Back in 1998, when I was still in middle school and going nuts over how good this game was, I spent a good bit of time dabbling in video game fanfiction. There was some that I tried to write myself (it was never very good), but mostly I wanted to read what other people wrote. Sequel-type stories were typically my speed, but occasionally I enjoyed reading short vignette style stories about moments not depicted in the games themselves. I came across one particular story about a moment from Final Fantasy Tactics that’s always stuck with me, but not because I remember it as some amazing piece of fiction (I think my tastes are a little more refined now than they were when I was twelve, but I still don’t know that I have particularly good taste in writing). See, this piece was about a character moment between Ramza, the game’s protagonist, and my personal favorite character from the game, Mustadio (he’s a sniping mechanic; you don’t get better concepts than that). Now, as is common in fanfiction, this story had some markers on it to indicate what kind of story it was, and one of those was a yaoi tag.
When I was twelve, I did not know what yaoi was.
For anyone also not familiar with the term, yaoi is the word for the Japanese romance genre of “boys’ love.” More broadly it serves as a marker in fanfiction that the story’s going to include some guy-on-guy romance.
So, needless to say, I read this story completely oblivious to what I was getting into, and at the end of the piece Ramza and Mustadio kiss. From what I recall, it was a very sweet moment. Of course, my immature middle school brain couldn’t help being skeezed by the fact that I’d just read a story where the protagonist and my favorite character were really into each other. It was beyond my ken, you could say.
Now, setting aside the fact of my own immaturity, I remember that story because it fit the context of the game so well. Ramza has no apparent romantic interest (highly unusual for a JRPG). He’s pretty focused on just helping people out and saving his sister (also, and this is a really unfair thing to use as evidence for a reading of a character’s sexuality, but remember, middle school brain, he wears extremely tight pants so that his character sprite clearly has an apple bottom; no, I am not making this up).
I remember being a little disturbed by the idea that Ramza could be read as gay, but it never affected my enjoyment of the game and the story. I realized after a while that Ramza’s sexuality doesn’t have a bearing on the story being told (although reading him as gay does enhance the outsider status that everyone rushes to confer on him when he transgresses against the rules of his society), so it didn’t matter if he was straight or gay. Of course, I still tried to reassure myself of a heteronormative reading by looking at other fanfiction that paired him with the various women who join his party (one particularly memorable piece paired him with a woman with darker skin; it had never occurred to me before that that character and her brother might read as black; that piece also highlighted some assumptions I had about what normal relationships looked like), but as I’ve grown older I’ve become more comfortable with the idea of Ramza as gay.
I think nowadays it’s how I prefer to read him, particularly since there’s nothing within the text to contradict it.
This kind of thing is a big deal, because representation of positive gay characters in video games are pretty scant, particularly in terms of gay protagonists (the only two I can think of off the top of my head are Ellie from The Last of Us, who’s revealed to be a lesbian in that game’s DLC expansion Those Left Behind, and Tony from the Grand Theft Auto IV DLC The Ballad of Gay Tony). Mainstream games have very poor representation of gay people, and there’s something exciting about the possibility that a game like Final Fantasy Tactics, which was released back in the PS1 era, could have a gay protagonist.
As for Mustadio, the other character featured in that fanfiction I mentioned, he’s totally straight. Prior to the re-release of Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSP it was still ambiguous, since Mustadio (like all the characters who permanently join your party) gets virtually no more development once his part in the plot is finished, but with the re-release an extra scene was added that shows Mustadio has a crush on Agrias, a female knight who joins the party to try to rescue Princess Ovelia. It’s not a bad pairing, but it does squash the possibility of that one story.