Saudi Arabia bans Final Fantasy XVI as Square Enix is unwilling to censor the game, while other sources claim the game has LGBT content.
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Saudi Arabia’s “Public Authority for Audiovisual” announced a ban on Final Fantasy XVI on May 3rd. “For fans of the #FinalFantasyXIV[sic] game, we would like to clarify that it has not been released in the Kingdom, due to the publisher’s unwillingness to make the necessary modifications.”
Just one day before the game was officially banned, Hattan Tawili — Public Authority for Audiovisual’s General Supervisor of Video Games — expressed his dissatisfaction at negotiations failing with a major video game release.
“Unfortunately, one of the most important and biggest games of the year, unfortunately, after all the attempts during the past eight months without any success, the game is on its way to being banned due to the company’s complete refusal to modify the content to suit the region,” Tawili lamented.
“Of course, it is clear what happened to the companies, but they put it in abundance for reason and without reason and refuse to modify it.”
After Tawili’s tweet, Alamoudi quoted it and praised him for rejecting the game. This could suggest he knew what game Tawili was talking about.
“Thank you very much Brother Hattan for clarification, and may God reward the youth for their good work,” Alamoudi gushed. “It is really unfortunate, and I hope that the spread of this disgust in games will increase and we will be deprived of other games in the coming period.”
While the reason for the ban wasn’t specified, Final Fantasy XVI is the first mainline title in the series to have a Mature 17+ rating from the ESRB. The content warnings include “Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence.” The violent and sexual elements are of note, due to Saudi Arabia’s legal system being based on Islamic Sharia law.
Games due to scenes of violence, gambling, alcohol consumption, sexual content, revealing clothing, and depictions or allusions to god or other deities. These include BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Darksiders, Dead Island, the original God of War (though the 2018 title was permitted), Heavy Rain, The Last of Us: Part 2, Mafia II, Saints Row: The Third, and more.
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According to the ESRB, Final Fantasy XVI will depict scenes of dismemberment, throat-slitting, impalement, torture, prostitution, a brothel, sexual moaning and acts (caressing and straddling), and “partially exposed breasts and buttocks.” While the ban could be over any of this, among several Saudi Arabian Twitter users praised the board for their ban, some assumed it was over LGBT content.
“God bless your efforts, and God willing, we will play it while it is modified,” @UrnewF praised in response to the Public Authority for Audiovisual’s tweet.
He added,”No, we have children playing PlayStation in every house. It is not reasonable that they are affected by these things and get used to them when they are young.”
@Shamrokh00 was far more mocking, suggesting Square Enix was compelled to appeal to LGBT audiences for a long time. “The developer does not know why he needs to put a character to feed [rainbow emoji] and what is the cost for him, because we know Final Fantasy and the design of male characters in it does not separate it from the harem.”
The user then shows the cast and major characters of Final Fantasy X, where at least five of the male characters have their chest partly exposed.
YouTuber Vara Dark discussed the news. While she was pleased to see the game being given a Mature rating — rather than be edited down to receive a T for Teen — she wasn’t surprised that Saudi Arabia had banned the game.
“All I really have to say to this is — obviously when the game comes out we’ll see what’s in the title — but I always say this and I always will: I am for options. In this case, I would hope that any potential LGBT content is for optional romances,” Vara proposed.
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She further elaborated, “I think that would be a great way to satisfy anyone who wanted to play this title. You could have optional straight romances, optional LGBT romances; I think that’s perfectly fine.”
Vara later adds while she gives Square Enix “a big thumbs up” for refusing to censor the game, they would be hypocrites, having previously censored female character’s sexual appearances. “If you are truly against censorship, then none of it should be changed.”
“If they forced those storylines and character traits onto main characters, I just don’t think it would go over well for them,” she theorized.
“Because, of course, the sensitive snowflakes and the individuals who would typically demand more representation in this title have already attacked it [and] have already said that they are going to boycott it, and they refuse to play it, because they accused it of being too white,” she went on.
As Vara alluded, the news is surprising due to Square Enix’ infamous “ethics department.” Revealed to be behind Tifa Lockhart’s “tightened” chest in Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix later claimed the department helped games met their targeted age ratings in various regions.
Last year, a job listing for the department revealed games were checked so they “do not contain expressions that are discriminatory, prejudicial, or offensive, and that they are in compliance with the game rating.”
One can only wonder why Square Enix and their ethics department couldn’t or refused to censor the game for the UAE market. The company has not been shy with censoring remakes and manga to avoid offending western users, and other media companies have been willing to censor content for the Middle Eastern and Chinese markets before — particularly LGBT content that is otherwise lauded in the west.
As speculation, the content may be a major part of Final Fantasy XVI‘s plot, such as one of their main characters being gay. The refusal may be due to too many animations and dialogues needing alteration. Alternatively, Square Enix could fear negative press from the west, being offended that they would kowtow to government that persecutes LGBT people.
The above speculation could also apply if the ban was purely over sexual or violent content — again being too much to change, and upsetting audiences in other nations who cherish freedom of expression.
Among spin-offs, Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD both had Mature ratings but neither appear to have been banned in Saudi Arabia. Neither was Final Fantasy VII Remake, despite the game having a scene where Cloud is forced to cross-dress.
This may not be the last chapter for Final Fantasy fans in Saudi Arabia, as some games have had their bans overturned. These include Injustice: Gods Among Us, Red Dead Redemption (though the original ban was only claimed by a UAE retailer), and Roblox.
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