Games

The GameCube Is Genderfluid

For Francophones, Nintendo's consoles always have a gender signifier.
February 24, 2017, 4:00pm

I grew up in the suburbs of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada—a very francophone place. And while my passion for video games (and after-school American cartoons) encouraged me to learn English quite early, my group of friends and I still talked about them in French. And in French, everything has a gender. Everything.

Including gaming consoles!

In French, there's no neutral "a" or "the" like in English; articles are either masculine ( un/le) or feminine (une/la). Same goes for pronouns. All the things that already exist (chairs, enthusiasm, pineapples, monomyths) have a gender, so budding francophones learn those as they go. But when a new object is brought into the world, a gender must be assigned to it. The default being masculine, I grew up playing on un Nintendo, le Genesis, un Super Nintendo

But along the way, something happened. These objects were no longer unique; there was now a word for the type of thing they were: a video game console. And in French, console is feminine. Thus, the great console gender shift happened: I moved on to playing on une Playstation (and 2, and 3, and so on), la Dreamcast, une Xbox… but for some reason the Nintendo consoles lagged behind in popular parlance. In Quebec, you were still playing on un Nintendo 64 and un Gameboy Advance because they were slight variations on existing masculine names; old habits die hard. And so, when the GameCube came out, it sounded different enough to finally jump onto the console bandwagon; and with that, every new system coming out was feminine. Well, almost.

Header and Pikmin screen courtesy of Nintendo

Sometimes my friends and I would be playing a game on le GameCube, but at other times we'd be firing up la GameCube too. Some folks I know always referred to the GameCube as masculine, while others were on the feminine train since day one. Some, like me, have been shifting between the two to this day. The circumstances surrounding its coming out left it in a unique situation.

In a world of binary consoles, the GameCube is genderfluid.

Today, the effects of the console gender shift have reached across the timeline: by all appearances, every console before the GameCube has transitioned to feminine articles, going back to 8-bit systems and beyond. History will remember me playing on une Nintendo, la Genesis, and so on; I've adjusted my article use appropriately. But the GameCube remains fluid. Even now, official sources use different genders: GameCube manuals refer to the console with feminine articles, while the official support website uses masculine ones. Just one more reason why this beloved little console holds a special place in my heart.

Incidentally, the upcoming Switch is already well-prepared to be referred to with feminine articles, at least in Quebec—une switch is commonly used as a loanword here instead of the proper French word interrupteur…which is itself a masculine word. And I think that's wonderfully poetic.