer to how someone experiences culture: etic and […]

  2. Kazriko says:

    If you’re worried about missing story by playing Final Fantasy games out of order, don’t. Each numbered FF game is entirely separate and shares no direct story or world ties to any other numbered FF game. There are sub-series, but that’s where the extra dash comes into play. FF10-2 is a direct sequel to FF10, FF13-2 is a direct sequel to FF13, but FF10 and FF13 share only the vaguest of similarities. Sometimes the games aren’t even developed by the same team (as is the case with FF12, 13, and 14. All 3 are from separate teams.)
    The biggest FF sub-franchise is FF7, with 4 titles: Before Crisis, Crisis Core, FF7 (main), and Dirge of Cerberus all in one universe.

    As for the ages of characters, Japanese culture is pathologically obsessed with youth sometimes. Probably because their adulthood over there is ridiculous with working 6 days a week 12 hour days in many cases, they remember fondly when they only had to go to school 6 days a week and 8-9 hours a day when they were teenagers.

  3. Kazriko says:

    (Also, you picked the weirdest of the 3 nations. The wacky environmentalist mystics in that forest are odd, even by FF14 standards.)

  4. J Greely says:

    My first experience with a Final Fantasy game was watching my roommate watch unskippable cutscenes for what felt like hours at a time. Japanese gamers have an immense tolerance for non-interaction in games; even porn games have lengthy PG-rated exposition scenes.

    -j

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