So as I was capturing images for my Splatoon 2 review, I noticed that a couple of the miiverse-esque posts in the game were about trans positivity and trans inclusiveness. The more I looked, the more I found and I started wondering why? Why was there so much wonderful trans positivity in a game that, on the surface, does not immediately seem like a space for trans people due to its lack of acknowledgement of queerness, let alone transness, and the fact that it comes from the traditionally conservative Nintendo?
In my mind, there are three main reasons why Splatoon 2 has become a trans and LGBTQA+ inclusive space despite its lack of promotion of queerness: it’s deep and inherent themes and designs based on fluidity, the fact that it has all the ingredients to be a transgressive and social-norms-bucking space and backlash from these trans/queer positive posts that in turn fuel even more trans/queer positive posts.
As Steeb quite aptly points out in that post in the image above, the game is inherently about fluidity of one’s form as shown through its mechanic of transforming from a squid into a kid. In addition to that you can change your gender, appearance and clothing whenever you want in the game, thus allowing for freer choice in one’s gender presentation. With this inherent liquidity and focus on transformation, I think the game becomes more attractive to trans people. This is because in my mind something that relies heavily on transformation will always resonate with trans people as I feel that transforming into what you want to be is a core part of the trans experience, at least for me it is. Therefore as the game focuses upon fluidity of expression and form, it becomes more attractive to those who would benefit from it, namely queer and trans gamers.
Another reason why these posts might be prevalent currently, and to me the most likely and impactful reason, is that Splatoon 2 components to be a transgressive space that goes up against societal norms, and therefore leading the game and it’s community to be attractive to queer and trans players. I want to preface this section by saying that being trans and queer is sadly still transgressive to society at large, but this does not mean I think either of those things are bad; if you haven’t figured it out by now I am queer and trans myself so obviously I don’t think they are negative things, just that society deems them transgressive.
The first way I think Splatoon 2 has all the trappings to be a transgressive space is through the simple fact that it is made by Nintendo. Now I know I said that Nintendo is usually conservative, but I mean in this in an overt social sense in that they never really talk about queer or trans issues or people. Rather Nintendo is transgressive in their designs, aesthetics and general philosophies about gaming thus offering an alternative to the mainstream video game industry which tends to be exceedingly straight, white, cis and male. Therefore as an entry to a relatively new IP from an already unorthodox company, Splatoon 2 quite easily becomes attractive to those who aren’t the typical figure mainstream game companies market and make their products for.
Another way in which the game makes itself into queer friendly transgressive space is through its similarities to another such space: Tumblr. With its bright and diverse use of colours, minimalist-youth orientated fashion and aesthetic as well as its dadaist and slightly absurd humour, the game quite clearly can be seen to be attractive to Tumblr users who tend to be more queer and trans friendly.
Finally, the fact that the developers wanted the original, thus the sequel as well, to have a urban/youth flair to it surely must explain why it has become a transgressive space and so trans and queer friendly. This is as, in my mind, youth culture does tend to lean towards things that buck societal-norms and more so in urban spaces due to the large density of people, thus a larger chance of meeting other people of similar minds. Therefore as the game emulates urban youth culture which itself has a chance to be very queer and trans, it becomes a space for trans positivity.
Sadly, some pretty shitty people have started to post negative and hateful responses to these posts, but to their detriment, even more trans positive posts have appeared to drown out the negativity. Thus another reason why there are so many trans and queer positive posts in Splatoon 2 is due to the fact that there was some pretty gross negative backlash to the initial batch of positive posts.
All those reasons aside, I have some anecdotal and personal reasons why I think that Splatoon 2 has become a trans and queer positive space. I mostly think that the aesthetic of the game is quite similar to what I informally see as queer fashion and culture i.e. colourful hair, minimalist urban clothing, shaved hair and so on and so forth. As the game itself is emulating queer youth culture, whether deliberately or not, therefore it’s community becomes a queer and trans positive space, which as a queer and trans youth I can safely say is a reason why I wanted the game in the first place.
In short, the game just has all the ingredients to be a space that attracts queer and trans youths through its inherent fluidity and liquidity in its design and characters, to its queer-and-trans-friendly-transgressive nature, it’s no wonder that the game has become a lovely space for trans and queer gamers to play a nice and fun game about squirting ink everywhere.