NACVGM 2020 – Stand by Me: Sounds of Queer Utopias and Homosexual Panic in Final Fantasy XV

From the Abstract

Jordan Sam (University of California, Los Angeles)

Stand by Me: Sounds of Queer Utopias and Homosexual Panic in Final Fantasy XV

When Final Fantasy XV was released in 2016, the JRPG highlighted several new features for the series including both open-world game play and an all-male central cast.  The director Hajime Tabata promised the game’s characters would be more approachable by showing “what boys do when girls aren’t around.” Within the U.S. reception-news articles and tumblr pages documented a proliferation of gay fan art and theories, and Internet forums depicted an anxiety among gamers as to whether or not cast was gay.

Locating my paper within this reception, I’ll argue the soundscape works with narrative and gameplay elements to reinforce the Sedgwickian notion of ’homosociality’ and the consequent ‘homosexual panic’. 

The theme song, a cover of “Stand by Me” by Florence and the Machine, through cultural coding evokes a queer sentimentality, while the non-diegetic music depict tropes of cowboy independence.  These elements combine with gameplay to emphasize the player’s affordances and freedom to explore homosocial relations within the open-world environment.  But a disjunction, a shift towards linear gameplay in the second half, punctuates both the fracturing of the party and the emergence of the feminine influence.  Combining the representation with the structural illustrates notions of queer temporality and queer space (Bonnie Ruberg).  And recreates what literary critic Leslie Fiedler viewed, as the freedom and openness represented by male homosocial/homoerotic bonding, and the threat of the domestic female-dominated society.  In turn, making the game a site for sexism, homosociality, and queer fan reclamation within the gaming community.

Source: Bardic Knowledge

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