Nintendo has found itself in another controversy, but the company is claiming innocence.
During the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles last week, Nintendo streamed gameplay demos and more via its Treehouse: Live shows. The steam’s name comes Nintendo’s Treehouse group, which handles localization for the company. In one of these segments, the company showed off Paper Mario: Color Splash. On June 22, Zoë Quinn, a game developer who was the first target of the Gamergate group (which has frequently targeted woman in the industry with harassment and threats), showed two screenshots from the segment that seemed to poke fun at her situation.
what the fuck did I ever do to you, Nintendo, that y'all had to make my suffering into a fucking joke pic.twitter.com/8It2z8X7bH
— teënage shirtbag (@UnburntWitch) June 22, 2016
Without getting into the ugly specifics, Gamergate originally attacked Quinn and mocked her with references to Five Guys Burger and Fries, the fast food chain. The images above, with the five Toads lined up and the “Shufflegate: Exposed” remark, seem like a reference to the unfortunate mess. Nintendo, however, claims in a statement sent to GamesBeat that it did not intend to invoke Gamergate. Instead, it was referencing the Watergate scandal.
“As many have observed, 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,” Nintendo noted in its statement. “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.”
Nintendo came under fire earlier this year after it fired Treehouse employee Alison Rapp, another frequent target of hate and harassment. Nintendo claimed that her termination had nothing to do with her detractors and was instead because she had a second job that was “in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture.”
You can watch the original gameplay demo for Color Splash below. The part with the five Toads starts around the 20 minute mark.
Edit: We originally noted that Nintendo told GamesBeat it fired Rapp for having a second job. More specifically, it was because Nintendo claimed Rapp had a second job that was in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture.