Nintendo’s Tomodachi Collection is a life simulation series only available in Japan. It can be best described as a mix between The Sims and Animal Crossing. Players control their Miis (which they can transfer over from their Wii consoles) as they go about every day tasks in real time. The newest entry in the popular series, Tomodachi Collection: New Life for the 3DS has been making the internet rounds over the last few days as news spread about the game allowing for same-sex marriages.
Quite the big step coming from the same company that recently saw so much controversy over its treatment of gay marriage and child rearing in Fire Emblem: Awakening, right?
Turns out the ability to marry a Mii of the same sex was not only a glitch, but one that was also limited to male characters (sorry lesbians). The glitch also made it possible for male characters to become pregnant. Glitch or not, many Japanese players rejoiced at Tomodachi Collection: New Life‘s accidental equality. The trending topic #homokore, a play on #tomokore (a shortening of Tomodachi Collection), was born and many gamers began tweeting screenshots of their happy little gay Miis living their everyday lives. Some players decided to buy the game because of the glitch. Many news outlets called for Nintendo to embrace the glitch and merely patch it to allow female Miis to get in on the marriage fun.
Well, Nintendo did release a patch….but rather than allow for ladies to marry ladies it just goes ahead eliminates same sex marriage options in the game altogether.
Adding insult to injury, Nintendo said in a statement that players should download the patch if they are experiencing any of the following:
“The inability to boot up the game
Human relations that become strange
The inability to save”
Here we go.
Now it would be one thing if Nintendo had simply done away with the glitch via patch and never said anything about it. At least then they could fall back on the “oh…we were just patching a glitch, not taking a stance. Our bad.” defense. A move like that would be some shady shade, but feigning ignorance at least looks a little better on them. Instead they decide to release a statement on the issue that may seem harmless, but is actually quite telling when you break it down:
The statement directly refers to the issue of same-sex marriage in the game, which indicates that not only are the developers aware of the gay glitch they are also very much aware of how the patch will erase it. And yet the statement itself is worded in such a way that not once does it use the words ‘same sex marriage’ or ‘gay’ or anything that would point to LGBT content of any sort. Okay…so maybe they’re avoiding the gay terminology so as not to come off as “hey, if you’ve got gays in your game download this patch to fix it!” I get that. But then they go on to refer to said same sex relationships as “human relations that become strange.” The Japanese term being used is okashiku ( おかしく) which translates to strange or otherwise funny or somehow off. Add on to all of this the fact that these “strange” relationships are so casually mentioned in the same breathe as booting problems, error messages, and the inability to save data, thus equating them.
That’s right: same-sex marriage is the same as an error message.
Before you all jump on me for that one: I know that Nintendo’s intent likely wasn’t to equate marriage equality with faulty code but the end result speaks for itself. Too often we play devil’s advocate for people whose statements could have easily been devoid of all homophobic subtext had they simply thought a little harder about their syntax.
And even if the wording of the statement weren’t so bizarre, it doesn’t change the fact that should a player download this patch their ability to get gay-married will be eliminated entirely. Some commenters on other sites have said that it’s not Nintendo that is taking a stance but rather the players who can choose to download the patch or not. This might be if the patches to fix actual technical issues like data saving weren’t lumped in with the elimination of marriage equality.
Players do have the choice to not patch their games, in fact many Japanese players are actively deciding to avoid it as both a form of protest and celebration of gay pride, but in doing so they are also choosing to ignore patches that might actually keep the game operational. Had Nintendo offered this patch as a separate release, or if the various other glitches were all connected (which doesn’t seem to be the case), then this argument might hold some water, but instead players are faced with “Do you like gay marriage or do you want a functioning game?”
Not exactly a fair choice.
Then comes the issue of male characters becoming pregnant. As some commenters have noted, this is in itself quite the ‘strange’ glitch, and erasing the pregnancies but not the marriages would be vastly complicated in itself. Recoding entire sections of the game to cater to an admittedly small part of their overall audience to allow for gay marriage but not gay pregnancy (but perhaps to then account for adoption or surrogacy) would take more effort, more time, and more money. But to that I say: Why wasn’t this considered in the first place? And more importantly, if it means pleasing a segment of your demographic then why not put in that extra work? It just means more copies sold down the line.
The gamers that got #homokore trending didn’t even seem to mind men getting preggers. They were happy to be acknowledged at all.
When I think back to the controversy surrounding Fire Emblem: Awakening I can suspend my own homosexual biases long enough to possibly buy the argument that a game set in ancient times wouldn’t have gay marriage options. It’s a stretch but one that at least has some modicum of messy logic to it. With Tomodachi Collection: New Life that already weak argument goes right out the window. Some might say that this game is set in Japan where cultural views of homosexuality are quite different, and that is a valid point to be sure. However Tomodachi Collection: New Life is supposed to reflect the life of the individual player and this move makes the assumption that Japanese gay people aren’t playing the game or that they’re a demographic even worth taking note of. The #homokore trending topic alone should be proof enough to the contrary. It’s even in the character’s names: Mii. If this game gives players the chance to be themselves but then rejects those who are gay, accident or not what message does that send?
This is a game set in the real world where the whole point is to experience the everyday events of modern life, right? Well maybe this is news to our friends at Nintendo but: GAY PEOPLE ARE REAL. Gay marriages are real. Male pregnancy may not be real, but two men living together and raising a family certainly is. Oh and Lesbians are real too, just in case they get forgotten in all this mess. And all of these people play your games, Nintendo.
And let’s not forget that this is a video game. A video game in which every bit of content available was crafted by its designers. If designers decide to put relationship and marriage options into their game and only include heterosexual options, whether they intend to or not, they have taken a stance. All the same, had they allowed the same-sex marriage to remain in the game they’d be taking a stance. If Nintendo’s goal is to remain neutral on this whole affair, and I can only assume it is, then they need to release another patch that eliminates all relationship options in the game.
Sorry Nintendo: Neutrality isn’t an option here and sadly it would seem that, for now, you’ve sided against progress.
Now I’m not calling for a boycott of Nintendo or anything of the sort, in fact I’m quite the big Nintendo supporter most of the time (no matter how frustrating they can be). But just because we love the house that Mario built doesn’t mean we can’t critique it when problematic choices like these are made.
Here we have an accident that happened to bring a lot of happiness to a marginalized group of players, only to have that accident both acknowledged and then eradicated in one fell, poorly worded, swoop. Was this an Orson Scott Card-style homophobic attack? No. But it does show the level of ignorance surrounding LGBT issues still plaguing major developers that desperately needs to be called out. With any hope Nintendo will see how this decision has affected their customers and perhaps it will spark a little change.