After Outcry, Nintendo Says Paper Mario: Color Splash Doesn’t Reference ‘Hate Campaign’

After Outcry, Nintendo Says Paper Mario: Color Splash Doesn’t Reference ‘Hate Campaign’

Nintendo has publicly denied that a joke from an E3 demo for the upcoming Wii U game Paper Mario: Color Splash is a reference to a harassment campaign that targeted game designer Zoe Quinn. The company says it’s a nod to the Watergate scandal from the 1970s.

The jokes drew scrutiny yesterday as they were passed around on social media. Quinn herself tweeted about them, saying: “what the fuck did I ever do to you, Nintendo, that y’all had to make my suffering into a fucking joke.”

While some observers saw this only as a nod to Watergate, taken in one context, they appeared to be a possible reference to the early days of Quinn’s online harassment.

Without going completely down the rabbit hole, some took “five fun guys” as reference to attacks involving Quinn’s personal life in the winter of 2014. Those attacks involved a disturbing meme about the Five Guys food franchise. It’s easy to see, then, why one might take the next screen’s mention of “shufflegate” as a sly riff on GamerGate, the amorphous group that was ultimately born from Quinn’s harassment.

Nintendo has categorically denied that the jokes were about Quinn.

“As many have observed,” the company said in a statement, “when viewed in its entirety the Nintendo Treehouse: Live segment for Paper Mario: Color Splash from E3 includes two jokes separated by commentary and gameplay that have no relation to each other. One joke has to do with Watergate, while the other is a nod to the Fungi Fun Guys from Mario Party 8. It was brought to our attention today that these two jokes have been spliced together and misconstrued as a crude reference to an online hate campaign.”

In Watergate, five men were arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. (A group called the “Watergate Seven”, which included two aides to President Nixon, were ultimately tried against a judge for the break-in.) “Shufflegate: Exposed” could be a weird reference to a 2010 book called Watergate: Exposed or, more likely, nodding to how big scandals are treated in newspaper headlines.

You can watch the sequence in question below. If you click play, it should pick up during Mario’s encounter with the Fungi Fun Guys group of toad characters. Though the screenshots suggest the dialogue takes place back-to-back, the pieces are separated by a few minutes of dialogue and action, as the toads admit to tricking Mario.

And here’s the Fungi Fun Guys featured in Mario Party 8, released in 2007.

It’s not without precedent for Nintendo of America to reference internet culture in their localisations, a point of criticism in the past. Take this particularly egregious example from The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes:

Image Credit: Gamexplain

Image Credit: Gamexplain

That’s a nod to the doge meme, if you somehow missed that one.

“While we typically do not speak on localisation matters, we feel the need to confirm that these jokes are not linked in the game and were never intended to be linked,” the company continued. “Nintendo firmly rejects the harassment of individuals in any way and was surprised to learn that its gameplay was misinterpreted in this manner.”

Watergate happened in 1972. GamerGate began in 2014. It’s easy to see why Internet savvy folks might conclude Nintendo chose more topical event.

It’s the job of localisers to understand the context of their translations. Yes, Watergate kicked off the “gate” phenomenon, but GamerGate is fresh in people’s minds. Though the placement of the screenshots on social media proved more provocative than what’s actually in Paper Mario, if you’re familiar with gaming’s tumultuous events the last few years, it’s easy to look at Nintendo’s dialogue choices and come away confused and upset. Nintendo’s intentions are one thing, how they’re interpreted is another.

Disclosure: Quinn formerly dated Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson.


  • So to make the tenuous connection to “Gamergate” work, they had to pretend that the 2 screens aren’t separated by minutes of other dialogue and action – well done internet outrage machine.

    References to ‘-gate” have been around for decades, the people looking for things to get angry about on the web appear to have memory spans of about 5 minutes.

  • Has everyone forgot Watergate ever happened, arguably the creation point of the “gate” meme/news tool

    I’m sorry, some people just seem like they need to be victims, any time I ever see “somethinggate” I first think of the Watergate scandal

    • Except that this is addressed in the article, which you may have noticed if you had actually read it before commenting.

      • To be fair, I had the same feeling after reading.

        You can’t help but shake your head really, the whole affair just opens the hornets nest again, making it impossible to get through the voices from two insanely complex sides.

  • The five guys gamergate “thing” was a Watergate reference.

    Watergate is so well known that it’s even in my Sony autocorrect dictionary.

    Why would anyone think that Nintendo, the gaming company the entire internet reviles for being too kiddy, would be making a gamergate joke? You can’t have it both ways and claim to be objective.

    It’s bizarre that Quinn would jump to such a ludicrous conclusion. I get that bad shit happened to her, but come on now… It’s Mario.

    Gamergate should be dead, but we keep finding new, ever more tenuous ways to drag it into the light.

    In other news, I’m looking forward to this game. The last trailer did cool things. I also loved the story and writing in SPM, and despite the fairly desolate 3d sections I rate it equal to TTYD.

    • Thank you

      It’s Nintendo, they make Pokemon, one of those Pokemon is a keyring.

      I do not see them making horrible statements on current/ongoing hot topic issues.

      **Edit** I too am looking forward to this, I just want a new Paper Mario!!

      • Sometimes Nintendo’s silence says far more than anything they say.

        In this case though it’s a lame mushroom pun and an even lamer x-gate joke which is pretty on course for Nintendo writing.

  • Let just stop putting gate on everything. We’ve had gategate. That should have been it’s death.

  • Very, very difficult to post about, let alone report on this. Klepek should be applauded, though.

    There’s no book or really any written rules on how to ‘feature’ this sort of information – it’s come from a social media post, that’s gone viral. Quinn’s a real person, the people sharing it are as well. It has everything to do with what Nintendo terms it as – a hate campaign.

    Gamergate, as Patrick says, is amorphous. It’s not to be referred to as a ‘they’ but rather as an ‘it’.

    It supposedly counts either Japanese script writers or American Treehouse localisers among its numbers now, if you read some of the posts and conclusions people have made. That is, again, as mentioned, a rabbit hole.

    While I don’t exactly know how it was sent, why is there no link to Nintendo’s statement? I don’t expect it to have been tweeted out, because then it’s a company itself wading into the maelstrom.

    What doesn’t help Quinn or Nintendo or anything in this mess are the bloody renegade so-called ‘allies’. Taking a recent example – the Britain remain/exit thing. Those who think the former – they clearly do so from a position of progression, while those in the latter camp take a decidedly more conservative view of what they want their very identify to be in the world.

    On either side of that debate, you have the fringe brigades who want to watch things burn – they are only in it to piss of someone or a group of people (like Trump supporters who love to watch everybody that comes into contact with him squirm).

    For one reason or another, Nintendo has attracted a _lot_ of people who have taken out a blood feud against it. Yes videogame companies have fanboys. On the other extreme side of the spectrum, however – there are some wallies who absolutely sound like GGers when they post on social media about entertainment corporations. Who does that help in the end?

  • I was eating a peach when something bad happened to me, and there’s a character called peach in the game, so Nintendo must be having a dig at me.

    Silly example, but seriously… Can we please stop? We live in an age of extreme narcissism, where everyone is excessively self-referential and determined to find offence in everything, and of course never at fault for anything. Please, just stop.

    • As opposed to pre-modern life? Where the only people allowed to get offended by things (or really say or do anything at all) were straight white men? Oh for the days of yore!

  • I sympathise with Quinn and the way she (and other women in game development and writing) have been attacked by GG since they started pounding the “ethics in gaming journalism” drum but really, there were a number of illogical hoops that had to be jumped through to make this about her. While I don’t really want to call her out for seeking attention, she wouldn’t be receiving any over this if she hadn’t chosen to interpret this as an attack and take offense.

    To add another layer of irony she claimed that there were people saying every time she gets hurt she links to her Patreon so people can give her money for her projects. Of course she had to publically mention her Patreon in order to dispute this claim which really only undermined the whole point, but that’s a tricky line to walk. When Nintendo disputed the claim she took one last opportunity to plug her projects and VA work before announcing she’d be taking a “long hiatus” from social media because this whole incident has been so stressful.

    • This is the first comment in this article that isn’t head-in-the-sand tone deaf about what has actually happened to the women unlucky enough to be caught up in this.

      The sub-reddit that was created to let Gamergate congregate and recruit people who still remotely believe the pretense (pretence?) of ethics is literally called Kotaku In Action.

      It’s only purpose is TO BE AN INTERNET OUTRAGE MACHINE.

      That’s where they point out ‘evil SJWs’ like the mob chasing Homer Simpson and contribute to what amounts to online terrorism.

  • Oh, so calling ‘outrage machine’ here is the equivalent to yelling ‘pc gone mad’ on FB. Righto…

  • Btw, have you ever noticed when an article that even comes remotely close to women in gaming, the comment section is inundated with bonehead commentary from the ‘Herald Sun reader’ shock troops using ‘guest’ accounts. Funny how that happens…

    • And perfectly reasonable exchanges between longtime, legitimate commenters like you and I get deleted asap!

      • I’ve deleted a couple of comment threads that were either veering off-topic or straight-up personal attacks. Even if the people being raged against have terrible opinions, personal attacks are still in violation of our community guidelines.

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