Yesterday, a good friend of mine made an internet video that hit me in the gut like a runaway train. It was a simple, joyful video about the latest nintendo product. But it was her link to the product that shocked me the most. It included this simple message. “Seriously, I can only play a dude?”
For that matter, “why can’t I play a girl?” I’m a gamemaster. I run roleplaying games. I have to play characters of both genders to satisfy my audience and simulate a world, right?
Well, in D+D, you’ve always been able to play a girl, and Rydia could always play a dude. But the closer nature of self-identification occasionally prohibits that among the insecure.
I give you Rydia Vielehr, who I have had the pleasure of challenging Orcus with at the D+D Open some years ago. We took third place. My die rolls were bad. She’s an avid gamer of all kinds.
This makes the statement far more adequately than I ever could. But seeing this, despite my ignorance of Nintendo, lit a fire under me for the first time in a very long while. And my long memory stirred to life. I decided to do a little digging. There are a huge number of articles about how sexist Nintendo is.
Nintendo apparently has a long history of promoting harmful stereotypes that are not necessarily endemic to any society of the modern age. I understand that they are trying to change this. But they need to do a better job. Millions of people the world over are looking to the games they love for characters they can look up to.
That being said, then there’s this.
This is actually serious. If you commit a crime, you should go to jail. Death threats should be taken seriously.
This begs a number of issues.
1) Am I being sexist in my own products? If so, please let me know. I can attempt to correct this in the future.
2) The question of sexism in the gaming industry is growing larger. Part of the problem is this. Are we asking the right questions when we design characters and promote products? Who are the role models that we want people to be like, and how can we clearly delineate those role models?
3) Is the issue about sexism itself, or is it that we cannot remove years of history from Mario, Donkey Kong, the Kingdom of Furyondy, Azoun IV and the Forgotten Realms, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (Although the fact that the woman in the group goes invisible was the best social statement they possibly could have made).
A final note. A young girl wanted to play Donkey Kong where the Princess rescues Mario. Her father wrote a hack to make it possible.
And again, that makes the statement more effectively than I could.