Media Molecule Studio Director: “It takes women working on games for games to change”

Media Molecule Studio Director: “It takes women working on games for games to change”

In a recent interview on BBC Radio, Media Molecule Studio Director Siobhan Reddy addressed the issue of gender in the gaming industry. For anyone who doesn’t know of Media Molecule’s work, they’re the studio behind the real-time sock puppet life-simulator that is “Little Big Planet”

“We have a lot of women within the industry who run studios and pack a mean punch, the influence of women within the industry is pretty great, but we need to see that on the game design and programming side as well.”

What Reddy refers to is the lack of female representation in gaming, be it through the lack of female protagonist or the lack of industry focus. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, with female gamers making up nearly 50% of the gaming population, it’s certainly time for the industry to take notice and start making accurate representation of females in games and making more games that appeal to females and both males and females.

Reddy herself is in a small majority, as most studios are still run by males and the gaming industry in general is a male dominated one.   She believes by empowering females to design and make games that the gaming industry will change for the better. We’ve certainly seen the call for this in other avenues, such as the girl scouts promoting young girls to design video games.

“It takes women working on games for games to change. I know there are all sort of discussions about where it is now and where it has been but I’m interested in where it’s going… particularly like the type of things we’re making at Media Molecule and lots of other studios are making, games which are for both genders and all ages.”

So who knows, will these call for more females to enter the gaming workforce make for diverse and fair games? One can hope. Meanwhile, we can all make our Sackboys as awesomely feminine as we want.




Study shows Motion Controlled Video Games Make For Less Aggression

Study shows Motion Controlled Video Games Make For Less Aggressioon

Pacific Standard explored a recent study that evaluated the amount of aggression that varying types of Video games produced in players. For the sake of this article, we’re going to pretend like that the link between video games and aggression is completely valid. It certainly does seem that video games can at least stimulate the aggression sensors in brain, but no conclusive evidence has shown that video games necessarily create aggression or violence (Correct me if I’m wrong)

Let’s look at this here study!

The study, conducted by a research team out of Penn State Altoona, measured the amount of aggression created when gamers use  motion controls and when gamers used traditional analog control.

The Altoona mascot tells people to stuff it!
The Altoona mascot tells people to stuff it!

The results were surprising. Despite what many might expect, video games that used motion controls actually led to less aggression than those with traditional analog control. That means your Wii and Kinect are seemingly less likely to make you go postal! Super!

The research team went about the feat by making players play games like “Punch-Out” on the Wii with either the game’s motion controlled option or traditional analog option. After playing the game for an extended period participants were given a test to measure their aggression. In one of the exercise,participant were asked to finish words and their responses were measured for aggression. For example, a participant could answer either finish a “KI” with either LL or SS. Those who wrote Kill instead of Kiss were judged more aggressive. Not the greatest indicator of aggression, but whatever.

“One potential explanation is that motion-capture technology is more cathartic than analog video-game play”…. “A related explanation is that motion-capture technology requires greater physical expenditure. There is evidence that people are less violent after short periods of exercise or exertion.”

That makes sense. Exercise and a physical activity have been known to decrease aggression for sometime, so it’s only natural that games that make you move more than normal would have the same effect. I know I’m much more in favor of breaking someone’s leg after playing Mario than I am after playing Kinect Sports. The study goes onto propose that games with motion controls negate the amount of aggression produced in violent video games, making the amounts of aggression closer to those created in non-violent video games. So, maybe it’s just the Goombas that are making me angry.

What does this mean for all those naysayers of video games.

“Contrary to the fears of industry critics, this research suggests that newer technologies, which create a more realistic experience, will not necessarily increase aggression in video game players”

At least if they have motion controls.. Separate studies will have to be conducted on whether more realistic games produce more aggression than less realistic games. For example, would a violent PS2 title have the same levels of aggression production as a PS4 title because of the added realism? QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED MY FRIENDS. With new waves of researchers entering the field, ones who grew up with consoles and pc games in the home, slowly but surely we’ll begin seeing better designed studies and research experiments.

Study using Kinect’s Nat Geo TV didn’t lead to aggression, only confusion and nightmares.

I’m not presenting this article as infallible, as I have plenty of questions not answered by the study’s abstract or the Pacific Standard piece (I’m not going to buy the pdf). I do think it is interesting that this form of research hasn’t really been done before, especially since it makes logical sense. With the violence and video games being such a big controversy, it’s interesting when researchers step outside of the constantly studied questions and explore other avenues.

Club Nintendo Rewards: Why We Care


Today Club Nintendo released their 2012-2013 year prize list for members who had registered enough Nintendo products to make their way into their gold and elite membership statuses. Platinum and Gold members get to choose one free gift, as a thank you from the big N. This is of course in addition to the prizes members can redeem year round for “coins” earned by registering products.

This rewards program got me thinking, as it’s quite the ingenious program that Nintendo has created. Essentially Nintendo is giving incentives beyond the games themselves for purchasing their products and often times these rewards come in the way of free p. Why do so many gamers care about these types of rewards program? Is it just for the free swag, or is there more at work?

Personal bias upfront: I think the Club Nintendo rewards program is awesome. I already buy a lot of Nintendo games because I generally enjoy most of their games, so being further rewarded for registering games I already own is a nice addition. Plus, their rewards are generally pretty nice. About a year ago I used some of my built up coins to get their 3-set of 25th anniversary posters for the Legend of Zelda, and they’ve made amazing additions to my apartment. In fact, I even framed one of them.



Why do we care?

Yes, it’s partly because of the free merchandise. Ok, mostly. But let’s look at Club Nintendo from a more sociological perspective, mainly because I’m bored and killing time.

Club Nintendo is great example of Social Exchange theory. Economist and psychologist probably can express it better, but essentially SET says that society is a series of social interactions in which people determine their outcome by rewards gained vs. negatives lost. Basically laid out, the thought process behind most interactions can be shown by this equation.

Interaction/Behavior/Act = The Positives or Benefits of the act – The negatives or costs of the act.

GLABIDYGLOOOK, I know. When applied to Club Nintendo it goes something like this: Registering a Product in Club Nintendo = Free rewards from Nintendo – The time and effort it took to register the product. If someone deems there to be more positive outcome from registering a product with Nintendo, then they’ll most likely do that action. So if someone can’t stand to take the 5 minutes to fill out a Nintendo survey, then the free rewards that Nintendo is offering aren’t worth the social act.

This all sounds like common sense, so why am I even taking the time to spell it out? I don’t know. But the theory also goes on to hypothesize that it’s social acceptance and acknowledgement that makes people deem something positive or negative. Like gamer scores or PSN trophies, registering Nintendo games on Club Nintendo is acknowledgement of a task; a badge of honor if you will. Thus gamers are seeking acknowledgement from the Big N in someway when they register their products. Neat O.

What does this say about us gamers?

We like being acknowledged, either by our peers or our developers. Hey, that’s not too bad. Being acknowledge is nice after all, and when companies acknowledge their fanbase it makes for better games. Then again, maybe systems like Club Nintendo are merely way to appease rather than acknowledge, but that’s not for me to decide.

In the end, I just wanted to talk about Club Nintendo. I’m pretty excited for these 2013 rewards. I got the three poster set, and they’re looking to be pretty snazzy. So…Thanks for the indulgence.


Games to Celebrate Independence Day With

Video games like other forms of media attempt to, in some way, mirror society. (Hang in here with me, this is my attempt to justify this piece) While video games are probably the most far-removed from mirrors of society of all the media forms, they still reflects many aspects of society and values. That’s not to say plumbers murdering turtles and gaining super powers from plants and mushroom is an accurate depiction of society, but even in games like Super Mario can we see aspects of society. Or values are their values, even when it seems the most obscure. We as a society like to find days of significance to celebrate and have fun. Thus, it’s only natural that games celebrate holidays just like we do in society.

So I bring you today: Games to Celebrate Independence Day with

Animal Crossing (Series)

Probably the best way to celebrate independence day in game is with the Animal Crossing series. Because the series works off an internal clock and calendar, it knows when holidays and special events take place. Typically, depending on the holiday, the characters in-game will do something special like give you gifts or have a special event like a fire-works show. Of course, since the game a global game it doesn’t exactly call independence day by its name, but instead “Fireworks show day”. You’ll see no flag wave or BBQ have from these animals. Note: the latest installment, New Leaf, will not hold a fireworks show on July 4th. Instead, the game will have Fire-Works day later in the summer. Sucks, I know.

Sid Meier’s Colonization (PC)

Like Independence Day, but want to celebrate it more in a historical sense? Then Colonization is for you! Released on the PC in 1994 as a follow-up to Civilization (Also remade apparently) the game lets you take the role of either the British or American settlers up to gaining Independence. The game makes you work for it however, as you’ll have to deal with trading routes and native populations (There’s nothing quite like celebrating America by decimating Native populations), as well as getting your settlement off the ground correctly.


Metal Wolf Chaos (Xbox)

Feel those games were just a bit too girly? Want a game that will make you bleed red white and blue from your eyes as you fail to comprehend how and why the game you’re witnessing was made. Well Metal Wolf Chaos is for you! Developed by From Software, developer of such games as Demon Souls and Armored Core, this hyper patriotic game never made its way to the United States. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never played it, but it sounds to be the most absolutely ridiculous and awesome game in one. Sedt in the near future, you take the role of the President of the United State that has been the attack of attempts to usurp his position. After narrowly escaping the White House in his mech suit (Yeah, that’s what I said) he attempts to regain control of the country from an administration that reigns terror and even slavery.  We could analyze this game all day, but it’s essentially Mechs, patriotism and explosions the game. While it doesn’t directly celebrate Independence Day, it will give you such a patriotic overload that you’ll feel like waving a flag and gouging out your eyes.

Independence Day (Playstation 1)

Based on the 1996 film in which Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith seemingly stop an alien invasion with a lot of yelling and kabooms, the PSX title Independence Day is a great way to celebrate any 4th of July. Why you may ask? Because Aliens hate freedom…Well at least the ones in the movie did. With each alien ship you shoot down a tear of pure American freedom will fall down your cheek.  But really, it’s actually not a great game. But if you’re really hankering for some pseudo- Will Smith, 4th of July having action, then maybe give it a shot.



So there you have 4 games that you can celebrate the holiday with. Sit back, eat some BBQ, water your lawn, blow up pieces of glass, (or whatever normal Americans do on the 4th of July) and enjoy some very applicable games.

Video Game Dev. to Show Consequences of Guns in Game

Video Game Dev. to Show Consequences of Guns in Game

Anyone who has played a video game has most likely fired an in game gun. From Megabusters to in-game replicas of real life guns, shooting has become a mainstay in video games. However, not many video games show the real consequences of gun usage besides “splat, there goes his head”. This is where this project comes in. The game, tentatively called Gun Factory, hopes to show players how and where guns are made, as well shown them  the unforeseen consequences of overproduction of guns has on a global scale. Hopefully you’re not asleep yet.

Being developed by a summer program at Concordia University, the game is one of four projects seeking to turn video game conventions on their head. The game puts you in charge of a factory that is manufacturing guns and then goes on to show you the consequences that over-production of guns causes globally. This is an attempt to educate gamers on the real consequences that guns have on the world. It’s a novel idea, as video games and guns have a very confusing history:

Things Video Games have taught players through the ages:

  • 1920s: Carnival shooting galleries make kids really hate clowns and inanimate objects.
  • 1985: Duck Hunt teaches players that the only consequences of firing guns are killing birds and dogs laughing at you.
  • 1993: Yoshi Safari shows kids that riding dinosaurs and shooting guns at the same time are not incompatible.
  • 1994: Virtua Cop teaches players that emotional trauma is not a thing for hostages.
  • 2005: Shadow the Hedgehog teaches kids that small forest creatures are gun ready and willing.
  • 2007: Portal shows that guns can solve any problems, including puzzles!

“The actual idea is about how profiteering works, and it shows that as you develop more guns it doesn’t really solve the world’s problems.”

Sure they do. Hungry? Eat a gun. Too small to reach something? Fire a gun at it. Gun stuck on your other gun? Shoot it. Joking aside, this is an important idea to learn, but are video games really the right medium? The developers sure think so, but that won’t stop many gamers from either not playing the game or not knowing that it even exists.

The game follows in the footsteps of other culture awareness games like “Get Water”, a game about collecting water in areas in which water is scarce. Don’t remember that game? Probably because not many people have played it. These types of games are interesting and compelling, but not to the majority of gamers. While the article conveys that the developers are very much trying to make “fun” the backbone of the game, in a medium where most regular games don’t see many sales or plays, games like Gun Factory and Get Water are almost surely doomed.

But maybe there’s hope in festivals and showings like Games For Change, an annual festival that shows off these types of culturally aware games. Games featured on their website include “Priviledge: The Game of Economic Inequality” and “NarcoGuerra” a game in which you play as the Mexican authorities trying to break-up the drugwar. Clearly these games aren’t Mario and Halo, but perhaps they’re fun (I haven’t tried them out).

With Gun control being a hot-button issue for most Americans, it’s unlikely that games like Gun Factory are going to sway anyone’s opinion, but certainly it might educate gamers on a lesser side of guns’ effects. And hey, people conveying social issues through video games is a neat idea- It worked for Katamari Damacy teaching about waste control, and Harvest Moon for agricultural studies.

Study Tries to Tie Video Games to Risky Behavior, Does So Poorly

Study Tries to Tie Video Games to Risky Behavior, Does So Poorly

A New study by a German research team wants to make you believe that playing video games will increase your likelihood of preforming risky behavior. This is it boys and girls: the definitive piece of research to tell you once and for all that video games are bad for you and are going to turn you to a life of crime….Or maybe it’s a poorly conducted experiment making wild assumptions based on very little findings.

So what’s this study all about? Let’s take a look from the study’s abstract (I’m not going to buy the PDF only for the purpose of ridicule, that would be silly)

The present study investigated whether the consumption of risk-glorifying video games increases health-related risk-taking in real life. Participants were assigned to 1 of 2 conditions, whereby they either played a risk-glorifying video racing game or a risk-neutral video game for 25 minutes. Afterward, they were given the option of a saliva test in the context of a medical checkup.

So, the goal of this study is to see if playing certain types of video games makes people less likely to take a saliva test.  Let’s forget about all the rest for a moment, and ask “Why is not wanting to take a saliva test deemed risky behavior?”.ex Was not taking a useless medical test the best way for this study to convey risky behavior? Ask participants if they want to play a round of Russian Roulette, pet a chained up dog, eat at Arby’s; all of these options would of been a better determinant of risky behaviors. If given the option between taking a Saliva test from strangers who are conducting research on me and not taking a saliva test from strangers who are conducting research on me, I think I would choose the latter. Then again, maybe I’ve just been playing too many high-risk games.

Ok, ok, maybe I’m just ridiculing for the sake of ridiculing. The participants were told that the saliva test “would identify a rare but important metabolic disorder”, but participants would have to wait 20 minutes for the results.  Thus, those who didn’t take the chance to be screened were taking a risky chance. Let’s forget that some participants probably were smart enough to figure out that the study was most likely had something to do with the 25 minutes of video games they were made to play out of nowhere, is not wanting to sit around to see if you have a disorder than you most likely don’t have that risky of an action? It’s questionable.

So what did the research find?

Our data showed that exposure to risk-glorifying video games (video racing games) increases actual general health-related risk-taking behavior. That is, players of risk-glorifying video games were significantly less likely to participate in the health checkup test than players of risk-neutral games.

Sure, alright. I certainly can remember one time after playing 30 minutes of “Mario Kart Double Dash”(Most likely deemed risk-glorifying) that afterwards I felt like I was invincible. The following 24 hours was spent on a risk-taking high in which I boxed a bear and let a 4 drunken four year old drive me around while I slept on the top of the car roof. But enough about me,  if the difference between the group was enough of a change, then maybe they have something here. How many people did the study sample? Couple thousand?1000? More?

82 university students (43 women and 39 men).

ONLY 82 STUDENTS? And the sample was split between the two groups. So, each test was based on 40 or so students. That’s a ridiculously small sample size for a study seeking to make assumptions about an entire population of gamers. Even most college student research studies have more participants than that. Not to mention, if there’s one things college students hate doing it’s sitting around doing nothing. They have homework to do and beers to pong. WHY WAS THIS PUBLISHED? Oh, that’s right- because it’s a controversial issue.

What were the results?

Only 12 of the participants who played one of the racing games (risk-glorifying) agreed to take the saliva test, compared to 28 who blew it off. Among those who played the other games (risk-neutral), a majority (24) agreed to take the test, while 17 opted out.

So there you have it. 12 out of 40 (30%) taking the test compared to the 24/41 (60%) in the second group.  That’s double the percentage! But when 1 participant equals 2.5% of your population, the difference between the percentage is only really  about 10 people. 10 people is not enough to make an assumption about an entire population, it’s asinine to do so. If this study wanted to provide a legitimate hypothesis the study would have:

  1. Had a bigger sample size
  2. Conducted the experiment more than once before publishing their results or making claims.
  3. Use a sample group that isn’t homogenous.

But of course, doing studies like this is hard, and results probably won’t be as nicely round as their 82 sample group. So should we be concerned that video games are making our kids and us more risky? Not based on this study. Even if this study was conducted more effectively, the results wouldn’t necessarily mean that it’s only video games that are producing this result. One would have to ask if it’s media in general, or what other types of media bring about this change. Those questions weren’t asked.

Preserving The History of Video Games

Preserving The History of Video Games

Here’s a very interesting piece about the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), a group seeking to preserve the history of video games.

A dress code was once strictly enforced when playing video games
A dress code was once strictly enforced when playing video games

You may be saying “Hey, that’s not that hard. Games are know, collectable and what not”, but you’d be somewhat wrong. In an increasingly digital market, some video games run the risk of being lost to the ages. THE AGES.

That’s where the hardworking men and women of the ICHEG come in; they’re preserving, recording, and watching as video game history unfolds.

So what does preserving the history of video games even mean? Collecting a bunch of old arcade cabinets? Having a physical copy of every game ever made? Sure. A little of column A, a little of Column B. As the article points out, sheer collection isn’t enough; in fact, most collectors of old machines don’t realize that by having an old arcade collecting dust in their basement isn’t particularly good for the machine. That’s why groups like the ICHEG are collecting games in a manner closer to art museums collecting art. Preserving for the future and for personal use.

Gaming exists as a medium that could potentially see its history disappear, as cartridges and machines that games are on weren’t made to last 20+ years.  For example, kids born in the 80s and 90s are only gradually learning that their Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, Gold/Silver’s batteries can die and erase all of their memory(NOT MY LEVEL 100 GRIMER!)

At the ICHEG, It’s more than mere collection of the games themselves, the groups seeks to maintain the theories and thoughts that went into games that made gaming history.

“This is part of our larger mission,” Dyson says. “We want to preserve design materials and media, as well as the physical products. We have Will Wright’s notes on The Sims and Spore, we have Roberta and Ken Williams’ notes on Phantasmagoria, we have a decade’s worth of notes from Ralph Baer.”

Dyson says all of these materials serve a larger purpose, to not only have a digital archive of games and related media, but the design and theory behind the entire medium as well. The ICHEG is working to have all of the notes, schematics and design documents available online to the public.

Cool. Similarly, they’re seeking to create 10-15 minute videos of all of the games they archive, to keep digital footage of what the game is about. These “sparknotes” of the games will keep an archive for future generations to at least see what “50:Cent Bullet Proof” was all about (Spoiler Alert: Shooting and Rap).

But there are bigger issues that the group is dealing with, especially given the gradual increase of downloadable games: with many developers releasing digital copies only, once the hardware they’re released on becomes outdated there will be little to no physical trace of them in the future. That’s an issue, and a big concern of people who oppose the gradual shift towards DRM. Even before DRM became an issue, certain games are were so scarcely distributed that very few copies exist of the games at all. What will become of these lost games?

Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example from a very prominent franchise. I give you the case study of, Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Stone Tablets.

Not many people know about this  game, or the other BS Zelda games that were released in a similar time frame. I’m using this one as an example, as it’s really the only “new” addition to the franchise that does not have a physical copy of the game.

Broadcasted to Stalleaview owners (A Japanese downloadable entertainment service) in 1997, the game was very much like a playable TV show with live broadcasting of voices and commentary. It was essentially a second quest to the SNES title “A Link To The Past”, but complete with a brand new storyline and new dungeon layouts.  Players could download the episode and play it in an allotted time frame, or wait for it re-air at a later date. Already sounds complicated, right? Well, the game was only re-aired a few times, which was already more times than most Stalleaview games. No physical copy of the game exists (aside from maybe somewhere in the depths of Nintendo’s archives) and the only current way to play the game is through emulation. However, even in emulation much of the music and commentary have been completely lost. Looking into such games will only lead you to want to write angry letters to Nintendo pleating for them to release more than the same 10 games on their downloadable services.

Now there may be some better games to display this point, but I just enjoy talking about this one (Link To The Past is my favorite game). Anyways, cases like this goes to show a problem: when piracy and emulation are the only means to play certain video games, what does that say for video game preservation? Whatever it says, it’s not good.

Video Game preservation is a big issue, as without proper preservation it’s one of the first mediums that we may see completely lose a lot of its history. If Video games are to stand as an justified art form and medium, it needs a rich documentation and preservation of its history.  It’s not only up to the ICHEG, it’s up to us all:

“We want to help raise awareness inside and outside of the industry,” Dyson says. “We want to stress the importance of video games and the need to preserve them. And we don’t have an endgame, an end time in all of this.”

Sorry for the geek out. I just find the ICHEG’s work really fascinating and important. Where do I sign up to be an intern?

Go check out the ICHEG’s Website!

More about LOZ: The Ancient Tablets

ESA: 2013 Data on Video game Consumption

The Entertainment Software Association, one of the foremost collectors of data on the video game industry, has released their 2013 data about video game consumption and use. It’s some pretty nifty information on gamers, their buying habits, and their make-up. In terms of sociology and video games, this is the bee’s knees (That’s a good thing, right?)

Let’s talk about some of the more interesting findings.

58% of American play video games:Look to your left, look to your right. Chances are the person sitting next to you is a gamer. This means that gamers are no longer in the minority. Like it or not, if you’re an American you’re most likely at least a little bit of a gamer. While this statistic doesn’t go into how it defines gamers, it shows that playing video games is now a hobby or activity that most Americans partake in.

45% of Gamers are female:gen Video games are no longer a boys club, unless you’re a game like “Bully”..then you kind of are. Females are increasingly making up a half of the gaming populations, which means that they are no longer a demographic developers can ignore.

Also interesting: The percent goes up a little when looking at “who buys video games more”. What this might mean is that guys, moreso that girls, pirate games more.

The Average age of a gamer is 30: Sorry kids. You’re no longer the key demographic for video games (You haven’t been for while). The average age of a gamer has gone up in recent years. Why? We’re seeing the first generation who grew up with the second wave of video game consoles growing up, and they’re the ones with disposable income.Tricks are still for kids, so take solace in that.

Card/Board Games make up most of online games played:World of War Craft who? typeCard games and other more traditional games make up the most online games played. Why? Most likely online gambling, but it is interesting. We don’t generally think of online poker or online gambling as “gaming” as there’s no real content to purchase or games to sell, but it’s definitely a big part of online gaming.

52% of Parents say that Video Games are Positive Parts of their kids lives: Contrary to a lot of the headlines that you’ll read about parents worrying that video games are negative to their children’s well being, the majority of parents believe them to be positive for their kids. Perhaps we’ll see the “VIDEO GAMES MADE MY 12 YEAR OLD PREGNANT” and “GAMES TURNED MY BABY INTO A MURDER” headlines disappear (They were never real).

Shooters/Action Games are still the most popular games:Americans like violence, and it shows in our video games. With games like Call of Duty still topping the charts, the most commonly bought video game is either a shooter or an action game. Cool story bro.

Video Games Sales are on the Decline


Even though the number of gamers are growing, the sales of video games are coming down from their all time high. While this could mean it was just a burst of a bubble, other contributing factors could be the increase of mobile and free-to-play games on IOS and Android platforms.  Gamers are playing more, but spending less. This state doesn’t take into consideration the amount of money spent in game. Also, purchasing games is becoming more and more popular, most likely due to the importance of Steam and other downloadable services.

So there are some interesting facts from this year’s study. The ESA is made up of individuals from all over the gaming industries in very well known and popular gaming developers, so it’s a trusty sample of respondents coming from all over. For more stats and information about ESA, please visit their website for the complete report.

Is Nintendo Being More Gender Inclusive?

With E3 having wrapped up last week, we’re now left with the empty void of having to now wait for many of the games announced to actually come out. Of course there were a lot of headlines: Microsoft announcing ridiculous restrictions on their console, Sony relentlessly attacking Microsoft for their restrictions on their console, and then Microsoft reversing their decision on said restrictions. Fun stuff. Perhaps the least provocative at E3 was Nintendo, who chose not to do a formal E3 conference, but instead a Nintendo direct released online. While I could go on and on about what they did or didn’t announce, I’ll spare you the rant. However, one interesting thing to come out of Nintendo this year is the number of female protagonists in their showing this year.


Of the games Nintendo Highlighted this year, most of the games featured female protagonists, or at least playable female characters. This comes as more of surprise, as many of the games with female protagonists are series that have traditionally had male protagonists only. Does this mean Nintendo is being more gender inclusive in their games? Have they heard the pleas of female gamers and well known female gaming critics like Anita Sarkeesian? Is the world going mad? SHOULD I SELL ALL MY VIDEO GAMES FOR CANNED BEANS?

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of the games Nintendo previewed this year.

Super Mario World 3D

The newest Super Mario game to be announced, Super Mario World 3D features Princess Peach as a main playable character. This is the first time she has been playable in a mainline Mario platformer since the American Super Mario 2 on the NES in 1987, which was only a fluke because the game it was sprite swapped with “Doki Doki Panic” had a female character! Of course the game also features Mario and friends in Cat suits clawing around and meowing like cats, so…maybe they thought Peach would fit right in? The amount of furry drawings will be horrendous.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

Returning to the franchise after being absent from Donkey Kong platformers since Donkey Kong County 3 in 1996 is Dixie Kong. She joins Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong on their second outing from Retro studios.  Fans of DKC will already know what Dixie can bring to the table, as she was the starring character in both Country 2 and 3. As long as we don’t see that creepy Baby character that occupanied Dixie in DKC3, I’ll be happy. Also, I think there’s a healthy chance we’ll see her show her face in the newest Smash Brothers.


Pikmin 3

One of the bigger surprises is the inclusion of a female character in Nintendo’s Pikmin 3, which will release later this summer. Up until this point the franchise had only focused on Captain Olimar (and later joined by Louie) as he charted an unknown land were he assigns tasks based on the color of the pikmin’s skin. Brittany, seen in pink,  joins Alph and Charlie on the Pikmin planet for some adventure and countless death of Pikmin at the hands of other larger animals. We’ll see how she fares in a few weeks.

Beyond these main titles, many of their other games showed look to include playable female characters, including Mario Kart Wii U, The Wonderful 101, and Super Smash Brothers X.

So there you have it. Is Nintendo turning a new leaf on their perspective on female gamers?  Either way, it’s refreshing. As many analysts and gamers pointed out, companies such as Microsoft showed no games with female protagonists this E3, so Nintendo really is out in front this year. This is kind of new for Nintendo, as Nintendo has historically been a much more old fashioned kind of developer. Yes, they have had franchises with female leads (Metroid, Drill Dozer), but for their most popular franchises like Mario and Zelda they have typically relied upon female characters that are stereotypes or cliches. Perhaps with the advent of the Wii’s popularity in recent year they now know they can no longer ignore the population of female gamers.

Conflict Minerals: Should Gamers Care?

This is an issue I didn’t know too much about until recently. I promise to try and not be preachy and only focus on the facts. More aware gamers probably can already imagine that many of their favorite consoles or games come from low-wage factories or sweatshops in foreign countries, but where the minerals that actually go into their consoles come from is a whole other step beyond that many gamers might not know. Bear with me on this one, I admit that I am not too knowledgeable on this subject (Most subjects, really) and there are countless better sources for this subject, but I thought I would share as I learn.

This issue has been getting more news recently as “Walk Free”, an anti-slavery movement, has targeted targeted Nintendo to release their policy on conflict minerals. But of course this isn’t a new issue, there has been wars waged over these conflict minerals in Africa, specifically The Democratic Republic of Congo, for years. The Playstation wars, as they were nicknamed, were/are wars waged in Africa for over a decade  over precious minerals that are used in many common electrical devices like phones, laptops, and, of course, Video game consoles. The mineral in question is Coltran, a mineral that when refined can be used to make the powder tantalum, a common product in electronics. To make matters worse, many of the miners and retrievers of these conflict minerals have been found out to be prisoners of war and children, which is at the heart of Walk Free’s movement. With so many deaths and acts against humanity surrounding these minerals consumer began to question what was in their products.

The United State has adopted a policy of encouraging American companies to not use mineral sources originating from the DRC, and recent studies have show that American companies have complied. Bringing the issue to the attention of the had an impact, as most large electronic manufacturers released policies against the usage of conflict minerals. Sony addressed issues of Conflict Minerals in their products, and their official statement on their website says

Sony shares the concern that conflict minerals might be used in the electronics industry supply chain and is taking steps to eliminate conflict minerals from the supply chain. It is Sony policy to refrain from purchasing any products, parts and materials that are known to contain conflict minerals. Suppliers are also expected to ensure that products, parts and materials delivered to Sony do not contain conflict minerals. Sony is currently formulating an appropriate framework and measures to implement this policy.
Recognizing that these issues are common across the electronics industry, Sony is also participating in the creation of an industry-wide framework, an effort spearheaded by the EICC/GeSI, to improve traceability of minerals and ensure responsible sourcing.

However, other big developers, namely the big N, have not released as formal statements or policy regard conflict minerals. In late 2012 Nintendo stated publicly

“Nintendo’s CSR Procurement Guidelines provide specific directions to our production partners regarding socially responsible procurement practices. We implemented these guidelines based on relevant laws, international standards and guidelines that focus on protecting human rights, ensuring workplace safety, promoting corporate ethics, and safeguarding the environment. These guidelines include provisions on avoiding the use of conflict minerals and the importance of investigating the source of raw materials.”

However, unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has yet to release specific details of their policies regarding conflict minerals, which has caused groups like Walk Free to urge them to do so.sad-mario-nintendo-loss  Whether Nintendo will release such detailed reports in unknown, but it certainly is an issue that has plagued the gaming industry for sometime. With a whole new generation of consoles on there way, activist groups like Walk Free have their eyes on big companies like Nintendo and Sony more than ever. In making our companies socially responsible we take a step towards ensuring better practices world wide, but certainly to end conflict over minerals and the usage of forced labor will require far more than companies enacting policies.

That’s all back story that a good portion of gamers probably don’t know. Should they? Or should we just have faith in our gaming companies to enact policies that are fair? Should we even be bothered if these minerals are in our video games? There’s no easy answers for questions like these, as the balance between cheap consumer goods and fair treatment across the globe is joined together. Many Americans choose to ignore or remain ignorant of where their goods come from, and often with viable reasons. It’s not an easy situation with black and white answers, and I certainly don’t claim to have any answers. However, certainly by knowing the issues and being better informed we become better individuals and better consumer of games.

I hope this was worthwhile, even if you already knew all of this information. I learned some stuff, so I’m content.

Here are some links for further information:

Walk Free’s “Slavery is not a game campaign”

Raise Hope for the Congo