So, I'm hoping if you're reading this, you've had the chance to play the W101 demo, or at least check out the truly epic trailer and Nintendo Direct released today. If not, allow me to blow your mind with the latest footage of Platinum's upcoming release:
...you can pick your jaws up off the floor now.
Suitably impressive, yes? The game is an incredible mix of Platinum quality action (and if you know anything about games, you'll know that Platinum quality action is one of the highest accolades possible), Saturday Morning Cartoon stylings, and bizarre leftfield mechanics thrown in to make things even crazier. Transforming 20 heroes into a giant green gun that shoots other heroes as bullets? But of course. Why wouldn't you shoot heroes out of a gun made of other heroes if you got the chance?
But here's the thing: this game is a Platinum game. And as much as that is a mark of quality and good breeding, it's also unfortunately a title that marks it for death. Like Cain, cursed by God after he killed Abel, Platinum games have been marked for retail failure. It doesn't matter how good a Platinum game is, how many genre mechanics it redefines, it will always sell on the market like a dead stoat stuffed with camombert. Unless it's got Metal Gear in the title, but even then...
Well, not this time fellow gamers. A game of this quality, a new IP with this level of creativity and originality, deserves success. It deserves every sale it can get, and then some. We all say how tired we are of endless military shooters and gritty reboots. This is as far from that as it is possible to get: a new IP, based around an army of superheroes beating the shit out of giant alien robot mecha dragons.
It's like the Avengers, if the Avengers was loaded up on ecstasy and not made for pussies. This game deserves to do well, and in order to do that, it needs to get a fuckload of attention from the media.
Fortunately, I've got a plan...
If there's one time-proven, guaranteed way to get attention for a game, it's to generate controversy. One year ago, nobody knew what the fuck a Dragon's Crown was. It was a 2D brawler from Vanillaware, and therefore just about the most niche game imaginable on any system. But, two giant tits and a nekkid Amazon warrior later, DC was crawling in media attention, coverage, outrage... and sales. All that coverage, right or wrong, did more for Dragon's Crown marketing than anything Atlus could have come up with.
With that in mind, meet Wonder Eyes Black:
He's a character who is, rather noticeably, of darker skin hue. He also sports, as I'm sure you can see, a Gangsta cap, corn rows, who breakdances and, according to the trailer, is addicted to videogames. And his super hero name is Wonder Eyes Black. Not Purple, not Green, not Orange. Black.
I think you can see where I'm going with this.
If one were to, hypothetically, look at Wonder Eyes Black as being representative of African Americans within the game, then one could argue the case that this character is based off a load of rather stereotypical tropes surrounding said minority. You could probably make a rather convincing case, say if you wrote for Kotaku or Rock Paper Shotgun, that this character is an example of how xenophobic Japanese developers are towards minorities. That by naming a super hero character after the colour of his skin, and giving him these stereotypical characteristics, that you're enabling the same sort of consumer behaviour that allows Michael Bay to get away with his flatly racist portrayals of minorities in his films.
I imagine if you were to write such an article, you'd get a lot of hits. A lot of hits. I further imagine it would probably kick up quite a bit of debate. You'd probably get a lot of other sites reporting on the whole thing, adding their own two cents. The whole thing would cause quite a lot of heated arguing... and would probably get a lot of attention put on the game.
A lot of attention. Probably a lot of it positive. The majority, in fact, when certain things are then made clear.
"But Titus" I hear you ask, "Haven't you just made a compelling case for W101 actually being a little bit racist? If that character is a stereotypical portrayal of African Americans, then shouldn't we rightly criticize Kamiya for not being more tactful?"
Not at all. And this is the genius of my plan. This is the master stroke.
Wonder Eyes Black isn't actually African American at all. He has nothing to do with either Africa, or America in fact. According to the in-game database, the character hails from... New Delhi, in India.
You know how they use the term 'wigger' to describe a white guy who, mistakenly or not, tries to appropriate a lot of the behaviour and mannerisms of 'stereotypical' black culture? I'm not sure what the collective term is, but Wonder Eyes Black is essentially the Indian version of that. A kid who isn't actually black (at least, in the usual 'African'-born context of the word) but tries to embody a lot of the culture anyway for whatever personal reasons. So the character isn't a negative embodiment of African American stereotypes, given he isn't African American at all.
What does that mean? It means the game can be subjected to a shit load of controversy, media attention and outrage, and then get off scot free! It's like if GTA III went through all that media hoopla about how evil it was for letting you run over hookers, only for the media to then discover you couldn't actually run over hookers. This game can get a shitload of kneejerk controversy raised over it, and with that media attention and sales, only for it all to dissipate when people later point out that the facts of the situation are somewhat misrepresented.
So, what do we need to do? It's clear: start an outrage about how racist The Wonderful 101 is :P Cause a stink, write in clear detail how abhorrent we find Platinum's treatment of African Americans, and most importantly, email Kotaku, RPS, Edge and other sites with our feelings on the matter. If we cause enough of a stink, they'll eventually pick up the story and run with it for easy hits. Do that, and the game will cause a shitstorm that will guarantee it sales from now until a thousand Tuesdays hence.
They say you should kill the things you love. In this case, I think we should call the thing we love a bit racist. If Dragon's Crown has taught us anything, it's that bad publicity (deserved or not) is the best kind of publicity. There is no substitute for getting the internet worked up in a frothy mess over something when it comes to sales. In fact, it's the best way to ensure you'll have people lining up for Day 1 purchases.
With that in mind, I'll get the ball rolling:
Grrr, Platinum Games! You dirty racists! Look at this character, with his breakdancing, and his corn rows, and his headphones round his neck. They're probably Beats by Dre, I imagine. Look at all this stereotyping up in this game. Dirty, dirty stereotyping. I bet you feel really clever calling a black character Wonder Eyes Black. Didn't they have the Emancipation Proclamation in Japan? I hope Kotaku writes a very strongly worded article about this, and that it causes a massive shitstorm, and the millions of gamers out there are made aware of this issue, and your game. It's what they deserve, after all. To see this game for what it is, and to be aware of it currently coming to the market soon priced very reasonably and with a swish Pikmin 3 promotion deal in the bag. A racist Pikmin 3 promotion, I have no doubt!