Flash Game Says Nintendo's Console Manufacturing Supports Slave Labour

Nintendo is again being chastised by activists for not ensuring that minerals mined by slave labour in African conflict areas are not used in the manufacture of their electronics. Nintendo is criticised annually for this, but this time the activists have made a Super Mario game to underscore their point.

It's the work of something called Walk Free, which also recorded a podcast featuring Sasha Lezhnev, whose Enough Project is the one constantly rating Nintendo "dead last" among 24 major electronics firms, worldwide, for their efforts in keeping conflict minerals out of their supply chain. Lezhnev also wrote an op-ed on this subject for Kotaku back in 2010.

Walk Free is particularly incensed that Nintendo won't respond to what it says are more than 400,000 signatures on a petition asking the company "to take credible steps to ensure slave-mined minerals are not in their gaming consoles."

The slave labour in question is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where forced labour — including child labour — mines out resources such as tantalite (or coltan), which is used to make capacitors used in electronics products. Walk Free, The Enough Project and others say using conflict minerals supports the brutal military regime in that county and perpetuates the virtual enslavement of others.

Enough Project's latest report [PDF] found only two companies, according to its standards, more than 50 per cent toward "responsible sourcing on conflict minerals." Microsoft rated at 40 per cent, Sony at 27 per cent. Nintendo was the only company on the list with a score of zero.

“While this parody allows gamers to demand that Nintendo articulate credible steps to ensure slavery is not in its supply chain, slavery is not a game,” Walk Free's Debra Rosen said in a statement. “We’re not mocking the problem, we’re poking fun at the absurdity of Nintendo’s lack of response. Nintendo — as the world’s largest maker of video game machines — should be leading other consumer electronics companies in showing the public that they are working to have a supply chain free of slavery."

Nintendo, in early 2010, responded to another advocacy group, noting that the company itself doesn't purchase any metals as raw materials, and that the company requires its suppliers to comply with Nintendo's procurement guidelines "which stipulate suppliers comply with applicable laws, have respect for human rights and conduct their business in an appropriate and fair manner."

Last year, Nintendo said to CNN that it "outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo products to our production partners and therefore is not directly involved in the sourcing of raw materials that are ultimately used in our products."

I reached out to a Nintendo representative to offer the company a chance to respond here.

This sort of thing is brought up annually, so Nintendo probably shouldn't expect the matter to go away just because they don't comment on it. Forced labour, conflict minerals and African wars are not issues most folks think about every day, but bootstrapping it to the subject of fun things like gadgets and video games certainly helps raise awareness for it, especially the topic lends itself to flash game interpretations.

The game itself, well, it's a rather basic platformer that spoofs Mario and villains found in the series. (Naturally, I died on the first goomba.) Of course, if you want to save your high score, you have to input a name and email address, which gets you on their mailing list. Otherwise to play again, you must reload the page entirely.

Slavery is Not a Game [Walk Free]


Comments

    I am expecting do flak on this but anyway. Yes slavery is wrong and cruel and should be wiped from the Earth. I do not support or condone any form of it as we are all free. But we all wear cloths made on Asian sweat shops (3 have burnt down in Bangladesh killing hundreds). The PRC executes more of its people then anyone else, yet they are our many countries major trading partners, My point is why not address the source of the problem which is these African nations not Nintendo, Sony.

      I have no idea. I think they're going for the angle of hitting these regimes in their wallets, by using guilt/shame to remove their customers. Starve the flame of oxygen, if you will. I have no idea how effective this is, given that when UN sanctions were hitting Iraq their hardest, Saddam was able to build several new palaces by simply inflicting even more suffering on his people... Maybe these other ruthless dictatorships are nicer.

      I think the point is (and I'm not having a go) but by using those clothes or electronics, we actually are supporting it, we are condoning it... I suppose at the very least things like this remind us to feel uncomfortable about our privileges, and maybe think a bit about not buying cheap clothes from Kmart or wherever.

        Good point, but if you're a Nintendo fan you don't really have an option. Buy their console or handheld and "support" slave labour, or don't enjoy their IPs. You have no other option as far as their copyrighted material is concerned, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

      We can put millions of sanctions on these countries, and they will still do what they do. It's just like Syria all this talk, still people are dying. Real action is needed, cutting of the serpents head pardon the pun.

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