Friend Code - Official Discussion Thread

  • I've just given it a quick update for now.

    If anyone would like to make a fancy banner for it, please do and PM me!

  • Global Moderator

    Episode 1 is now on youtube
    Youtube Video

  • Episode 3 has been posted online. It's a jolly episode so far! :)

  • So there have been a few new episodes since the last post. Perhaps we could add a link to the official YouTube playlist in the OP?

    And here's the latest episode uploaded to YouTube: Switch's November Lineup

    Youtube Video

  • @Zedoary Thanks for the banner!

    I've only listened to a little bit of the latest one so far, need to get back into it.

  • Newest episode is up on YouTube: Super Mario Odyssey Post-Mortem.

    Youtube Video

  • Global Moderator

    I'm glad I wasn't the only one who cried tears of joy during that New Donk City Donkey Kong level. It was so good!

  • Friend Code: Patron's Pulse Special

    With no big news and not enough time logged in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 yet, Huber and Bosman join Damiani to spend the hour answering as many Patron's Pulse submissions as we can get to!

    Youtube Video

  • Friend Code returned after a month's pause. Man, Damiani is on fire as the host! Really fluid throughout the whole episode, he knew what he was saying the whole time. Confidence. And his general passion towards Nintendo just works really well in the podcast.

  • @sentinel-beach Ya I agree. I enjoyed listening to this one quite a bit.

    I do personally still wish it was more focused on history like some of the earlier pods rather than Nintendo but still enjoy it.

  • I really liked the newest episode where Damiani, Kyle and Brad speculate on Nintendo's own achievements. Some fun and creative stuff from the patrons.

    Youtube Video

  • I know this wasn't the intent, and I think there were great points that ended up being made throughout the discussion about representation in video games in general, but the discussion about diversity and inclusion in smash bros and Nintendo as a whole on the most recent Friend Code really irked me in a way that I feel warrants some discussion. Please note that I'm not trying to call anyone out or condemn the conversation as a whole; I'm just trying to shed some light on an issue and educate as best as I can from my perspective as a mixed-race and third culture kid. Mods, if this sparks a discussion that gets out of hand, mute/delete this thread.

    This has come up at least once before (in the initial BLM discussions, I remember Damiani noting that it took Nintendo and The Pokemon Company too long to make a statement), but I think it's important for people to understand that you can't apply American perspectives to a company as uniquely Japanese as Nintendo, and Japan has a long and troubled history with racism, sexism, and general bigotry. A recent example is in the ongoing BLM movement in America: I didn't start seeing widespread news coverage of it here in Japan until over a week into the start of the protests, and even then it was in the context of the spread of COVID. Then, when it did start gaining more coverage, this was the video NHK produced to try and explain the situation to a broader audience on a family-oriented news show:
    Youtube Video

    Beyond the gross reliance on stereotypical depictions of black people, it claims that people are looting (and justifying looting) because of economic/wealth disparities between black people and white people, noting in particular the fact that black people are suffering the effects of COVID to a much greater degree than white people. It never once mentions police brutality. NHK pulled the video and provided a lengthy apology a few days later, but it belies the general ignorance most of Japan has about international issues regarding race and prejudice. This in and of itself has its roots back in the days of Sakoku, and I'd argue that that sentiment of isolationism has persisted due in part to the deeply traditional and hierarchical culture that permeates all corners of Japanese society. In other words, there is very little cultural exchange that has broadened Japanese perspectives in a meaningful sense in regards to many of these issues. While much could be said about the problems individualism has caused for problems America has been grappling with, Japan still struggles with a collectivist mentality where those that are "other" are largely ignored or seen as lesser. Discrimination is still prevalent in a way I think many people aren't aware of, perhaps due to the fact that it is (thankfully) almost never violent the way that it is in America. An easy example to point out would be the incident of a train announcer apologizing to his passengers for the amount of foreigners on the train, but people in the west are rarely taught about the general mistreatment of people with disabilities or other conditions, such as the treatment of the hibakusha and their descendents . However, the fact that discrimination isn't violent doesn't mean that it doesn't affect the mentality of many Japanese people and companies, and that includes Nintendo.

    I've had this discussion before on the forums, but Nintendo is probably the least global video game publisher/console manufacturer, and by extension is the most Japanese in terms of overall philosophy. By saying something along the lines of "I don't get why they don't just have a minority as a main character" or "they should know by now that this is what's expected by people," you're ignoring the fact that, in Japan, that's simply not an issue that has been a priority. I'd argue that Nintendo, and especially the Pokemon Company, have done a far better job in terms of representation than just about any other primarily Japanese developer. I of course hope that they continue to improve, and I'm not trying to excuse the lack of diversity. I'm simply saying that even though the sentiment is just, applying western philosophies to Japanese companies without a greater understanding of the cultural and historical background behind their decisions is inherently flawed.

    This is not really my main issue, though. What did bother me was that this discussion of diversity in Nintendo was triggered by the announcement of Min Min as a fighter. I don't think this was the person's intent, but the question of "why aren't there minorities in Smash" after a Chinese person was added to the roster reminded me of the kind of tokenism I've been grappling with my whole life. It reminded me of when, after Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role of Ghost in the Shell, people decried the lack of representation and then - often in the same sentence - said that they "should've at least cast Contance Wu."

    The hypocrisy of people championing anti-racism and then promoting (or, in the case of Min Min, bemoaning) "just another yellow face" has always astounded me. There is an astounding amount of cultural diversity just within China (seriously - look at how many dialects there are, and then listen to them and realize how different they are), not to mention the vast differences between entire nations. However, I also recognize that, unfortunately, in a country where so much depends on the color of your skin, the relatively similar features of people from east-Asia makes it easy to gloss over these differences. However, conflating these nationalities and cultures as a single "Asian" race is deeply troubling, especially given the frankly horrific history of Japanese colonial rule. Much of this starts earlier than people realize - the treatment of the Ainu people and the Ryukyu Kingdom are largely analogous to America's history with Native Americans and Hawai'i, respectively. Most of what Americans know of starts with WWII. The Japanese Empire often championed brutal and efficient methods of capitalizing on their territories, and in the process committed countless war crimes and atrocities. The Nanjing Massacre and the use of Comfort Women throughout the war are probably the most widely publicized of these, but the scars run much deeper than just that, and with a much greater reach. It is for these reasons that there is so much tension between Japan and the rest of Asia, particularly China and Korea. Relationships are improving (for the most part), but I've still been told multiple times by Chinese and Korean friends that "if my grandma/grandpa ever found out I was dating a Japanese person, they'd probably disown me." For what it's worth, the sentiment is largely reciprocal among older generations here in Japan; my grandma (and even my mom) have both casually dropped sentences like, "yeah, I don't trust the Koreans," or, "I don't like Chinese" before like it's nothing. I try to ignore it because they're old and reticent to change, but it highlights the far-reaching consequences of this history. I know this is long, but I want to leave you with one final story, the reason I feel it's important to address these issues with care and grace: I don't remember much of high school - blocked most of it out - but it's made the news several times for its lack of diversity. In a school with ~900 kids per grade, over 70% of them are Asian, the majority of whom were Chinese or Korean, and sometimes still lacked American citizenship. One of my only memories is from sophomore year, walking down the hall and being accosted by dozens of classmates screaming, "APOLOGIZE!" before they giggled and ran away. The first few times didn't bother me too much, since I've dealt with much worse, but as the day drew on it grew tiring. Eventually I asked one of my friends what was going on. Apparently, one of the history teachers had reached the Japanese history part of the World War II unit. At the end of class, he had made the sole Japanese person in the section stand up and individually apologize to their Chinese and Korean classmates in front of everyone. The anger I felt in that moment shook me out of my "I don't see race" philosophy. It made me realize that it doesn't matter what I see - it only matters what other people see. I'm not trying to say that I've experienced anything on par with what black people and other BIPOC have had to deal with every day of their lives. I'm just saying that, by lumping Asians together in calls for diversity, you're writing over generations of tension and wrongdoings, perpetuating the problems you're trying to solve.

    I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't criticize Japan or Nintendo. You absolutely should. The issues of diversity and representation are only a small fraction of the problems that need to be addressed. My goal isn't to start a flame war, or invite people saying things like, "tHis iS tHE pROBleM with SJW CULTURE," but bring to light what I feel are some of the issues I wish people were more aware of. I'm only bringing this up now because, after biting my tongue over the rampant fetishization of Japan by the gaming and nerd community at large, it's frustrating seeing these issues finally being acknowledged without what I feel is the proper nuance or perspective.

  • Easy Ally

    Yea, that was definitely a bad look not acknowledging Min Min's Chinese representation, but don't place any of the blame on the Patron who asked the question. The reason this even happened was partially due to me not reading the Patron question correctly (I subbed their use of "will we see more Black/Brown skin characters from Nintendo" with "will we see more minority characters") as the question was originally asking for a lack of a certain type of representation in Nintendo/Smash. I subbed in "minority" as shorthand for the question on-the-fly without realizing what I had done, and sadly did not catch that I had misrepresented the question and Min Min. I was so focused on making the point about lack of a certain type of representation that I fell into this pitfall of saying something that devalues one type of minority over another. This wasn't the intent, but it still illustrates a problem you and others rightfully called out. More representation in general is a good thing, and we should have praised and addressed the importance of the inclusion of Min Min rather than being so focused on Black/Brown representation.

    As for the nuance in how Japan deals with racism for your first point, I get their is a history there as you explained with their position and philosophy. However, I will say ignorance is no excuse, even when it comes to Nintendo/Japan/other countries. Nintendo/Japan is absolutely aware of racism and the specific racism we bring up against Black/Brown skin people, and NCL is ABSOLUTELY made aware of issues by Nintendo of America (and other Nintendo subsidiaries), we have documented instances of them impacting game development as a result of input from them about how games will be viewed outside of Japan. This goes beyond merely localization changes for regional versions in some instances, such as changes that are on the Japanese level, too (see Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore only being based on the original's Western version, for all territories the Switch port released in). Also the recent removal of Mr. Game and Watch's offensive imagery related to racist depictions of Native Americans. The point is that people need to keep holding these companies accountable and educate them. Obviously anyone can be ignorant of something, but once that's brought to light and you are shown why a viewpoint is considered offensive, what you do next matters the most. If you don't change and respect the views of others, it shows your prejudice and unwillingness to change and thus are deserving of the backlash coming your way. If you change for the better and show compassion and understanding, that is deserving of praise.

    So my apologies for the poor handling of our discussion on Min Min. I hope the rest of the conversation proved more productive and useful towards arguing for the better representation of marginalized groups, as that was the only true goal I had for the topic.

    Edit: Want to also add that it probably was also a big miss to not celebrate Min Min's Chinese heritage from the perspective of an American because it would be a positive counter to the racist rhetoric utilized by idiots in this country when referencing the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic which has caused undue backlash and hardship for Chinese-Americans and nationals.

  • @damianicus Thanks for the response, Damiani. I also want to reiterate that I think the conversation that followed regarding black representation in video games was absolutely worthwhile. I think those instances you bring up of Nintendo learning and growing in response to outside input are also representative of a broader cultural/generational shift, and are why I'm optimistic about the future of representation in games and media in/from Japan.

    Also, to be clear, I wasn't really trying to blame/shame anyone in particular. I know everyone involved was well-intentioned. Rather, I just wanted to shed light on why I feel some pervasive viewpoints that were represented are problematic. It just happened to be sparked by that question.