Friday, November 8, 2013

RIP Swapnote Part II, enter the pedophiles

Seven days ago, Nintendo unceremoniously pulled the plug on its Swapnote service - severing the bond between millions players and their beloved, scribbling friend, Nikki.

With few details to go on at the time of the announcement, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Big N pulled Swapnote offline after trolls sent pictures of their junk to random passerbys because this is the internet and that sort of thing is just sort of expected.

As it turns out, however, the reality was much, much worse.

Police in Ibaraki Prefecture (just northeast-ish of Tokyo) arrested two middle-aged men who, according to Yahoo! Japan News,  used a 3DS to "meet, assault a 12 year-old girl"... and that the headline excerpt is questionable for a pair of reasons.

Firstly, there's the fact that - grammatically -  it's suggested that the two pedophiles actively assaulted the girl with their gaming handhelds. While what happened was absolutely horrific, I kinda doubt (or at least hope) that wasn't the case.

Secondly, and more importantly, there’s an unnecessary scare factor in blaming the 3DS for the attack.

While it’s inarguable that the girl met her horrific, scumbag attackers (aged 36 and 49) through the 3DS, they easily could have met through more traditional channels like online chatrooms, message boards, or the like.

In fact, it would have been markedly easier to meet a victim though these channels without going through the 3DS's kludge-y interface, but that's besides the point.

Composer James Roach's chiptune eulogy to Swapnote's iconic themesong
If the initial reports of the incident are to be believed, the girl’s parents did everything in their power to keep their daughter safe by disabling the system's online capabilities through parental controls. Somehow, however, the girl was able to circumvent these settings and put the 3DS back online, thus putting her back in touch with her eventual attackers.

Intriguingly, it's never actively mentioned that the poor girl met her attackers via Swapnote (the 3DS does have a web browser, after all) but in light of the disgusting nature of the crime, it seems like Nintendo's reaction was the correct one.

It’s still not clear when or if Nintendo plans to switch Swapnote back on, but it seems likely that we won’t see open online communication on Nintendo hardware again for a good, long while.