It should be no surprise to people who’ve known me for a long time that I like Nintendo. They’ve been making affordable consoles for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been an admirer of their games for so long that I requested a Gamecube as a Bar Mitzvah gift in 2003 from my parents, which was then followed up with a Wii in 2007. Keep in mind that gifts of that calibre were a rarity growing up, so for me to request a Nintendo console meant that I clearly respected their work. This was around the time that the competition was trying to be “edgy”, so a bright spot of colour and fun was a breath of fresh air. And even after my hobby of choice transitioned to movies/anime, that feeling never left.
All the more reason why Nintendo’s recent controversy is such a disappointment. The whole ordeal stems back to something that started in 2014 called GamerGate. I won’t elaborate too much on what GamerGate is, you can read up on it if you’re so inclined, but the ordeal has lost me a lot of friends online. The movement’s goal is to promote “ethics in gaming journalism”, but words and actions are totally different. Either way, it’s not something that I enjoy seeing brought up in mainstream entertainment when not necessary, whether as a celebration or a mocking of it. It’s like I said on Infinite Rainy Day when a company called FUNimation Entertainment decided to mock it for no reason in their dub of an anime called Prison School:
“Unless the material calls for it, you don’t mess with something for the sake of airing your own dirty laundry. Especially when the original writers are trusting you with a decent translation of their work…[y]ou don’t parody your material and insult your audience, because some of them actually care and will be pulled out of it with such blatant disrespect.”
I wish Nintendo had heeded that advice. Instead, they decided to prod the serpent too, except with the exact opposite approach: mock the victims, not the oppressors. In the recent translation pics of Paper Mario: Color Splash, they decided to make a direct reference to the Five Guys controversy that ruined game developer Zoe Quinn’s career…as a joke. To quote someone I worked with at day camp, “Oh dear!”
As expected, it blew up on the internet. Some were defending the translation, calling it a “harmless reference to Five Guys Burgers and Fries” and stating that people shouldn’t get worked up. Others, however, flipped out and claimed Nintendo was demonic, stating that they’re “no better than those GamerGate monsters that keep pestering the gaming community”. Either way, it was obvious that Nintendo’s PR department would have their hands full trying to deflate the situation. Personally, I’m a little torn, but not in the way you’d think.
On one hand, I recognize this is an issue. Nintendo of America’s localization team boobed pretty badly, and the person who thought this was a good idea should either be reprimanded or fired. Because it’s Nintendo; if they’re so concerned about keeping a family-friendly image, then they shouldn’t be condoning baseless hatred of women. If they’re so concerned about editing the cover of the most-recent Fire Emblem game so that a scantly-clad woman isn’t in plain view, then they shouldn’t be condoning baseless hatred of women. If they’re so insistent on firing their former PR person, Alison Rapp, over moonlighting sex-work because it “portrays a negative image of their company”, then they shouldn’t be condoning baseless hatred of women. Basically, if Nintendo is so insistent on remaining “innocent”, then they shouldn’t be condoning baseless hatred of women. Because this does exactly that.
It’s especially troubling because the gaming industry has come under fire in recent years for its horrible treatment of women. Developers like Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn have frequently been harassed for speaking up against their treatment in the workplace, while Anita Sarkeesian, host of the controversial “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games”, has been attacked for her feminist analysis of video games to the point of caricatures ala Jewish-blackface. So for Nintendo, the beacon of family-friendly entertainment in gaming world, to suddenly include this joke, especially considering the Alison Rapp controversy I mentioned in the previous paragraph, is really not helping the situation.
On the other hand, I think the backlash against Nintendo is a little extreme. For one, it’s a localization joke that can be removed. It sucks that it snuck in there at all, but it’s not permanent. The game comes out in almost an entire year, that’s plenty of time to change the line. And if Nintendo’s smart, which I’m sure they are, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Two…it’s a localization joke. That means there’s always the option of region importing the original game should the line still bother you. I know that newer Nintendo consoles have the option to change the country of origin in their settings, so if you really want to, as tedious as it may be, you can.
And three, the boycotting of Nintendo as a whole is ridiculous. Not only did said boycotters forget to boycott when Rapp was fired because Miitomo was launched the next day, I’m sure they’ll forget to do so again. Also, what good will it do, other than potentially harm innocent workers? Because trust me, when it comes to boycotts of big corporations, the average Joe is usually the first to go. I know because that’s what happened with Ma’ale Adumim’s Sodastream plant when the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions group, or BDS for short, began protesting Israeli products over their perceived treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza and The West Bank.
I think we forget that sometimes, especially in the modern-Capitalist world. Like it or not, boycotts of corporations often do more harm than good. You might think you’re sending a message to the higher-ups, and it might work in the short-term, but in the long-term it hurts the grunt workers and employees trying to make an honest living. That doesn’t mean that those who are upset shouldn’t express concern, but not like this.
Rather, it should be directed in a more helpful manner, i.e. a petition, letter or email requesting to revoke the joke. Alternatively, writing a piece about it, like I am right now, or expressing concerns via Twitter, Facebook or Nintendo’s website are options. Because while Nintendo might be a business, they’re run by people! If enough people speak up, then they might be obligated to fix the problem if it means keeping an audience. It’s worked on a variety of other controversies, so why not here?
Nevertheless, to the person who thought this line was a good idea: you’re a jerk. I’m still planning on buying a WiiU at some point, but it won’t be because of you.