I can’t help but feel sometimes that we get trapped in a bubble of cynicism and negativity in this industry. As gamers, we’re often very quick to cast aspersions, to believe the worst, to criticise aggressively often for no other reason than a difference of opinion. There have been so many articles published over the last week lamenting the lack of female characters, of female presenters at E3 this year.
It’s not a surprise any more, and it’s certainly something that we should decry and continue to push for change, for greater representation of a demographic eager to be included, or even acknowledged. However, instead of banging on about that, instead of pillorying Ubisoft further for their stupidity and lack of foresight, I’d like to take this moment to celebrate a press conference (of sorts) that gave us plenty to cheer about on this subject.
Yes, Nintendo, I’m talking about you.
I was so glad when Ocarina of Time gave us badass Zelda. Although the ending is still pretty much Link the dude saving the girl, Zelda helps out, and her alter-ego Sheik is a wonderful twist on the usual princess stereotype. But with Hyrule Warriors we’re getting to fully become the princess, slaying beasts, defying convention, and mixing it up in the heat of battle alongside Link. Not only that, but we get to play as Impa and Midna too. Nintendo dropped it in there, smooth as you like, and I guarantee you that I’m not the only girl in the world who punched the air at that moment.
I’d love to see playable Zelda in the games to bear her name, to have the chance to be a hero in her own games, but this is a start.
She’s already playable, of course, in Super Smash Bros, and the fact that we can now play as ourselves, men and women alike, is great news. If Nintendo have perhaps been a little responsible over the years for perpetuating the male-hero-female-princess stereotype, it’s excellent to see them making that work in a progressive fashion too. Palutena’s introduction led me off to immediately read up on her character history, and showed that you can still be girly and kick ass. You don’t have to be a tomboy, you don’t have to essentially try to be a man – you can look pretty in pink and punch Mario’s lights out.
Perhaps more than anything, I love that Bayonetta 2 is a Wii U exclusive. I love that Nintendo took that character, this is family-friendly Nintendo we’re talking about, and just said yes. I know Bayonetta is problematic for some. But I find her absurdly over-the-top sexualised persona to be exciting, provocative, and dangerous even. It’s not quite the same as the characters you find in Dead or Alive. There’s something incredibly sophisticated about Bayonetta, something devilishly complex. She doesn’t strike me as just a cipher for male fantasies, and I love playing as her. Men have muscle-bound moving statues or cocky Indiana Jones wannabes with perfect hair for their power fantasy needs – we have Bayonetta. She’s sexy, stylish, smart, and spectacularly capable. And I love that she’s coming to Wii U.
I’ve been a Nintendo fan since I first played A Link to the Past on my brother’s SNES. But what I loved about Nintendo’s presentation was that I felt like they were talking to me. Not to other people with me just happening to be there in the room, but talking to me: as a Nintendo fan, as a gamer, as a woman.
Nintendo showed more opportunities for playable female characters in their presentation than Microsoft and Sony combined. And Ubisoft would do well to note that if Splatoon and (as was shown later on in the week) Xenoblade Chronicles X can feature female character customisation options, why can’t they do the same on a game with a much bigger budget and significantly more manpower?
So I want to say thank you Nintendo. I want to say thank you for making me feel included, important, and interested. I’ve had plenty of people ask me over the last year why I bought a Wii U, and I tell them the same thing every time: because I believe in Nintendo. They don’t settle for safe options, they never have. They’re always looking to shake things up, sometimes perhaps to their financial detriment. But I love their spirit of fun, I love their persistent innovation, and I love that they don’t really care who the “core gamer” stereotype is. Whether you’re male, female, young, old, they just want you to play their games and have fun with them. As many people as possible.
They also have amazing games, and their lineup for E3 was very special indeed. Even if most of them are coming next year. But I’ve got a bit of a backlog on my Wii U, actually, so I’ve got time.
Big thanks to Jess for getting in touch and sending this in. If you have an article you'd like to see considered for publication on Dealspwn drop us a message here, on Twitter, or email Matt directly at matt[at]dealspwn[dot]com.