NOTE: The original post (which sparked my rant) by booimafox (below) is in fact a fake. Made to further stir up misunderstandings. Iwata steered Nintendo and gaming as a whole to be inclusive so it’s upsetting to see this used as an excuse to divide the gaming community.
booimafox: Now that Satoru has died maybe Nintendo can finally catch up with other gaming companies when it comes to their representation of women which, frankly, is really poor.I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.
When we compare Nintendo’s philosophies towards female characters and game development to the west, I feel that there is somewhat of a prejudice towards the company in this department.
As a female gamer and programming student who’s biggest inspiration is the company under Iwata’s leadership and his philosophies on games design, I feel the need to show how Nintendo has in fact encouraged and inspired many girls into the world of games- not to say that things are perfect, but credit needs to go where credit is due.
Firstly it’s the ideology that games did not need to fit the original macho image of being violent, brown and out to steal your time, money and exclusively aimed at male teen demographics. Iwata believed that games can be so much more and that we can create experiences that cater to many different types of audiences regardless of gender or age. Which is why the likes of Animal Crossing, Brain Age, Wii series were games that he spent effort championing. And the sole reason why Nintendo never started mimicking stereotypical ‘western’ style games that are very macho Hollywood inspired. There are a lot of reasons why Nintendo’s fanbase is a lot more diverse then others and that’s partially due to their intent to target more than a traditional market base.
Even Iwata himself have spoken against the perceived stereotypes that female gamers only play smartphone games: “It’s often said that female casual gamers don’t need dedicated hardware, and yet here they are reaffirming the value of these machines[referring to 3ds].”
The company during this era also championed its female staff and weren’t hiding them under covers. Just looking at how much the Animal Crossing team and Monolith Soft were praising the creativity brought on by a diverse team. During a Zelda Iwata Asks (insightful developer interviews), Iwata gathered the female developers working on Skyward Sword in order to once again clear away the misconception that these types of games have no female involvement. And that’s not even to mention the presence of female staff at the E3 treehouse events:
In terms of characters, as a company that aims to cater to everyone it’s not a surprise that many of their games (Pokemon being the most prominent examples) let players choose their gender:
But when it comes to having main characters, Nintendo is hurt by the fact that outside of the Nintendo fanbase the characters that people are familiar with are Mario and Link (who both can hardly be named ‘best written characters’ regardless of gender). Whilst Samus, Nintendo’s most famous female star’s lastest game (does help that it has been ages since a new Metroid) had the most abysmal script on the planet. But when it does come to the Nintendo games that do contain stories and personalities, I’d say there’s a surprising amount of diversity especially from a Japanese developer (where most characters are inspire by the albino characters with silly hair-trope). In games like Twilight Princess, Pokemon and Code Name Steam for example:
It’s not hard for me to name Nintendo female characters that break the cardboard cut-out portrayals either. Whether it’s the wise cracking female goddesses from Kid Icarus: Uprising or the female warriors in Fire Emblem - a series where there’s a large number of playable female characters that extend beyond just healers; the first time I got to play as princesses that wasn’t just worrying about Disney princess fares but about politics and war. A lot of different personalities in a game with a large cast also meant interesting, non-standard interactions between the female characters. And these are examples from a company criticised for it’s storytelling and lack of ‘new characters’.
Nothing is perfect of course and I’d still need to wait for the day that Peach the damsel isn’t Nintendo’s poster girl anymore (though her character is subverted and more fleshed out in the Mario rpgs) and that fanservice wasn’t creeping into some Nintendo games (it’s a major issue in Japanese media in general).
However to accuse that Iwata’s leadership, was somehow the reason we had little well known Nintendo female characters or bad female characters is misleading. He believed that games should be ‘fun for everyone’. You can see that through all the new Nintendo projects that happened during his run, be it hardware or software. No other company can claim to expand their own audience base as much as Nintendo did during the last decade. As for how the company will cater for their current fanbase remains to be seen but I for sure hope that they don’t forget that we should think outside of video game conventions, to be inclusive and always try to capture new hearts.