Paper Mario Color Splash has been a fairly controversial game ever since it was announced. With few new characters, generic worlds and the return of many Sticker Star concepts like things, the game has currently got a lot of people really hating it for not being like the older titles.
Above: An amusing example.
And now, it seems like the controversy continues. Because according to some… questionable sources, some people believe it references GamerGate.
So what’s the rumoured reference? Well the part where you try and figure out what Toad is holding a key on Bloo Bay Beach talks about five guys, shufflegate and a media controversy. Here’s a video showing the section courtesy of (´・ω・ ｀) on Twitter:
— (´・ω・ ｀) (@_icze4r) June 22, 2016
Either way, it caused a bit of a backlash. Well, with certain opponents of the movement anyway. Zoe Quinn somewhat obvious flipped out over it, and we had the odd SJW type threaten to boycott Nintendo as a result. So, usual internet drama bullshit then.
But is it true? Does Paper Mario Color Splash really reference GamerGate?
Well to be honest, I don’t think it does. Remember, GamerGate was obviously not the first major controversy to have the ‘gate’ suffix on the end, and certainly not the most famous one. That infamous ‘honour’ goes to the old Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon resigning (before he could be impeached).
And there’s quite a bit that hints it could be a reference to that instead. For one thing, it’s a well known event that people in Japan (where the game was obviously developed) might actually know something about. Which is kind of important, since hey, something similar had to happen in the original language version of the game, right?
Then there’s the comments afterwards. The Toad host makes a comment about something called ‘Shufflegate Exposed’. But that’s not just a reference to the scandal. It’s actually based on the name of a fairly well known book about the Watergate scandal:
And the five guys thing? Well, there were five burglars discovered inside the DNC office when the Watergate scandal was first revealed. So the idea of five shady characters involved in wrongdoing is hardly something unique to the GamerGate situation either.
So there’s definitely a decent chance that this is a Watergate reference. But is there a chance it’s also a GamerGate one?
For starters, it’s debatable whether it’s a reference in Japan. GamerGate has been discussed there (on 2ch, with a member of the Japanese parliament, among certain academics in the country). And make no mistake, Nintendo do put internet humour and meme jokes into their Japanese games as well. Just ask RagnarokX, who translated the Hylian text in the Breath of the Wild demo:
Above: Hey, it says ‘all your base’!
Or anyone who’s played Super Paper Mario. That stuff with Francis was there in the original language. The whole chapter is an hilarious parody of internet fanboys and otaku.
It’s also very possible said reference was added in the translation. Remember, these guys put a doge joke in Tri Force Heroes:
Joked about ‘safe spaces’ in Paper Jam:
The Mario Bros telling the hard truths about "safe spaces" pic.twitter.com/NTJjXFa8mr
— Lonely Goomba (@LonelyGoomba) December 7, 2015
And back in 2005, they even added 1337 speak in Mario & Luigi Partners in Time. Which might have dated a tad now…
Either way, they likely know about GamerGate now. They could very well have decided to make a reference to it.
But could is the key word. Because I’m not really sure that they would actually do that in this ‘blatant’ a way. Remember, Nintendo is somewhat risk adverse. They make jokes about current events and use the odd internet meme, but where politics is concerned, they tend to stay far, far away.
Can you blame them? No, not at all. Political matters are controversial. Political matters tend to cause everything from internet drama to boycotts and actual riots. And when companies walk into a political debate or hot issue, things tend to go very poorly for them:
Nintendo tries to avoid mistakes like that. So why would they reference GamerGate? I mean, nothing against people who support or oppose it here, but every time GamerGate has come up, controversy has followed. People on all sides have been flooded with personal attacks and threats, gaming news sites and their audiences have ended up at war with each other and products associated with a particular side have been subject to boycotts and Twitter protests. Do you really think Nintendo would walk straight into that situation and basically paint a bullseye on their head?
In regards to a game which has already gained immense levels of criticism for ruining everything good about the Paper Mario series?
I don’t think so.
Oh, and let’s not forget here, Nintendo has already been under fire for ‘GamerGate’ related stuff, back when Alison Rapp was fired for moonlighting and super controversial claims on social media. GamerGate wasn’t responsible for that one (and in fact, quite a few supporters didn’t want her fired at all), yet Nintendo took a whole week or two’s worth of non stop criticism from the press about how she got sacked because of ‘internet trolls’. They’ve seen first hand what happens when GamerGate is associated with something that Nintendo’s involved in, and they most certainly didn’t want to get the same sort of criticism again.
So what’s most likely here is that the Green Toad con ‘subplot’ was changed to a Watergate reference in the English localisation of the game, and people who look for GamerGate as a bogeyman then took a few things out of context to get ‘offended’ by. People who were looking for GamerGate references found just that.
Either way, it’s likely any similarities to GamerGate here are purely coincidental.