Nintendo targets Japanese mums

mum and daughter playing dsForget flowers and cards, in Japan many mothers will be waking up to receive a games console today, reports Wired.

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, Tokyo’s subways and billboards are plastered with advertisements for chocolate and flowers. But one of the most visible ads, running every few minutes on the TV monitors inside subway cars, suggests that you give your mom Nintendo’s portable videogame system and load it with software like Nintendogs, Brain Age or an interactive cookbook called 1000 Recipes.

I’m split. On the one hand, it’s great that the games industry is finally waking up to the fact its customer base includes women – and women of all ages, at that. But on the other hand, why stereotype those players by trying to sell them “interactive cookbooks” instead of proper games?

For years, the industry completely ignored female players, and yet that didn’t stop us buying or playing plenty of games. So, frankly, it’s just insulting to be targeting those same customers with this type of thing.

Magazines like Sutekina Okusan (Fantastic Wife), aimed at middle-aged housewives, advertise Nintendo DS games like Hamusutā to Kurasou, which translates to, “Let’s Spend Time With Hamsters.”

Now, I must admit, there’s something intriguing about a game which involves… spending time with hamsters. But it’s still incredibly patronising. And, in some cases, these games just seem to perpetuate the same rigid gender roles as everything else:

Self-improvement games comprise another genre aimed at the female audience — titles like My Happy Manner Book, an interactive Miss Manners-style guide to social situations. Nintendo has had great success with a pair of interactive cookbooks: Cooking Navi has sold more than 800,000 copies, and 1000 Recipes more than 300,000. A game from Sega for young girls called Love and Berry has sold 1 million-plus copies.

Photo by Matt Brett, shared under a Creative Commons license