These days, to make a game about pandas is somewhat risky. There are various reasons behind this. Though pandas are still a large financial draw, they are declining in popularity and have been since the late nineties. It could be because people have become somewhat jaded by the facade of pandas. Are they, one would ask, cute and cuddly, or are they the bears who I shoot for sport in my local dump? They cannot be both. The second, possibly more interesting reason is that pandas appeal to a younger demographic. Hell, I remember when I was a young boy and went to kindergarten with a panda lunch box. All the other boys thought I was so cool, until I opened up the lunch box and they realized that I was vegan. Being vegan, in those days, meant it was somewhat hypocritical to like pandas. Sure, pandas eat bamboo and everything, but are they really vegan friendly?
Many people felt that pandas were corrupting nice young boys with their racial slurs and their glorified violence. When my classmates saw that I was, ostensibly, a pussy, they abandoned me for the more manly boys, who would talk all day about the numerous subtleties of the word “boobs.” Soon I, like many boys, gave up their love for pandas. It probably happened when I turned ten. It was then that I realized that the expectations of manhood that pandas so willingly propagate were simply unrealistic. I was like a girl in a Judy Bloom novel, except that instead of successfully integrating into society, I became a revolutionary. I silent revolutionary, but a revolutionary all the same. I tore up all my posters of pandas, cancelled my subscription to Panda Welfare Magazine, and started pumping iron. Soon, I was a successful businessman with several children. I look back on it now and realize that pandas were holding me back, keeping me from fulfilling my potential, from progressing, from evolving. So I changed.
And now, when I play games like WWF Raw, a game centred upon a panda named Mick who must collect as much raw bamboo as his little tummy-pouch can carry, I can’t help but feel a very substantial amount of cognitive dissonance. Yes, I can still “have fun” with the game, but never again with the wide-eyed wonder that accompanied my childhood experiences. There is, thus, no nostalgic value to games involving pandas, at least for me. Probably because I have too many bamboo shoots up my ass, though.