This is a response to the New York Times opinion article; Super Mario Run’s Not-So-Super Gender Politics. In this response article, I will take out certain blocks of text from the original article, and rebut them with my claims.
Unfortunately, despite Nintendo’s history and reputation, Super Mario Run is not a family-friendly game — or at least not one my wife and I will be letting our 6-year-old daughter play. The game is rife with stale, retrograde gender stereotypes — elements that were perhaps expected in 1985, when the first Super Mario Bros. was released in the United States, but that today are just embarrassing.
Not, family-friendly? That’s like Nintendo’s primary target audience here. How is the game rifled with stale, retrograde, gender stereotypes that you claim have been there since 1985?
By failing to update Super Mario for a contemporary audience, Nintendo is lagging far behind the Walt Disney Co., one of its closest American analogues. Disney’s film “Frozen” subverted and reinvigorated the fairy-tale princess movie; “The Force Awakens” gave us a female Jedi. Super Mario Run doesn’t even try.
“update Super Mario for a contemporary audience”, What contemporary audience? Mario was never designed for a contemporary audience. Frozen didn’t do much to the fairy-tale princess movie and Force Awakens gave us a female Jedi, but really who cares? Is there a female Jedi or not. Of course, Super Mario Run doesn’t even try cause it’s not that type of media.
In isolation, there’s nothing wrong with princesses or baking. My daughters love those things, too. But Super Mario Run relegates its female characters to positions of near helplessness. Peach and Toadette become playable only after you complete certain tasks, which makes the women in the game feel like prizes. (To be fair, the same is true of a few male characters.) Worse, should you then use Peach to defeat her kidnapper, Bowser, you’ll discover that neither Mario nor a kiss is waiting for her as a reward.
So who cares if Mario’s female characters are relegated to positions of near helplessness? Mario is a video game franchise that has a short cyclical story and it’s more about the gameplay than the story. It’s a formula that has worked for 31 years and Nintendo will likely continue it in the near future.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the designer of Super Mario Bros. — as well as Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda and other landmark games — is frequently called the Walt Disney of video games. He may have a little too much Uncle Walt in him and not enough Hayao Miyazaki, whose Studio Ghibli movies like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away” are filled with adventurous young heroines.
Nintendo has created heroines before, they’re just not the main characters (except for maybe Splatoon)
- Krystal from StarFox
- Female Inkling from Splatoon
- Every Girl Character from Pokemon
Mr. Miyamoto told Wired this month that he was more involved with the design of Super Mario Run than that of any Mario game since 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy. That means that the only two Super Mario games that include a playable female character from the start — 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 2 and 2013’s spectacular Super Mario 3D World — were games in which Mr. Miyamoto was not directly involved with the level design.
What does Miyamoto’s involvement with certain Mario games level design have to do with your “gender stereotypes” you’re talking about?
The world would be a worse place if video game creators were judged only by whether they balanced their games with male and female protagonists. Some of 2016’s best video games, including the interactive drama Firewatch and the disturbing Mario-inspired Inside, are largely about men and boys.
But those are completely different video games from completely different franchises, that decided to have male and female options.
Still, lots of girls and women play video games. There are more women over 30 who play video games than boys under 18 who play, according to the industry’s lobbying arm, the Entertainment Software Association. A Pew Research Center survey published last year found that almost 60 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are gamers.
Now, this statistic has been discussed within the gaming community whether or not to legitamize these female gamers between ages 13 and 17. Some of them might be true hardcore games, But i’ve got a feeling that most of them are casual gamers. The legitimacy of casual gamers in the gaming community is very “on the rope” as i would say.
Seeing people like yourself depicted as heroic on TV and in movies and video games can have a powerful effect on viewers and players. The actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who was born in Pakistan, tweeted after watching “Rogue One,” the new “Star Wars” movie, that he “started tearing up” after a scene in which “people who looked like me and dressed like my people were good guys.”
Ok, I guess that’s kinda true about certain groups of people depicted as heroic in media.
This sense of identification gives video games an enormous capacity to create empathy for other people. There are video games in which you play as the parent of a dying child, as a transgender woman beginning hormone replacement therapy, as the son of an alcoholic. But it also presents more conventional game designers with an opportunity to create games in which young girls, and not just young boys, actually become heroes themselves.
“transgender woman beginning hormone replacement therapy”, I guess that’s possible in a video game but in real life there’s no way that any human on Earth can change their hormones or genitals it is biologically impossible. And, there’s already bunch of video games with females as the star character. Nintendo already has Pokemon where there is a male-female option at the beginning of every Pokemon game ever.
The knowledge that video games possess this power, that they allow us to adopt new identities and grant us new ways of seeing ourselves, is as old as Mario’s quest for his princess. Which makes it all the sadder that Mr. Miyamoto, with all his gifts, has yet to seize it.
I’m sorry New York Times, but Shigeru Miyamoto is likely not going to change the plot of Mario games anytime soon, as their plot formula for the Mario games has already worked for 31 years now. I seriously believe that the war on video games, Is still going on and the MSM are still at it.