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Do You Think We Will See a Nintendo Game With a Minority Lead? [roundtable]
That is to say, a lead character that isn't white, straight, or cis.

A few Nintendo games let you create your own avatar like Splatoon, Animal Crossing, and the Miis in general but let's step back from those and talk specifically about named characters with their own story and defined character traits.

Has it happened already in some lesser known title? I've been trying to think of characters that aren't white in Nintendo games and so far the only major example I can think of is Ganondorf.

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Posted: 11/02/16, 22:12:59
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Well, apparently (to you), Japanese characters are still white somehow, and while a few have cited Italians as "minorities," that doesn't work either. So what are we really saying here, and where does it end?

How about Nana and Popo? Too white still?
Posted: 11/03/16, 00:41:07
Zero said:
@Stephen I definitely agree that "they're a Japanese country without much exposure to..." isn't a strong argument when they have sold internationally for like 30+ years and the majority of their sales come from "Western" buyers. At that point you really need to start talking to a wide variety of people.
To play Devil's Advocate for a moment, what's the difference in you saying "Nintendo should change this to appeal to this group" and the kinds of maligned articles IGN-types kept writing in the last 3 gens that also said "Nintendo should change this to appeal to this group?"

Stephen said:
Even if those numbers were accurate, though, I do not see that as a convincing reason not to have more variation within their characters.
Then is your complaint in this thread about not enough variety? I think this is a ridiculously varied cast of leads for a single company (well, excluding the third-parties in this case). There's a huge spread of art styles, sexes, body shapes, a mixture of humans, animals and fantasy creatures, etc. How many game companies can claim a lineup that consists of a cast as diverse as Kirby, Lucina, Villager and Mr. Game & Watch?
Posted: 11/03/16, 00:42:56  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 00:43:59

Again, I cannot state it more clearly than in the OP.

If you don't understand why Link, Mario, Samus, Little Mac, Captain Falcon don't have much ethnic diversity between them then I don't know what else to tell you. All those characters appear to be caucasian. Saying no they're totally diverse because Mario is Italian is missing the point.

Nana and Popo are somewhat like Olimar where they are hard to say either way.


But if you look at the cast of human characters all of them are very light skinned and appear to reinforce the traditional gender binary. The lone exception from what I can see is Ganondorf who actually has dark skin and has an established history of having ancestry different to others in his world. If you are a human character in the world of Nintendo there is a 99% chance you are caucasian, cis and presumably straight or it is left ambiguous. If I said, for example, that Nintendo has no games with a playable female lead you could say wrong and point to Metroid. With ethnicity other than white so far the best that has been mentioned so far is that Mario is Italian and that maybe some characters are meant to be Japanese but it isn't made explicitly clear.

To be completely clear, this isn't meant to be a complaint but rather a look at why the characters are all so similar and a discussion if things will remain this way.
Posted: 11/03/16, 01:20:31  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 01:24:23
I can't believe this got diverted into "Italian is totally a minority!" I mean, I guess? But also, not? In America anyway no one would look at the average Italian and call them a minority. My cousin is Italian, people just see him as white.

Italian immigrants with non-American accents, sure, but that is true of all immigrants really. And white immigrants still don't face even 1/10th of the issues that non-white immigrants do but that's a whole other can of worms.

@TriforceBun Change what? We're talking about introducing new characters not changing anything.
Posted: 11/03/16, 01:27:08  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 01:29:52

If I asked you to describe Mario, would your first thought be 'He's Italian', or 'He's white'?
Posted: 11/03/16, 01:44:41

Nana and Popo are Eskimos aka Inuit

--It sounds like the crux of your argument may lie with Japanese artists through the years. Take it up with Toei Animation and work your way up.

Posted: 11/03/16, 01:52:37
Oh, it definitely has a ton to do with Japanese culture. Which, I mean, it kind of makes sense because I guess there isn't a ton of diversity in Japan - everyone's pretty much Japanese. I guess it becomes more of an issue with Nintendo because they're definitely a "worldwide" kind of company. It's not really a Nintendo exclusive kind of thing, but it is interesting. Nintendo doesn't really have any POC as a main character in any of their games. Few game companies do, really.
Posted: 11/03/16, 02:03:12

It is undoubtedly a gaming-wide issue. We are starting to get some variety in big AAA games. This holiday both Mafia 3 and Watchdogs 2 feature black protagonists.

I also really liked the idea of GTA 5's multiple protagonists and letting you switch between them. Hopefully, they expand on this idea with Red Dead Redemption 2.
Posted: 11/03/16, 02:28:14
Regarding Mario, yes he's Italian, but even if you accept that as a "minority" most of the Italian-American / Brooklyn edges he had early on (and only in certain media) have been rounded out into the culturally sterile form of the worldwide icon he's become. It's kinda hard to identify him as an Italian at all anymore, name aside (and Mario isn't just an Italian name). I wonder if a Japanese kid first exposed to the character through Super Mario 3D World would even realize that he's Italian / Italian-American.

Zero said:
@Stephen Yeah but like I said Japan has this trend of making Japanese characters that look "Western" so it is tough to say what the intentions were sometimes.
I've read that the typical wide-eyed anime character is viewed as Japanese ethnicity by Japanese people (just as white people tend to see them as white). People tend to fill in ambiguities with their own cultural experience, particularly when they're meant to identify with the character, as in anime and especially games. That's why it's easy for localizers to rename Japanese-named characters for western white audiences and people are like "Yeah, that guy totally looks like an Andy, a guy named Ryo wouldn't look like that."

TriforceBun said:
To play Devil's Advocate for a moment, what's the difference in you saying "Nintendo should change this to appeal to this group" and the kinds of maligned articles IGN-types kept writing in the last 3 gens that also said "Nintendo should change this to appeal to this group?"
I guess that makes me Angel's Advocate? If you want to ascribe an "agenda" to them...

One is an appeal to Nintendo to create characters that reflect groups of people that are underrepresented in the media (particularly video games) so that those groups can grow up feeling a bit less abnormal because they see fictional characters that reflect parts of their biology, culture, personality, etc. (and so players outside those groups can see them and maybe understand them, or at least think of them less as "others"). And one is people wanting Nintendo to make Call of Duty: Mushroom Kingdom, assuming that's the kind of thing you're talking about.

Neither is necessarily a moral imperative for Nintendo as an "artist," but the former is presumably intentioned to make the world a more accepting and open-minded place, and the other is wanting Nintendo to go third-party and grow up because I'm not a baby anymore and I don't want people thinking I'm a loser because I play Nintendo games.
Posted: 11/03/16, 02:39:13  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 02:40:17
@Shadowlink That's not really addressing the point though. I mean, he has an over the top accent so yeah first thought is Italian. And my first thought for Aran Ryan is Irish, and my first thought for Von Kaiser is German. Not because I consider them minorities, but because they're such over the top stereotypes of a specific nationality that it stands out.

Like, do you guys consider me a minority? I'm part Irish and unlike the Italians in America we used to be considered an inferior race. But now we're considered white. There's an interesting book about it, "How the Irish Became White". It's not as simple as once a minority always a minority.

But here we are arguing about whether one white Western European nationality is a minority or not when we all know darn well that wasn't the point of the original post anyway.
Posted: 11/03/16, 03:49:55
@Stephen Isn't it interesting though that most black protagonists we can think of offhand are in these super violent, often gang related games? Wish there were more variety. Naturally we don't see this from Nintendo because Nintendo doesn't really make those kind of games.

Indies seem to be an exception, you get a lot more variety that doesn't depend on stereotypes. My friend released a game about flying around in a jet pack and the protagonist was a black woman.
Posted: 11/03/16, 03:52:54  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 03:55:07
Can we talk about the bigger issue at hand? Specifically, why no one laughed or acknowledged my Wii Fit Trainer joke?
Posted: 11/03/16, 05:34:17
Nor did my Inklings are boys and girls of all colors comment.
Posted: 11/03/16, 05:45:40
Posted: 11/03/16, 06:00:22
To address the original question's intention... sure, we probably will someday, but maybe not anytime soon since Nintendo is barely ever creating new protagonists period. But they do seem to be trying to diversify where they can... most of their recent multiplayer games have had playable female characters, in a lot of their recent games with character customization you can make non-light-skinned characters, and I believe that the new Fire Emblem has some same sex relationships and they all but promised the next Tomodochi Life would as well? Etc. So slowly but surely Nintendo is evolving and I'd expect to see this sooner it's just... they really don't make all that many new single player protagonist franchises nowadays.
Posted: 11/03/16, 06:07:14
GameDadGrant said:
Can we talk about the bigger issue at hand? Specifically, why no one laughed or acknowledged my Wii Fit Trainer joke?
I did giggle but I forgot by the time I hit Reply. And then I wondered how Nintendo might offer non-white versions of Wii Fit Trainer in the future. Your joke made me giggle and it made me think, and as such it is a good good joke, and you should be proud for having thought of it.
Posted: 11/03/16, 06:54:25  - Edited by 
 on: 11/03/16, 06:55:14
By the way, I don't know if this addresses the issue or not (since it can be argued he's not the MAIN main lead) but Nintendo does have:

John Henry from Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Like I said, this may not count since many see Henry Fleming as the *actual* main character...but John Henry is a major character in the game, the second playable character in the entire campaign...and hell, he's on the freakin' box art. That's gotta count for something, eh?

Also, let's not forget about these guys from Eternal Darkness:

Karim (Persian) and Michael Edwards (African-American) from Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. And again, sure these may not *entirely* count since the actual lead is Alex Roivas (does a female lead still count as "minority" in video games?). But both S.T.E.A.M. and Eternal Darkness have ensemble casts where - to be honest - no one character is really more important than the other.

Baby steps, I guess.

@Zero, @nate38

Thank you!

You two are gentlemen and scholars.
Posted: 11/03/16, 15:52:16
From what I can tell is Nintendo isn't against having minority characters or leads, they just don't lean towards doing it. They have a preference for the safe protaganist, with the occasional side character or even rare main character being a minority.
Posted: 11/03/16, 16:11:41
Shadowlink said:
Stephen said:
Mario may be Italian but he is still very much caucasian.

So? He's still a 'minority'.

If you're going to arbitrarily draw lines at will, the terms become meaningless. From a certain angle, you can argue there is no such thing as a minority, we're all humans.

I agree with this 100%. Minority is this insane arbitrary term we've invented so we can continue to be racists while claiming we're not racists.

Human beings, people. It's what we all are. Usually broken, sometimes weird looking, but residents of one species on a particular planet. Until, you know, people start accepting folks choosing that they were always meant to be born as Elephants with all the rights that go along with Elephants.

Posted: 11/03/16, 17:59:34
Posted: 11/03/16, 18:25:50
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