Soapbox: Indies Lead The Way But Nintendo Shows Progress Representing People Of Colour

Image: Nintendo

Before we begin, let me tackle one thing: media representation is important. Always was, always would be, but many still question why. Whenever this thread comes up, comments like “Why is it important? Why can’t you just play the game? “ appears and if you’ve ever thought about this, chances are you’ve always been well represented. In recent years, the games industry has become more inclusive and while progress still needs to be made, fortunately it is not slowing down. However, despite the positive steps, those efforts continue to face fierce resistance.

When Nintendo Can’t Sketch extremely basic diversity initiatives without accusations of “bad habits” or “virtue signals,” that’s a problem. I haven’t counted how often I see POCs (people of color) described as “coercive” or “political”, and the same goes for LGBTQ + figure. For such critics, simply discussing these issues is too much. They told us we would be better served by remaining silent and that highlighting these issues only deepens the gap, which would be a strange move if it wasn’t completely transparent. There is nothing political about people who exist or want to play as themselves in video games, placing themselves in those worlds is part of escapism. After all, how often have we all reinvented ourselves (or at least tried to!) inside a character creator?

As a British Caribbean native, I personally just want to see the POC characters represented. We don’t need fancy explanations, complicated story reasons and, for the love of God, don’t be stereotyped. Just leave them there like a normal actor, job done. It’s not an unreasonable request. Sometimes – no anytime, necessarily, but sometimes – I want to play someone like me, to see which characters might have shared experiences. Many games don’t need a story, but we’re often invested when they do, and that’s when it’s not just “a game”. Considering this current landscape, it’s important to recognize the representation we’ve had, and over the past few years, Nintendo has slowly improved.

The original presentation of Mr. Game & Watch in Super Smash Bros. there was a brief appearance of the Native American stereotype, which Nintendo was quick to correct
The original presentation of Mr. Game & Watch in Super Smash Bros. there was a brief appearance of the Native American stereotype, which Nintendo was quick to correct (Image: Nintendo)

Now, I’m not going to claim Nintendo as a bastion of POC representation, and I can’t overlook where it went wrong before. Mr. Game & Watch uses the Native American silhouette (before it was quickly removed) in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is probably the most recent example. The original Jynx design of the famous Pokémon resembles a black face, and the design of the original Skull Kid in Japan was similarly criticized. Let’s not forget Punch-Out!! or use stereotypes like the original Russian fighter names”Vodka Drunkenski, before changing to Soda Popinski.

Breath of the Wild gave us Lady Urbosa, a fearless but compassionate chief who was taken away too soon by Calamity Ganon.

True, most of the cases listed here are historical and recent times have shown more aggressive action by the company. With Nintendo President Shuntaro Furakawa recent affirmation in supporting diversity, last year saw Nintendo get involved Microsoft, Sony and other publishers in share their support for Black and BLM communities worldwide. Furthermore, according to a tweet has now been deleted, a Nintendo employee suggested that the company was double combined contributions to related causes, beyond its standards policy simply contribute accordingly. Sure, as with any company or cause, you could argue it could have done more – and in some ways, I’m inclined to agree – but the reality is we’re seeing Visible action is an improvement.

In its games, representation of the POC has been rather pale until recent years, and a notable ‘earlier’ appearance is the Gerudo tribe in the Zelda series. While Ganondorf is King Gerudo, the franchise has given us powerful examples of Gerudo who ended up going against him, such as Ocarina of Time Naboruu, Sage of Spirit. More recently, Breath of the Wild gave us Lady Urbosa, a brave but fearless leader who was taken away too soon by Calamity Ganon. For Urbosa’s successor, Riju, we found an interesting character – someone who came to power in her position too young, full of doubt, but ultimately a capable leader. .

Between those two Zelda entries, a surprising source of POC representation also comes from 2010 Metroid: M other, and while I won’t pretend there isn’t a fair amount of criticism surrounding Samus’ performance in that game, Team Ninja did a great job with Galactic Federation soldier Anthony Higgs, one of his friends. her old. Reuniting aboard the ship CHAI, Higgs has not only proven himself to be a good soldier, but he’s one of the few characters to show real respect for Samus in this adventure. Without a doubt, their friendship is one of the highlights of Other M.

Higgs has not only proven himself to be a good soldier, he’s also one of the few characters to show real respect for Samus in this adventure.

The fire symbol is another prominent example, although until Three houses that never goes beyond recruitable minifigures. Along with Edelgard and Dimitri, Claude has become a truly scheming leader of the Leicester League, easy on the surface but a cunning strategist underneath. Dedue’s role cannot be underestimated and although he is not as prominent, his position as Dimitri’s loyal subordinate has highlighted the prejudices of many in the Holy Kingdom. Faerghus to his hometown, Duscur. So is Petra, the kind Princess of Brigid, who became a political hostage to the Adrestian Empire, after her state was forced into vassalage.

On Switch alone, Nintendo’s library has continued to improve in this area. When Pokémon Sun and Moon introduced some POC characters like Trial Captains Ilima and Kiawe – not forgetting Akala Island’s Kahuna Olivia – Sword and shield built on that further by providing prime representation with our rival Hop, Gym Leader Nessa and Galar region champion Leon. Splatoon 2 introduces a new DJ with Marina along with band partner Pearl, greeting you every time you start the game with match details, while ARM’ Twintelle has become a popular choice with players, alongside Misango in the wider squad.

Image: The Pokémon Company

Just having those characters inside is one step closer to normalizing POC appearances, but few would argue that indie developers usually beat Nintendo (and most publishers). large edition) by exploring underrepresented cultures. Raji: An Ancient Epic made for a commendable adventure last year, offering a brief but compelling premise based on Hindu mythology. Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield recently provided us with a stylish action platformer set in a futuristic Detroit, while coming The Forgotten Gods of the Aztech imagine a Mesoamerica not dominated by European powers.

That is not forgetting Dandara: Challenging Fear, an action-adventure platformer based on Brazilian folklore. A few months ago, I spoke with João Brant of Long Hat House, asking what inspired the developers to choose this setting. He confirmed that once they designed the gameplay, they wanted to “add a certain “Brazilianty” to our game,” in hopes of showing people what their country is like. Considering the conflicts in Brazillian, they drew inspiration from Quilombo dos Palmares, moving from a direct historical approach to an allegory.

Realizing that it must be about slavery, Brant admits it is a “very difficult subject to deal with” that requires “a lot of research to do it respectfully”, telling me he believes that Brazil treats its history badly with slavery. In the end, they turned to the Afro-Brazilian warrior Dandara, discusses the symbolism of those legends and contrasts it with what little is known about her life. In the end, they chose Dandara’s name “as an homage”, moving on to a new story idea while also incorporating elements of Brazilian history. While it’s not intended to fully educate players, Brant tells me the approach is designed as an “invitation” for players to learn more and have a fascinating history inside.

By exploring these underrepresented cultures, indie developers have shown us exactly what games can be. Nintendo’s efforts have yet to reach this stage – and while this could be a comic book adaptation, we’ve yet to see them tackle the issue in the way Sony has recently taken. Miles Morales games do – but the fact that POCs have finally gained greater visibility in major titles, this is amazing.

It’s not about wanting to see yourself as Mario, but about seeing the developers acknowledge the fact that we exist, that we’re not just side characters or thinking after thoughts. The simple act of being there isn’t “political,” and not all examples are perfect, but the broader industry is making the right moves. Gradually, Nintendo followed suit, which I hope it continues to build on. | Soapbox: Indies Lead The Way But Nintendo Shows Progress Representing People Of Colour


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