Nintendo’s upcoming cooperative action-adventure game The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes can be played by a single player, but the game’s developers really want it to be enjoyed by three people simultaneously (sorry, 2 players are actually out of luck!). There’s also apparently a lot of clothing collection involved, because fashion is key in the kingdom where the game takes place and what you wear impacts the game. Nintendo even included a dress, the iconic gown worn by Princess Zelda, for fans wanting to express themselves outside of the usual gender norms.
The gaming press was quick to squander any potential for positivity regarding the issue, with IGN quickly digging in on why there was no female character available when given the opportunity to interview game Director Hiromasa Shikata. According to Shikata the story was simply that the heroes were male, which is unsurprising since most Legend of Zelda games focus on a silent, male protagonist usually named Link. Smelling blood in the water, other gaming sites raced to pick up the story. Polygon, Destructoid and GameSpot all lined up pieces about the gender bombshell, which had been dropped on them as if the almost 30 year old series was about controlling a female protagonist named Zelda.
There’s a line between encouraging diversity and respecting the right of artists to tell their own tale. When gaming sites write that the story “requires male heroes” (GameSpot) and infers that blaming gender choices based on how the background of the game has been constructed, there’s no longer a respect for the medium. Why does any game have male or female protagonists? Because that’s how their individual stories were written. It isn’t an excuse, it is simply design.
The games that offer choices to players are usually immersive titles which want the players to put themselves into the game, but Legend of Zelda has traditionally just accepted a player name in terms of customization. There are outfits now! And dresses! But the additions don’t add up to much when the top Google search results are crowing about the lack of female Link clones. Would interest be as high if there were three identical Princess Zeldas working together as the protagonists? Yes, perhaps even even more. Unfortunately, this is not that game.
Not everyone is going to be thrilled that the Nintendo 3DS gets another Zelda title and the cooperative aspect may not please all, but sexism isn’t one of the game’s problems. What are your thoughts?