Following outcry from fans that the upcoming game Tomodachi Life would allow opposite-sex characters to date and marry one another, but not same-sex characters, publisher Nintendo released a statement saying they were“not trying to provide social commentary.” Unfortunately by continuing to limit the options available to players, Nintendo is doing just that.
The issue first came about when players of the Japanese version of the light-hearted life simulator game had figured out a work around that allowed them to pair up their male “Mii” characters (Nintendo’s customizable avatars) with one another. After it was announced that Nintendo would be adapting and releasing the game for a Western audience, players hoped that Nintendo would make same-sex options standard.
A 23-year-old Nintendo fan named Tye Marini even started an online campaign asking Nintendo to making the change to the game’s Western release called #Miiquality, which is currently urging followers to express their desire for a more inclusive game in a Club Nintendo survey. In the video you can watch below, Tye says, "I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé's Mii, but I can't do that…My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé's Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it."
In response to an Associated Press inquiry about the game and the campaign, Nintendo of America Inc. released the following statement:
"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of 'Tomodachi Life.' The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that 'Tomodachi Life' was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary. The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan."
But by telling users that the US release will not include these options despite demand for them, they are very much making a social statement favoring opposite-sex relationships over same-sex ones. In Nintendo’s “playful alternate world,” our relationships do not exist as they do in “real-life,” and LGBT players get the message that we aren’t welcome in that world.
More than that, Nintendo is also setting itself outside of mainstream video games by doing so. Earlier today, GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz told the blog Venture Beat that ““In purposefully limiting players’ relationship options, Nintendo is not only sending a hurtful message to many of its fans and consumers by excluding them, but also setting itself way behind the times. It’s been over a decade since The Sims — the original ‘whimsical and quirky’ life simulator — allowed its users to marry any character they wanted, and many other mainstream and massively popular video games have followed their lead since. Nintendo should do the same.”
The Sims was one of the first games to allow characters of the same gender to enter into romantic relationships with each other, but many others have also done so. Among them are blockbuster game franchises like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Elder Scrolls, and Fable. More recent narrative based games like Grand Theft Auto and The Last of Us have also included openly LGBT characters.
By listening to its users and providing inclusive relationship options, Nintendo would be taking a positive step forward and invite more players to join in. GLAAD has reached out to Nintendo, and will update if there are any further developments.