About a month ago, Nintendo posted a surprise Nintendo Direct to talk about a game they are releasing in June for the Nintendo 3DS called Tomodachi Life. A strange title with an unmistakable Japanese influence, its previous installment never left its home country, and many were surprised we would be getting such a game at all. However, once the 11 minute presentation had completed, many people were sold on the crazy concept and readying their images of Fry from Futurama to inform the folks in Redmond what they could do with their money.
Fast-forward to about five days ago, and that’s where things began to get controversial, as it was revealed that the U.S. release of the title would not allow for homosexual pairings in its much-touted relationships. Two weeks ago, a fan by the name of 23-year old Tye Marini began a campaign called “#Miiquality” with a video asking that Nintendo make this inclusion, and Nintendo’s response to the Associated Press (via NY Daily News) arguably caused more trouble than if they’d said nothing at all:
“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life,”’ Nintendo of America Inc. said in a statement. “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,” said Nintendo in a following e-mail statement.
“The issue marks not only a cultural divide between Japan,” the article points out, “where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places, but also in the interactive world, where games are often painstakingly ‘localized’ for other regions, meaning characters’ voices and likenesses are changed to suit different locales and customs.”
Further clouding the issue are claims of Nintendo actively patching the game in Japan to prevent an exploit which allows same-sex couples to marry in the game. Rather, the patch was issued to fix an error involving the importation of Miis that would break the game. Reportedly, one could and may still change the gender of a male Mii to a female, allowing the two to form a pairing.
All of this has since led Nintendo of America to issue a follow-up statement/apology/declaration of intent:
We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.
According to Fox News (via Yahoo! News), Marini is pleased with their new response. “I don’t believe they are a homophobic company at all,” he said. “I think that the exclusion of same-sex relationships was just an unfortunate oversight.”
Over on Gamasutra, Christian Nutt further explains how the whole game works, including how the game gives you surprisingly less control than one might imagine:
I married Amy Farrah Fowler. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t have a say in it.
That’s what happens in Tomodachi Life, the new game from Nintendo. You dump your friends, loved ones — and beloved TV characters, if you’re my husband — into it. Once you do, their simulacra begin to act independently, doing stupid things — things which you have little or no control over — and you laugh about it.
That’s the intent, anyway.
I personally support the inclusion of homosexual couples in the game, but at the same time, I can see why it would have missed the mark here. The #Miiquality campaign undoubtedly came along too late in the process of development for Nintendo to be able to do much about it at this point, and they note that they would be unable to include a post-release patch to incorporate it. Some dispute this, but as someone who spent several weeks just trying to get a video editor to allow me to delete a few snippets of dead air, I’ve learned to never presume anything involving any sort of program is necessarily as “simple” as it may seem.
As for when the time comes that I’ll likely be reviewing the game for Mario’s Hat (unless another site/publication would like to pay me to review it for them), I’ll probably address the issue in some way, but for the most part, the review is going to look at the game independent of this. As I see it, this is a time where the consumer will have to choose for themselves how much weight the issue has, and whether it would detract from their enjoyment of the title.