Pokemon X and Y Will Let You Choose the Race and Gender of Your Japanese Guy

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In an interesting development, a recent CoroCoro magazine leak shows that players will be able to customize the race, as well as the gender, of the main character in the upcoming Pokémon X and Y games for 3DS.  Based upon this post’s featured image, Game Freak definitely seems to be pushing a message of equality.  That might actually be an understatement, as their interpretation of equality looks substantially more literal than most.  In what looks more like the work of a modder than a built-in customization system, the devs remind us that the only real differences between races and genders are tanning and wigs.  One thing is clear from the image below.  Whether we are black or white, male or female, blonde or brunette; deep down, we are all just Japanese guys.

I kid them about their execution of what is actually a really good idea for a game like this.  Admittedly, the art is definitely a bit lazy.  It would have been nice if the male and female characters weren’t fraternal twins, or if the racially ambiguous characters weren’t just Japanese people in blackface.  Still, attack of the clones aside, when gender and/or race are not crucial story elements, it is nice for developers to give us these choices.  The Pokémon games have always allowed players to choose the protagonist’s gender, but the racial option is a nice addition, even if it is still a bit limited.  Again, although I encourage this option, it is not necessary if it legitimately detracts from the game’s storytelling.  Since Pokémon has been telling the same story since the 90’s, and so far, a double cheeseburger would contribute as much identity as any of their lead protagonists, a few racial variations should not cause any issues within their formula.

 

beaniebadger

When our content director told me there was a black character in the new Pokemon game, I thought he was talking about the Beanie Badger. I am really glad he wasn’t talking about the Beanie Badger…

 

Before the Mass Effect series came out, it could have been argued that full racial and gender customization options would be too burdensome to incorporate into a complex story.  However, Mass Effect has some of the deepest, most complex, intricate storytelling ever, and the experience is not hindered by Shepard’s skin color or breast size.  In real life, any perceived differences in the behaviors and thought patterns between genders or races are either learned, cultural, or imagined.  At our core, we are all the same.  Shepard’s competence was in no way affected by his or her appearance, and the experience was completely believable regardless.  Granted, it took some clever work on the part of the writers to keep Shepard’s challenges neutral to race and gender.  For example, they couldn’t include any scenes where he had to use his skin color to camouflage with his surroundings, or his penis to unlock a door.  They also had to rewrite the ending where he circled the galaxy and teabagged every reaper to death.   Artistically, those were tough sacrifices to make, and it could not have been easy to work around them, but the experience benefited from that effort.

When black characters are inserted into a video game, developers always seem to be making some kind of statement or stance.  In lieu of a statement, they try to reinforce stereotypes, as a way of providing a reason why a black character was invited to the party.  This is all really unnecessary.  A perfectly acceptable explanation for making a character black is that, sometimes, people are black.  Crazy, I know… but it’s true.  He doesn’t need to be the president or a huge civil rights advocate.  He doesn’t need to say things like “Aw, hell naw!” or “Aw, snap!” or “Aw, shit cap’n!”  Actually, he doesn’t necessarily need to say anything that begins with “Aw” and ends with an exclamation point.  Putting the character’s race in the players’ hands as a trivial selection prevents race from becoming the defining facet of his or her identity.  This works out well in the case of X and Y.  Enslaving and/or slaughtering innocent animals is basically a science at this point, so there is no reason why people of different backgrounds should do it any differently.  The Japanese do it a little bit better with whales, but we all do it the same with Pokémon.

Thomas Shamburger
Thomas is one of the original creators of "What's Jump?" As a lifelong gamer, writer, and comedian, his goal is to provide readers with humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking perspectives on current gaming news and culture. His early career successes in the business world helped to pave the way for the site's launch in 2012. As the Editor in Chief of "What's Jump?" he combines his passions for gaming, writing, entrepreneurship, and comedy.
Thomas Shamburger
Thomas Shamburger

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