Nintendo at E3: More Gender inclusion (Is that a female Link!?)

Nintendo’s digital event went live this morning, and they showed off an array of games including the first footage of the upcoming Zelda game, Smash Brothers, and Yoshi title.

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As we discussed during last year’s E3, Nintendo has really been upping the amount of female protagonists in their recent titles. They are continuing this trend this year by announcing several games with playable protagonists who are female.

-Hyrule Warriors currently features 3 of 4 female characters as protagonists, including Impa, Midna, and Zelda.

-More female characters in Smash brothers than ever before, including new entries such as Palutena, Wii-Fit Trainer, and a female villager.

ZVO

However, the biggest news seems to be coming out of one of Nintendo’s biggest franchise: The Legend of Zelda. While unconfirmed, it seems as though we may be a Link whose gender is up for customization. I…can’t tell. Link has a ponytail and is certainly looking a lot more feminine than in previous entries. It could honestly go either way: is Link becoming more androgynous, or can you change the character’s gender? With the news of the gaming being more open world, it’s not unlikely that Link will be more changeable than ever before. Guess we’ll find out as more details about the game come out.

 

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Update: Nintendo Reaffirms Stance on Same-Sex Relationships in Tomodachi Life

 

Last year Nintendo responded to a glitch found in their popular Japanese 3ds Title “Tomodachi Collection” that allowed players to enter into same-sex relationships with a patch. We discussed the issue a bit on here and it was admittedly a strange case, as the glitch enabled occurrences such as male Miis becoming pregnant and only allowing for same-sex male relationships.  After the patch was released the response to Nintendo’s action seemed to die down, however the argument has since resurfaced upon Nintendo announcing the game (Tomodachi Life) for North America and Europe. Since then an online petition and miiverse community movement called “Miiquality” have been created to move Nintendo to allow for same-sex relationships in the NA/EU versions of the game. Community members have taken to Miiverse, twitter, facebook and most social media outlets to let Nintendo know of their desires. This week, a representative of Nintendo responded with this statement:

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life…The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation ….We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”

TLDR: “We’re not trying to be progressive here”.  Unfortunately this is just another strike in Nintendo’s list of things they’re behind the times on.  This could have been a momentous move for Nintendo to show that they are progressive, but instead they chose to show that they are behind the times once again. With other family oriented companies like Disney making strides in representing the LBGT community, it’s unfortunate that Nintendo isn’t following suit. Even from a financial standpoint, the publicity and buzz Nintendo could have created by responding to requests positively could have extremely helped sales of the upcoming. Instead, they’ve only served to anger and disappoint a growing population of their community. They’ve handled this situation like they’ve handled to Wii U  (HAHAHAHAH GET IT. BADLY)

It’s a bizarre world in Tomodachi Life

Then again…Maybe a bizarre, strange experience like Tomodachi life isn’t the best place for Nintendo to make such a stance….or any statement. Regardless, Nintendo needs to step into the modern day.

UPDATE EVEN MORE!!

 Nintendo has released an official apology regarding the subject:

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

Meh. Seems reasonable enough. To be fair, the original patch that Nintendo released for the Japanese version wasn’t removing the ability to have same sex relationships, it was a patch released to fix a glitch that occurred when players brought over a Mii from another 3ds that inadvertently marks those miis as the wrong gender. They were REALLY trying to not take a stance either way. Perhaps this movement may see the fruits of its labor in future installments of the game.

Lessons From The Social World: Classic Sonic The Hedgehog

“Gotta Go Fast”

It’s time to once again dive into the murky waters of one of the most popular video game franchises of all time to search for their messages and outlooks on the social world. This time I’m delving into the franchise that without a doubt has the most bizarre following behind it. For over 20 years and counting, this franchise has been running through the minds and hearts of fans. I’m talking of course about…. Socket.

Wait, sorry…That was a terrible rip-off. Of course I mean:

Sonic_Finger_Wag

Sonic The Hedgehog

I say that the franchise has a bizarre following with as much affection as possible, as the Sonic Franchise is the one franchise I have dedicated the most time in my life to. Years of message boards, Sonic Fan Art, and lack luster titles, I’ve been with the franchise through thick and thin. Thus, if there’s any franchise I know more about it’s the one with this spikey blue 90s product. However, it’s worth mentioning that the franchise is quite different today than it was in its early years. For the sake of not having a breakdown trying to decipher the hidden messages in titles like Sonic The Black Knight and Shadow The Hedgehog, we’ll be sticking with the classic games in this piece. There are social and cultural themes in a franchise about a blue, super fast, hedgehog fighting against a egg shaped maniac? Surprisingly yes!  Let’s go a little deeper.

Nature Vs. Industry

The first and probably most prominent theme in the franchise has and will always be nature rebelling against the evil of over industrialization. STC27-MiraclePlanetThat’s deep for a franchise that has a two tailed fox flying a plane. The original Sonic The Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis in 1991 had Sonic pitting off against Dr.Eggman, an evil genius who has been capturing animals for experimentation and transforming the once beautiful world into a industrial wasteland.  Throughout the game the player finds themselves freeing trapped animals and destroying machinery while pitting off against Eggman’s complex designs. This seems to convey the message that over industrialization is ruining our natural planet, which is a pretty big social critique for a colorful, kid aimed video game. In case you haven’t become an environmentalist from the original alone, subsequent games push this theme of anti-industrialization by making the stakes higher: Sonic 3, for example, features Eggman tricking native  inhabitant, Knuckles, into helping Eggman seizing his own homeland.  With all of these themes of colonization and anti-industrialization it’s easy to forget that you gotta go fast!

From a sociology stand-point, if the franchise is instilling themes of anti-industry and pro-environment, then it’s fair to say that the franchise is socializing fans and players towards a specific ideology. THANKS FOR THE INDOCTRINATION SEGA.

More Money, Less Problems

Unlike a franchise like Pokemon, which is without a doubt influenced by capitalism, it’s hard to say that Sonic is specifically about  gaining more wealth. However, it is fair to say the franchise pushes themes of accumulation for the sake of safety and betterment. In the games there are rings littered across the world; rings floating in the sky, in Tvs, and you can even gamble for rings in certain games (Hook em while they’re young!).  For those who haven’t played everyone’s favorite Needlemouse, players collect golden rings for life and security; A single hit and you’ll lose all of your rings and be vulnerable to death.  You might be saying “Wow, what a statement on the fickleness of wealth and security”, and you may be right.  Sonic, intentionally or non-intentionally, teaches us that you can go from rich to broke in a matter of seconds. You can be riding high, almost at that sweet 100 ring goal to get an additional life, when a stray crab takes it all away. What a lesson…

GET THEM RINGSSS
GET THEM RINGSSS

Of course the more rings you accumulate, the more chances you have to collect lost rings once hit. The rich  don’t fall harder than the poor. So the game actively pushes you to get more rings for the sake of security, as acquiring lots of rings  nets you additional lives and even gives you access to bonus levels. Money gets you places, kids.

These aren’t bad lessons. It’s smart and logical to teach kids about saving for security. Besides, you gotta counteract kids thinking that the Mushroom trade is the key to economic success. Thanks Mario.

MURICA

What? No…That can’t be right, can it? How could a Japanese developed game have anything to say about American values and beliefs? Oh, you skeptic. The franchise was originally developed to be a competitor to the once and still dominating video game icon Super Mario. With The United States being the emerging and most profitable gaming scene in the world, Sega wanted to focus their efforts on it. Thus, Sonic The Hedgehog was designed with America in mind. Everything from his red and blue colors to his snarky demeanor was intended to appeal to American audiences; in many ways the original Sonic design is a reflection of Japanese beliefs about American consumers.

One concept design for the franchise actually had an American flag wearing wolf!
One concept design for the franchise actually had an American flag wearing wolf!

Some noteworthy beliefs about America Sega made with Sonic (Rightfully in most cases):

  • America likes Santa and Disney: An odd combination, but Sonic’s character design was heavily influenced by Mickey Mouse and Santa.
  • Americans hate to wait and have attitude:15ez2fm Sonic was designed to be what Mario was not – filled with attitude, inpatient, quick, and cool. Original concept art had Sonic saving a hot-to-trot girlfriend named “Madonna” and Sonic even had his own band! PRETTY RADICAL.
  • America is home to the Thriller: Sonic’s shoe design was directly inspired by one of the biggest icons of the time, Michael Jackson.  The king of pop himself even worked with Sega to create the soundtrack for Sonic 3. Although Jackson’s team pulled out of the project before completion, certain Sonic 3 and Knuckles tracks are distinctively similar to Michael Jackson songs.
  • Sometimes our Villains look like out leaders: Dr.Eggman’s original design was heavily inspired by American President Theodore Roosevelt. What this says about American presidents is up for debate, especially considering Eggman’s design was borrowed from a concept for the hero of the franchise.

Jokes aside, the Sonic franchise stands as an interesting survey on what Japanese game developers believed to be appealing to American audiences. For better or worse, Sonic The Hedgehog is a cultural mirror of American pop culture in the 90s. That’s bizarre to think.

Make it What You Want

Up top I said that the Sonic franchise has the most bizarre following, and that’s true, but I forgot to mention that the franchise also has one of the most passionate and dedicated fanbase in the video game community.

This is an actual piece of fanart that I drew nearly a decade ago. I was VERY nerdy.
This is an actual piece of fanart that I drew nearly a decade ago. I was VERY nerdy.

Unlike any other franchise, the Sonic franchise has spawned more fanart, fan fiction, and fan response than any other franchise out there. Countless fan characters, fanfiction stories, and sprite comics have been made to convey fan’s passion for the franchise. There’s also a strange dark side to this passion that includes far too much cartoon pornography and slash fiction, but for the most part the passion leads to harmless things…I try and forget that stuff exists. Despite this, the Sonic franchises shows that fans can embrace a franchise and make it whatever they want it to be. It’s a testament to their passion and the distinct impact that the series has had. More interestingly, it shows that a product can become something much more than a character on screen; it can become a social and cultural character that effects and instills passion and love in countless people, bringing them together in interesting ways. Sonic’s a social catalyst!

Again, we try and forget all of the strange stuff.

Competition

This theme is one that may be lost on those coming to the series now-and-days, but Sonic was born with the theme of competition ingrained in every aspect of the original game.

gdwnd_01

For those who weren’t there, in 1991 Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis was the title to compete with Nintendo’s powerhouse franchise Super Mario Bros.  Prior to its release of the Sega Megedrive/Genesis Nintendo dominated the home gaming console market with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Sonic The Hedgehog and The Sega Genesis gave Nintendo a run for their money and provided for the greatest console war of all time.  What was spectacular about the Sega/Nintendo console war was the level of quality games it spawned both companies to create. Some of the greatest games of all time were created in this rivalry, including Super Mario World, Sonic 2,  Altered Beast, and A Link To The Past. It was a healthy competition that grew the video game market and made the statement that it was possible for two consoles to co-exist and compete. Regardless of which side you were on, or if you had both consoles, the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo was both beneficial to each company, gamers, and the industry. It was great time to be a gamer that resulted in the creation of many gaming icons and staples. While Nintendo has their hands a little more full these days, Sega and Sonic have stood the test of time as being mainstays in the video game industry. The story of Sonic and Sega is one that is worth telling, and teaches us all that something great can come from a little competition.

Other Quick Social Lessons Classic Sonic Has To Teach

  •  Blast Processing is what you need and what doesn’t actually exist.images
  • Mutant foxes make the best companions
  • Being a jewel collector grants invincibility
  • Check your pinball machines for small rodents.
  • Foxes and rodents are the greatest enemy to scientists.
  • Smashing TVs give you special powers, especially if you see your own face on TV.
  • Never look up your name + Hedgehog on the internet.
  • If you’re drowning, just grab a bubble.

Alright, we’re at the end of the zone, let’s slow down. The Classic Sonic titles are a great set of games; Some of the spin-off games and handheld games are pretty terrible, but the original Genesis titles and Sonic CD are some of the greatest games of all time. If you haven’t already played these titles they’re available on every platform known to man, (They’ve even been ported to consoles with lesser graphics!) so there’s no reason not to play these beloved classics. The Sonic franchise may not be the most sociologically relevant one, but it certainly has some messages to say. Perhaps one day I’ll delve into the messages modern Sonic has to put forth, as there’s some ridiculous messages about rodent Gun Control and why experimenting on animals will lead to psychic abilities (The franchise has gone to strange places…) but for now we’ll put  lid on this speedy forest creature.

Please let me know if these type of articles are worthwhile. I know their scarce on the actual sociology, but I hope they’re at least a little entertaining.

For more Lessons from Classic Franchises, check out these two:

 

Wired – Nintendo’s New Key To Creativity: More Women

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/animal-crossing-director/?mbid=social_fb

Wired has a new article this weekend about Nintendo’s new strategy for creativity in their development process: adding more women to their development teams.

The article notes the success of Animal Crossing New Leaf, which has been  an all around success for Nintendo. It’s a great game for doing mundane tasks and filling the empty void in your life with fake furniture and appeasing talking animals. More remarkably:

Since its release in 2013, New Leaf has sold 7.38 million copies worldwide, and is credited by Nintendo with helping the handheld 3DS system reach 42.74 million units sold. It also boasts another striking statistic: Nearly half of the Animal Crossing: New Leaf game development team was female. And according to Eguchi and Kyogoku, the two are far from unrelated. Indeed, they believe that the diversity of their team was crucial to their game’s success.

However the bigger story is that they intend to further this success with applying the same belief to future games, which means we may see more female development staff on future Nintendo games.

I won’t go too much farther than that, as you should go read the article, but it is an important step in making Nintendo a more diverse company. If Nintendo, who has been slow to adapt to change in many parts, can begin to diversify, then perhaps we’ll begin to see it throughout the industry. And that, my friends, will be a great thing.

For More Reading:

Is Nintendo Being More Gender Inclusive?

Twitch Plays Pokemon: Can Thousands Work Together To Be a Master?

The past few days a social experiment has taken over Twitch. Twitch, for those who may not know, is an interactive streaming website primarily focused on gaming. This past week, a user by the name of TwitchPlaysPokemon uploaded the 1996 classic Pokemon Red to the servers of Twitch, enabling the game to be controlled via chat commands. The results are hilarious, interesting, and insane.

140218174147-twitch-plays-pokemon-story-topWhen the game went up on Twitch earlier in the week the play mechanics were amusing and novel. A player, in a chatroom of about 100, could enter a command and see the onscreen player move accordingly. Then thousands and thousands of people jump aboard. At its peak, Twitch is reporting that over  80,000 players were participating and watching at once. The result is a spastic main character who seems to be struggle to do anything but walk around in circles. The goal, now, has become to journey through the game as a group.

twitch-plays-pokemon

However, to better function tweaks have been made to the game. A few days ago, a change was made to the game to allow for a more civil play experience. Players now have the option of voting for either Anarchy or Democracy. When the majority of players vote for Anarchy, the game is carried out in the same fashion as it was when it first began; chat commands from all players dictate how the main character moves. When the majority of players vote for democracy, chat commands are disabled and players instead vote on what movement to make  and the game moves with the majority move.  Of course, it even gets more absurd when the game gets thrust into battle. The results have been absurd and have spawned memes and jokes across the internet.

I don't have time to explain the Helix thing..
I don’t have time to explain the Helix thing..

The sheer fact that this democratic system for working together has arisen in this chaotic world is incredibly interesting, both from a gamer’s perspective and a sociologist perspective. TwitchPlaysPokemon has become a fascinating case scenario for how the internet can create unique social experiences in places that once were not social. It shows the creative ability of group interaction to change and add new life into something from the past, and re-imagine what it is to play video games together.

Even if you’re not into for its social implications, it’s still a hell of a funny thing to watch.

Join in the fun here!

 

Nintendo UK creates the ” Nintendo Girls Club” on Youtube

A few months ago during E3 I asked the question whether Nintendo was being more gender inclusive after the inclusion of lead female characters in most of their E3 line-up. Yesterday, the Nintendo’s Girl Club youtube channel popped up on youtube, giving further evidence that Nintendo is really stepping up their efforts to appeal to a wider audience.

The introductory video (posted above) promises trailers and news presented by the channel’s host  Jorgie Porter and other female fans of Nintendo games and franchises. All in all, it seems like the channel will be just that: female gamers talking about games and news relating to Nintendo. It’s a welcomed and novel approach, and it does show that Nintendo is at least trying to appeal to female gamers. I doubt we’ll see any hard hitting insight on the channel, but it’s good nonetheless. This comes after many divisions of Nintendo have launched a marketing campaign to appeal to a wider demographic of gamers, including commercials and games that more widely appeal to a greater audience.

If you are or know a young girl that is a fan of Nintendo then they may enjoy this new channel. I realize this entire post reads like a advertisement for Nintendo, but I thought it was something worth noticing.

Check out more videos on the Nintendo Girl’s Club Youtube channel

 

Video Games to Celebrate Halloween With

As I said a few months ago with “Games that to Celebrate the 4th of July with”, if video games mirror aspects of society, then it’s only natural that they celebrate our customs and holidays.  With Halloween only a few days a way, here are some spooktacularly fun games to celebrate Halloween with:

piump

Now there’s plenty of games gamers may go to for their Halloween gaming, specifically horror and survival games like Resident Evil, Deadspace, or Silent Hill. While these types of games are all great choices to play on Halloween, I’ll be focusing on games that actually celebrate Halloween…I’m talking Pumpkins, costumes, and, of course, trick and or treating. Here we go.

Animal Crossing Series (Nintendo)

I mentioned the Animal Crossing series in my 4th of July piece, but it works for pretty much all holidays and occasions. With Animal Crossing’s internal calendar and clock it celebrates holidays in real time. For Halloween the game has a reoccurring character that only appears in your town on October 31st. Jack, the pumpkin wearing character, appears in your town each Halloween starting all sorts of Halloween festivities and havoc upon your town. Jack is kind of a jerk, asking you to do all sorts of strange things and, to be honest, he’s a little too obsessed with Halloween for his own good. One must ask: what does he do with the rest of the year? The other villagers will get into the spirit by dressing up like Jack, offering candy, and giving out Halloween specific items. So if you haven’t checked your town in a few months (Sorry Isabelle and Nook, Pokemon took your place in my 3ds) perhaps it’s time to check in with your town and enjoy some of the Halloween fun this Thursday.

Costume Quest (PSN/XBLA/Steam 2013)

Honestly, this one I have not played but may give it a shot this Halloween. I have heard great things and it’s from trusted developer Doublefine, makers of  the hilarious and great games Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. Anyways, what better game to play on Halloween than a game set on Halloween. The game places you in the role of one of two siblings as they seek out their sibling after they are kidnapped by a giant monster with a sweet tooth while trick-or-treating on Halloween. The game is a mix of adventure and RPG aspects, with the player being able to switch their attack styles by switching different costumes. For those of us too old to go trick-or-treating, why not go in the virtual world with this game. All in all, it’s  supposed to be a really fun game with a Halloween backdrop that’s fun for all ages. Sounds perfect, eh.

Team Fortress 2 (Valve)

This one is moreso for the people  who have already played Team Fortress 2, as you’re probably not going to enjoy it too much if you’re only going in for the Halloween fun because you will get massacred and cry . For the last couple of years, Team Fortress 2 has updated the game with Halloween specific skins and festivities each year. Many developers had little fun Halloween skins and other fun things each year (Ex: Minecraft, Uncharted 3, etc) but Valve really has been known to out do other developers when it comes to Halloween. So if you’re a Team Fortress fan, take some time and playing TF2 this Halloween.

Jersey Devil (PS1 1997)

For those craving something a little older than those titles already mentioned, why not give Jersey Devil a try. The game puts you in the role of the infamous Jersey devil as he makes his way through levels filled with skeletons, pumpkins, and other Halloween related goods. The game may not be as favorably remembered as other PS1 classics like Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon, but it was a decent platformer for the time. Plus, it’s the only game to feature the elusive Jersey Devil, whom isn’t nearly as popular as the yeti or the eskimo.  That said, if you can find this game in a bargain bin it’s worth a try.

Kingdom Hearts Series (Square-Enix)

Last but not least is the Kingdom Hearts series. This one if more a guilty addition, as I they’re some of my favorite games. Many of the games in the franchise feature worlds based on the Tim Burton classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, which is  the perfect setting for any Halloween Video Gaming. Granted, there’s a debate whether the film is more of a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie, and Kingdom Hearts 2 definitely deals with more of the Christmas side of the film, but regardless Halloweentown is certainly applicable and fun to play on Halloween. It’s also a great game with a great remake that was just released on the PS3, so it’s worth a play anytime of the year.

So there you have it, some games to spend you last night of October with. Let me know what game you plan on enjoying this Halloween?

IGN Has Created an Interactive Mario Museum Online

Online Video Game Museums: Mario

This is just more of a fun link than anything else, but IGN has created an interactive online museum for the Mario Bros. franchise. Granted, it’s not as complete as many fans would wish it to be, but it’s a fun little time waster. With Video Games making their lasting mark on contemporary culture, museums and preservation of video game history and video game past will become important as the old hardware begins to time out (which is currently happening to many video games). Without proper preservation video game history may be lacking in the future. Digital or non-digital, video game preservation is an important issue in the video game community.

But for now, check out the online museum and play around with them bros.

Nintendo and Racial Under Representation

This is a picture of the character select screen from Super Smash Brother Brawl, a fighter featuring many of Nintendo’s main characters. You may notice it, but something is certainly lacking in this picture (No..It’s not MegaMan)

Nintendo has been in the video game industry for well over 30 years, and the number of franchises and characters they have created is unrivaled in the industry. However, Nintendo certainly has been slow to change on certain issues (Wi-Fi, DLC, Account Systems, hardware, etc). They’re by no means the most dynamic developer out there, despite revolutionizing the industry many times over. One issue that they seem to be trailing behind is that of racial representation in video games.

Let’s think for a moment: How many non-white Nintendo characters can you think of? How many characters of color? I can think of two: Doc Lewis from Punch-out, and maybe Ganondorf.

What gives Nintendo? Two characters out of hundreds, neither of whom are playable and one of which is a villain. There may be some characters in the Fzero universe, but who knows the characters outside Captain Falcon from Fzero? So we’re essentially left with zero, and there are certainly no protagonist who are non-white.

Another concerning issue comes from their lack of customization to include non-white players. For example, the recent Animal Crossing allows players to customize nearly every aspect of their character and city. One feature lacking is the ability to change or choose your characters skin tone. Gamers of colored have asked “Why can’t my character’s skin color match my own”?

It’s only recently that Nintendo has allowed players to choose between male and female, so why has an option for skin tone been missing from most games? Mii’s skin can be darkened or lightened, so why not in game? This isn’t isolated to Animal Crossing either, as games like Pokemon lack this ability as well.

Reasons Given for the lack of diversity:

“Most of Nintendo’s characters were created in the NES days, non-white characters would be more difficult to distinguish”

This excuse may have worked when Nintendo was first developing for arcades, but certainly the NES was powerful enough distinguish non-white characters. As I mentioned, Doc Lewis and several of the punch-out casts were characters of color, so it was certainly possible. Even McKids featured a non-white playable character. Is Nintendo really unable to do what McKids can? Regardless, Nintendo has had 20+ more years to make more characaters, and with expanding universes like the Zelda universe there’s no reason why Nintendo can’t create more diverse characters.

“Japan isn’t as diverse as we are”

I understand that Nintendo is a Japanese company, and racial diversity isn’t as big of a concern in Japan as is it here, but being one of the foremost worldwide gaming developers Nintendo has to consider a wider audience. Being a Japanese company hasn’t stop other developers from creating characters of color. Likewise, Nintendo’s mascot is an Italian plumber- I don’t think they’re letting region dictate their characters.

So there you have it. While I am singling out Nintendo, this issue goes far beyond the big N. Characters of color have traditionally been very underrepresented, and often misrepresented, in video games. Varying studies have been done on the representation of race in video games, and they hardly even come out too positive. As the video game industry progresses, it’s important that we demand diverse and interesting characters. Children who are non-white need positive heroes and protagonist just as much as their white peers.

Lessons on the Social World: Kirby

2012 Marked the 20th anniversary of everyone’s pink ball with an oral fixation: Kirby.  This week I finally got around to picking up the Kirby 20th anniversary collection, and playing through some of the games got me thinking. What is the Kirby franchise instilling on the world? What life lessons are we learning about the social world as we go around stealing other people’s abilities?

So that brings me to-

Lessons on the Social World: Kirby

With games spanning over two decades, Kirby has been a household name for sometime. I grew up playing his games- Kirby’s Adventure is still one of my favorite games of all time, and in my top 5 NES titles of all time. The franchise has always been one of unbridled happiness; there’s not a dark bone in it and the characters and settings ooze of pink silliness (That sounds terrible, actually).

EXPERIMENTATION

Kirby is a man..woman..puff ball… of many hats. The biggest gameplay quirk in the Kirby franchise comes from the ability to take enemies abilities and use them to your will.  Kirby can obtain abilities anywhere from wielding a sword to turning himself into a laser; if you can steal it, you can do it.  Some may say he’s a down right dirty stealer, who murders his victims and steals their best abilities. All of that is true. Kirby is a terrible monster, but it’s pretty fun to be a monster. One could theoretically go through out an entire game and only use Kirby’s basic abilities, but wheres the fun in that? Kirby teaches us that to get through life you have to take on many different roles and aspects; ya gotta be multifaceted. That’s a great lesson to learn. Learning how to go with the flow and take on roles as they come to you will serve our youth well.

OCCUPY DREAMLAND!

Kirby is a political activist, in case you didn’t know. He’s not getting bogged down in litigation or special interest; he’s taking his message to the streets! The original Kirby’s Dreamland tells the tale of our hero, Kirby, going after the tyrant King Dedede. Dedede has stolen all of dreamland’s food and is keeping it all for himself, so it’s up to Kirby to redistribute the goods to the people of Dreamland. Of course, through Kirby’s political maneuvering King Dedede eventually reaches across the aisle and sees the errors of his way, but whats this classic tale of a greedy king telling us? It’s social resistance, of course!  Kirby doesn’t stand by and just watch the powers that be take and take, he takes action and rebels! That’s a good lesson to learn, but hopefully it won’t lead our youth to distrust royal birds. The emperor penguin would be screwed.

You Gotta Suck to be The Best

Collaboration. Kirby teaches us that we gotta work together. Whether that means taking someone’s abilities, or working with your friends, the Kirby franchise is all about team work. Kirby is aided by his friends in many of his main outings, and they enable to take on bigger and better heists of powers and foods. Sure, Kirby’s friends aren’t exactly the type of company you’d care to keep- one is a fish that seems orally fixated on having Kirby in his mouth, one is a blog that seems to get some sort of weird fix out of rubbing her body all over Kirby, and one is an tyrant king who steals food from poor inhabitants and forces creatures in servitude. But hey, you gotta make strange bedfellows to get anywhere in this world. Also, sometimes it’s just good to rely on yourself…the many duplicate copies of yourself that is…I don’t know how that transfers over, other than maybe a promotion of cloning. We’re in strange ethical waters now..

Things are more serious in America

A more absurd takeaway from the Kirby franchise is in Nintendo’s promoting of the series via official artwork. Over the years, Nintendo of America has made some odd alterations to the official box arts design they receive from Japan, most notably is that they have switched an otherwise happy Kirby to an angry Kirby on several of the franchises box arts. Why? Who knows. Maybe NOA thinks Americans like their characters pissed. Or maybe there’s something about heading outside of Japan that just makes Kirby naturally angry. It could be that the boxarts just do it themselves; Kirby perhaps hates America! If there’s one thing that we can take away from all this is that America is a much more serious place than the whimsical land of Japan, where pink balls have the delight of going on adventures without anger or frustration. What a terrible land we live in that does this to creatures whom only want to suck and feast on the bounty of abilities in their way.

Other quick Lessons!

  • Eat what you want and when you want, even if that thing is alive and fighting.
  • Trees are can and will attack you.
  • Anything and everything can be used as a weapon, as long as it’s in your mouth.
  • Yarn is both epic and beautiful.
  • Eating strange things may give you powers.

So that’s it. I know this article was a little skimpy on the sociology and, well, anything redeeming, but I hope it was worth a smile or two. The Kirby games are great games, for young and old. They’re virtually harmless games, they’re great ways to introduce platformers to younger kids and casual gamers. So, here’s to another 20 years of the pink ball that couldn’t stop sucking.