The morning of Square Enix's E3 press conference, I watched the latest trailer for the Final Fantasy VII Remake with some anticipation. Yep I'm one of those countless millions of suckers who loves it, and cannot wait to see Midgar's reinvention. One of my personal totems, a now-useless object that I keep around just for the memories, is my PS1 memory card with every party member up to level 99, a stable of gold chocobos, and everything in that ginormous world completed. What can I say: when you're 15, you've got a lot of time on your hands.
Speaking of sexually frustrated teenagers, it was impossible to miss the most noisy aspect of this new trailer. When it delivered our first glimpse at the remake's Tifa Lockhart, the crowd at the conference went absolutely wild. Nothing so unusual there: they went equally nuts when she showed off a few bare-knuckle fighting moves, and the Final Fantasy fanbase is one of the most passionate out there. But there was another, much more unpleasant, aspect to this reveal, and it all focuses on Tifa's bust.
If you're not a Final Fantasy VII buff, and especially if you haven't played/watched the various spinoffs related to the original, let me sum everything up as: Tifa is an absolutely core character. She's the only one who knew Cloud when he was young, a fact that later becomes crucial in his regaining his memory. She has her own visceral hatred of Shinra and Sephiroth, and for very good reasons. Tifa's the one who persuades Cloud to stay with AVALANCHE and precipitates the rest of the game, fer chrissake. As well as this, she's an absolute demon in combat and has an amazing Limit Break that, if you're lucky, can go on to ludicrous extremes.
The discussion around this trailer, however, has sunk to a low that in 2019 feels positively antiquated. It's all about the size of Tifa's breasts.
I don't really want to get too much into the debate, nor call anyone in particular out, but essentially the initial reaction to the trailer was fans either celebrating that Square Enix 'hadn't given in to the SJW cucks' and the character still had a large bust, and others insisting it had been ever-so-slightly reduced in size. I saw these kinds of comments, shook my head, and didn't give them a second thought.
But it has become hard to ignore this story's subsequent life. One of the great problems with online media is that, thanks to analytics, the people get what the people want. The fact that this was a discussion point has led to countless follow-up articles and questions to Square Enix developers. To reiterate: a discussion about the size of a virtual woman's baps is being treated as serious news and worthy of coverage.
As an industry, and as consumers, we should ask ourselves if this is the kind of discourse we find acceptable. Is this really where we are in 2019?
I first became a games journalist over a dozen years ago. I recall writing a retrospective on the original Tomb Raider, before the Crystal Dynamics reboot was announced, and observing that Lara Croft's breasts had overshadowed what a brilliant game Core Design had created. I remembered reading previews about the sequels in late-90s games mags where the picture captions would focus on how Lara's bust had changed, become more rounded, whether it was bigger or smaller. Looking back on that stuff 20 years later it all seems so pathetic and, yet, here we are.
To some it might feel like I'm drawing a fine distinction. Kotaku UK covers plenty of risque and sexy video games, and we'll continue to do so. To me this is something rather different. Final Fantasy VII Remake is one of next year's biggest AAA titles by a long shot, as mainstream as video games get. And a portion of the playerbase and our industry media is fixated on a lead character's bra size. Not the overall look of her re-imagining. Not the role she'll play in the story. Just her tits.
Treating this as a serious topic of discussion is misogynistic, it is depressing, and it is retrograde. People are free to say whatever they like on forums and in YouTube comments. That doesn't mean the industry needs to pander to it.