Bravely Second's "Tomahawk Swap" is a Good Move

Bravely Second's "Tomahawk Swap" is a Good Move

The issue isn't that Natives shouldn't be in games, but rather they should be represented correctly.

Like its predecessor, Bravely Default, the upcoming Nintendo 3DS RPG Bravely Second: End Layer is a game of jobs and costume changes.

But when Bravely Second comes to the West later this year (February 26 for Europe, February 27 for Australia, and April 15 for North America -- boo), players will find the "Tomahawk" class and costume has undergone some hardcore tailoring to become the cowboy-like "Hawkeye" class.

It's doubtful the switch will have any effect on how the Hawkeye class plays. The Tomahawk class is new to Bravely Second, and it primarily involves long-range attacks. Presumably the Hawkeye class does a lot of gun-slinging, another long-range activity.

Nevertheless, we live in interesting social and political times, so some people are upset about the change and are citing it as another example of "political correctness gone mad" (especially since the controversy over Nintendo's removal of certain content in Fire Emblem Fates hasn't quite cooled).

Square-Enix hasn't made an official statement over the change from Tomahawk to Hawkeye, but a glance at the Tomahawk costume reveals feathers, war paint, buckskins, and other accessories out of a '60s Hollywood costume box. Not the world's most sensitive portrayal of Natives, in other words.

Is Bravely Second's Tomahawk costume the worst stereotype to afflict North America's aboriginal tribes? Of course not -- especially not when Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians is still alive and well. But that doesn't mean we can't do better.

The reason the Tomahawk class might be regarded as stereotypical is because feathers, buckskins, and tomahawks are seen as "one size fits all" symbols for aboriginals -- a group of peoples whose culture is still alive, still active, and still belittled. The Anti-Defamation League goes into more detail about Native American stereotypes, and yes, the Tomahawk class's wardrobe is present.

It's already been argued that the erasure of the Tomahawk class means less representation for aboriginals. Representation is important, and when you're utterly left out of the culture you consume, sometimes you're happy to take whatever's handed to you.

But, again, that doesn't mean we can't do better. And many aboriginals have made it clear that random feathers and warpaint don't cut it for representation anymore.

There are still over 500 Native groups across the United States alone, and they're hardly a hive-mind that utterly agree and disagree on social issues as a collective. However, it's a safe bet that the majority would appreciate being represented sensitively in video games (and other media).

Can it be done? It can. Aboriginals are far from "off limits" in games. They simply deserve the research necessary to prevent making a mockery (however unintentionally) out of their traditions.

For instance, Killer Instinct's Chief Thunder (now just Thunder) was completely re-designed for the 2013 reboot of the game. Microsoft interacted with the Nez Perce tribe in the Pacific northwest to mold Thunder's character, movements, and costume. He still has feathers, warpaint, and battle-jewelry, but they're all unique to the tribe he belongs to.

When Ubisoft made Assassin's Creed III, they consulted with Mohawks (the tribe protagonist Connor belongs to) in order to ensure they weren't doing anything disrespectful.

"There are people from all over the world on our team, but we’re very aware that we’re still pretty much a bunch of early-middle-aged white guys," Alex Hutchinson, Assassin’s Creed III‘s creative director, said. "We didn’t want to make mistakes, even well-intentioned mistakes."

And then there's Never Alone, a platforming game that revolves around the fables passed down by Alaska's native peoples. Never Alone actually aims to teach outsiders about these tribes' lifestyles, not just through the game itself, but through supplementary text and video.

In fact, it would be ideal if Square-Enix adjusted Bravely Second's Tomahawk class to make its costume fit in with a specific tribe (after proper consultations are made, of course). This is probably impractical for several reasons, so the company opted to change the class altogether.

Regardless of how you feel about the switch, you have to admit gunslingers are pretty cool in any context. All that chasing men in black across the desert and whatnot.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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