Nintendo's new television ads aren't completely terrible, but they do continue a troublesome tradition from the company of codifying women.
Over the last couple of weeks, Nintendo has released a few television ads: the "not a gamer" series for the 3DS and the first TV ad for the Wii U.
The "not a gamer" series features high-profile women extolling the virtues of the 3DS. Sarah Hyland from Modern Family is not a gamer; she's a stylist.
Dianna Agron of Glee is not a gamer; she's an artist.
Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas is not a gamer; she's a coin-collecting champion.
What Nintendo is trying to do here is clear: tap into the market of "non-gamers" by showing that the Nintendo 3DS is accessible to those who find the "gamer" label intimidating. This is not a bad goal, really, and using well-known faces in the US to do so is sure to help shift units off the shelves and into the hands of new customers.
It's the subtext that's troubling. Although individually, this is relatively minor, in the larger gaming community context that continually codifies women as incompetent at gaming, narratives like these simply serve as reinforcement for that stereotype.
In the Hyland and Agron advertisements, the women are playing "girly" games about fashion and art — an attitude that demonstrates the idea that women should primarily play girl-appropriate non-games. We've seen this from Nintendo before in its hand-held console bundles. Even the Douglas advertisement, in which she is playing Mario, one of the most popular video-game franchises of all time, states that she is "not a gamer".
Then there was this Wii U advertisement in the UK, in which a pouty girlfriend wants to use the TV. Everything about her body language and vocal intonation fits into the stereotype of the sulky non-gamer girlfriend who cramps her gamer boyfriend's style.
The 3DS message that Nintendo is trying to convey isn't a terrible one — that you don't have to buy into the gamer mythos in order to enjoy video games — but doing it at the expense of women's credibility as people who play video games is pretty uncool. It would be easy to redress, too: just shoot more ads with men proudly declaring their non-gamer status.
I'll be waiting with bated breath.