“You had a 50/50 chance. You weren’t even close.”*
[Including the Animal Crossing series’ “Villager” in the next Smash Bros. seems perfect, but Daniel Feit argues that Nintendo bungled a key aspect with the character in this reprinted opinion piece.]
I spoke out about this on Twitter, but I want to elaborate on how much it bothers me that Nintendo elected to include a generic male villager from its mega-hit Animal Crossing franchise in the next Smash Bros game.
The first objection is the most obvious: this is a game chock full of male characters. Obviously a fighting game based on a video game company’s legacy is going to skew male; Nintendo doesn’t have a time machine to undo decades of sexist choices. But just look at this list of Smash Bros. characters; you can count the number of women on one hand. This was an easy way to offset that M/F ratio, and Nintendo blew it.
What makes this choice insulting is the nature of Animal Crossing: this is a very successful series of games that is extremely popular with women. The latest version on 3DS has sold nearly four million copies in Japan alone. It’s far and away the most popular console game of 2013. Do you really think hordes of men are driving those record sales? Not a chance. I’ve seen the ads, and I’ve seen it first-hand: my wife has been consumed by the game since December. It’s practically the only game she plays.
Cross-promotions go both ways. Put a Phoenix Wright in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and suddenly a whole new audience will be curious about his next game. Likewise, people who already know Animal Crossing but not Smash Bros. (again, that is a LOT of people, many of whom are women) will hear this crossover news and they will be curious about Smash Bros. Does having a boy villager instead of a girl turn them away? No, but i wager it doesn’t lure them in the way a girl might.
Lest anyone forget: representation matters. For every entitled male asshole who shouts down the notion that women belong in games, there are stories like this of people using video games to explore their own identity in ways they cannot in the real world.
And please, don’t talk to me about Smash Bros. being “for guys.” It’s for EVERYONE. Nintendo is in no position to pretend otherwise. Besides, fighting games which are marketed to guys still feature plenty of women on the roster. Those women are often weirdly sexualized, sadly, but they are women. Hell, I’d say that’s yet another reason to choose a female Animal Crossing villager: she’d be the lone asexual female option. Even Samus Aran is a sex object now — stupid Zero Suit.
Picking a girl from Animal Crossing wasn’t even a 50/50 choice, it was the obvious choice. Instead Nintendo went with a boy, perpetuating the idea that a male character is the “default” character. So, yeah, maybe through alternate costumes it’ll be possible to switch the Animal Crossing villager’s gender, but that doesn’t change the fact that every poster, every website, and every ad will feature the boy-version.
At least there’s Wii Fit Trainer…
*name that Bond villain!
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