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April 11
2014

Tomodachi Life Comes Stateside! (Still No Same-Sex Relationships)

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Nintendo surprised everyone yesterday by announcing the release of Tomodachi Life (Tomodachi Collection: New Life in Japan) in both Europe and the US this summer. With a hilariously self-referential new Nintendo Direct, Jack Trenin announced the game’s June 6th release date alongside an overview of the game’s features. This would appear to be a part of Nintendo’s previously announced plans to release popular titles that have yet to be localized (like Inazuma Eleven) outside of Japan.

Any game where my love interest can be stolen by a musclebound Reggie Fils-Aime or a scuba diving Satoru Iwata is a must-buy, let’s be honest.

But before we get too excited, let’s not forget Tomodachi Life‘s infamous ‘Gay Marriage Glitch‘.

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In case you missed it:

Tomodachi Life is a life-simulator game (of sorts) where players populate an island with their Miis and pay witness as they go about their daily activities, have quirky dreams, and build relationships with each other. Miis can get into fights or even fall in love and get married. They can even raise families! They could even get gay-married. Sort of.

The ability to form same-sex unions was reported by many news sources as being part of a glitch that was later patched.

Some Japanese players got the hashtag #homokore trending with screenshots of their happy gay Miis spending time together.

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Nintendo patched the bug but also issued a strangely worded statement on the whole thing that upset some folks. In particular the “…relationships that become strange” part, referring in part to male-looking Miis than appeared pregnant, rubbed people the wrong way.

In light of the game’s localization, games writer Wesley Copeland reached out to Nintendo to clear up the situation and received the following response from an unnamed representative who cleared up the whole thing:

“Two developments occurred that led to some misunderstanding about this,” Nintendo tells me via email.

“”First, as a result of a mistake in comprehension of Japanese, some people misinterpreted Japanese reports and fan activity and thought same-sex relationships were possible.

“This occurred because they saw Japanese fans posting game screenshots of male and female Mii characters, where female Mii characters were designed and clothed in such a way that they looked male. Since these explanations were made in Japanese by the Japanese fans who posted the images, the Japanese people do not have such a misunderstanding.”

“Second, a critical bug occurred in the original Japanese version of the game which made it impossible for the player to continue the game,” Nintendo continues.

“When Mii characters were imported from a Wii console, or the previous game in the Tomodachi Collection series on Nintendo DS (which was only released in Japan), into the Nintendo 3DS version, it could lead to scrambled Mii data within the Nintendo 3DS version.

“This could result in different Miis being randomly assigned to existing in-game relationships, such as already married Mii, or as just one other example, giving the appearance of same-sex relations. Because this bug caused the inability for the player to save the game data and continue the game, we released a patch.”

So, as it turns out, the gay marriage glitch was actually just a regular glitch that occasionally caused what appeared to be same-rex relationships, that confused certain kinds of save data. The #homokore trend saw players simply making their Miis appear male or female in order to trick the system and create at least the visual of a same-sex romance. Because the separate issue of in-game bugs also could cause the appearance of some same-sex relationships, the two issues were viewed as being connected.

That’s fair. I can admit to my own overreaction in my last piece, though I still hold that the ‘strange’ wording of their original statement on the matter was problematic and could have been better articulated. I suppose it’s easy to get frustrated when small mistakes like these are made, because they just keep on happening. And of course this is coming from Nintendo; a company that can’t seem to make up its mind about whether or not inclusive representation is something they support.

Players have always been able to customize their Miis (which are required to be only male or female) in non-conforming ways. All hair and facial options are available to both sexes, with the only difference between the two being a skirt or a shirt. My Willam Belli Mii is a girl (so she can have a skirt) but can still have her signature five o’clock shadow.

In Animal Crossing: New Leaf girls can wear boys clothes and vice versa, even though the Abel Sisters always make a surprised comment about how bold your fashion choices are.

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As our own Chris discovered, the newly released Disney Magical World will let boys wear princess gowns without any question from shop keeper Daisy Duck.

Thus far, while still subscribing to gender binary, Nintendo has been pretty open to letting people appear and act how they like in these sorts of titles. But then we go and look at the Fire Emblem controversy, where same-sex options not only don’t exist but are explicitly denied in the game’s manual.

A game company has a responsibility to make sure their product is functional. Nobody is debating that. But why are same-sex relationships not a part of the game to begin with? Why were they only made possible because players tricked the system?

Perhaps we can look to genre? Fire Emblem is a story-driven RPG, so perhaps same-sex relations don’t fit that story. It’s a lazy cop-out but one I can wrap my head around. Mostly. Disney Magical World, Animal Crossing, and Tomodachi Life on the other hand are all supposed to be about representing oneself within an open game world. The stories are about the players, not fictional characters. Unlike Marth and Chrom of Fire Emblem, created by someone who decided they were straight, the protagonists of these games ARE the players! Tomodachi Life, by including relationship mechanics but limiting the options therein, is the first in this genre to not let the players truly be whom they want to be.

I fall back on what I said about the game last year: If a game is going to claim that it’s about daily life, and goes so far as to include relationship building options for otherwise fully customizable characters, then the game should include same-sex options. Otherwise the game, whether intentionally or not, is actively disenfranchising an entire segment of its audience.

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And being disenfranchised is not fun. Certainly not in line with the kind of silly fun that the rest of Tomodachi Life is offering.

Some might argue that cultural views on homosexuality are different in Japan than in the US or Europe, which is a valid point and an easy one to make when considering why same-sex options weren’t included in the original game. So will Nintendo make any changes for its Western releases, in places where same-sex issues are actively discussed, especially in light of the #homokore controversy?

Copeland got an answer to that, as well:

” “Same-sex relationships were not possible in the original software,” Nintendo points out, presumably hinting that no changes have been made in that department.”

It’s unclear if female-looking male or male-looking female Miis will still be a way for gaymers to sneak around the game’s heterocentric design, but one would imagine that they will be considering *that* never caused any technical errors in the first place. Fingers crossed.

Will I be buying Tomodachi Life? You bet I will be! The game looks like an absolute blast, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my Lady Gaga Mii interacts with my RuPaul and Darth Vader ones. It sounds utterly fabulous!

Am I disappointed that the Mii that looks like me won’t be forming a relationship with the Mii that looks like my boyfriend? At least not without some in-game trickery and intentional regendering to achieve it? Yes! Not enough to boycott the game or call Nintendo homophobic, but enough to feel like the hobby that I love still doesn’t respect the way that I love.

Tomodachi Life for the 3DS and 2DS makes its way to the US and Europe on June 6th.

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About Sal Mattos

(Managing Editor and Writer) Sal lives in the beautiful city of San Francisco where he splits his time between playing games, watching copious amounts of television, and occasionally going outside. He has written for GayGamer and Gamezone. He studied creative writing and theatre at SFSU, and when not gaming can most likely be found on stage somewhere. You can keep up with him on twitter @salmattos

8 Responses

  1. avatar CPFace says:

    Hmmm. I think I have a different take-away from Nintendo’s statement than you did.

    The way I’m reading it, it seems like there are two separate issues. One is that fans of the game were giving their male-looking Miis a female gender assignment (and vice versa) in order to create screenshots that made it look like the game allowed homosexual relationships.

    The second issue is that there was a bug in the software that would scramble Mii data if you tried to import it from certain sources. This scrambled data was making it impossible to save the game, and so it had to be patched. It sounds like it also had the consequence of altering the data that the game uses to track relationships. So it was less a matter of the glitch allowing characters to pursue homosexual relationships and more a matter of the glitch messing up established relationships when you tried importing new characters?

    It seems like overseas news sources were confused by these two issues, since both are ways of getting around the hetero-centric programming. It sounds like Nintendo has only taken steps to change the second issue and not the first. So it should be possible to create a homosexual relationship if the involved parties are willing to fudge their genders accordingly. Frankly, from a programming point of view, I don’t see how they could easily stop you. (I don’t know how strongly-gendered the clothing options are though. I haven’t actually played the game.)

    So I don’t think that the issue is Nintendo discovered a gay bug and squashed it to keep gay from happening. Which is relatively encouraging.

    So what about the question of why don’t they allow homosexual hookups in the first place?

    And… I dunno. I’ve dabbled a bit in making simulation games where relationships are an issue, and I’ve found the issue kind of curious. Again, I haven’t played the game, but it seems like the characters have some degree of autonomy. Do you just declare that all of the characters are bisexual? Do you give them a flag or a sliding bar or something to indicate where their preference lies? Does the player decide, or does the system?

    These aren’t rhetorical questions to dismiss the idea. I actually get kind of stuck on them.

    Western culture is coming around to the idea that same-sex relationships are all right, but for whatever reason, we’re still kind of hung up on the idea of exposing THE CHILDREN to it. Somehow, we’re able to describe the fact that mommies and daddies live together and there’s a baby in mommy’s tummy in a way that’s appropriate for their age and development, but we don’t think we can broach the subject of two mommies or two daddies without scarring them with advanced sexual education.

    So… if Nintendo is going to broach subjects like relationships, marriage, and pregnancy in their video game, then yeah. Any target audience who’s mature enough to handle that should be able to understand that there are different kinds of relationships in the world. And they should be able to populate their little pocket worlds any way they want.

    I guess I’m just so used to being discluded when it comes to these kinds of issues that it’s hard for me to be THAT surprised or disappointed. :P I’m looking forward to the western release regardless.

    • avatar CharlieDLuzon says:

      “So what about the question of why don’t they allow homosexual hookups in the first place?

      And… I dunno. I’ve dabbled a bit in making simulation games where relationships are an issue, and I’ve found the issue kind of curious. Again, I haven’t played the game, but it seems like the characters have some degree of autonomy. Do you just declare that all of the characters are bisexual? Do you give them a flag or a sliding bar or something to indicate where their preference lies? Does the player decide, or does the system?

      These aren’t rhetorical questions to dismiss the idea. I actually get kind of stuck on them.

      Western culture is coming around to the idea that same-sex relationships are all right, but for whatever reason, we’re still kind of hung up on the idea of exposing THE CHILDREN to it. Somehow, we’re able to describe the fact that mommies and daddies live together and there’s a baby in mommy’s tummy in a way that’s appropriate for their age and development, but we don’t think we can broach the subject of two mommies or two daddies without scarring them with advanced sexual education.”

      Heres an interesting factoid that I would like to add on to this, if people haven’t noticed this before but In the console versions of The Sims, 1st to 3rd, and this is especially prevalent in its Nintendo ports up until the 3rd generation where all consoles have this restriction for some odd reason, when you attempt your sim to flirt with a sim with the same gender, he or she outright rejects you and there is no other way to even purse same sex romance AT ALL in the console versions, which I find pretty odd considering the fact that in the main PC games the option is there, why is it omitted in the console versions who knows?

      Of course going by what you are saying about introducing the idea of openness to the children, that’s probably why console games (at least in Nintendos case with ports) remove such an option simply because children make up the market in owning a console….not just Nintendo’s either, every one of them that is in sale past or present and let me tell you, the moment there is an option that the little boy or girl sees, presses the button to pursue it and if mommy or daddy doesn’t like what they just saw, a mass hysteria ensues, people just aren’t sure about the reactions it will cause, its 5050 and I’m pretty sure Nintendo doesn’t want mass media to cause controversy over something so redundant. Political Suicide I suppose e.e

      I personally think the only way Nintendo would embrace the option of same sex romance in the video games going to their consoles would be if the ESRB has a descriptor that says the option exists….if people actually LOOKS at those things but hey, it’s something I guess e.e

      • avatar Monster_Hunter2882 says:

        I had The Sims 2 on Game Cube and was able to get 2 men to marry each other in that. I don’t think any of the E rated Sims games have same sex romance though.

  2. avatar Ann says:

    Geez… It was a bug, no “we at Nintendo don’t like this”. If you are not happy with it, just don’t buy it. That’s your biggest power as customer.

    As fot the Fire Emblem issue: Get over that as weel. Getting a child is the highest Eank of relationship in the game. That is the games system. You just cannot get a child with two guys or girls in the old fashioned way. If this stuff does stop you from enjoying a game, you should get another hobby. It’s just games and that stuff most peple shitstorm about is not even the heart of the game.

    Or maybe, just maybe, gaming is just about being cheated all the time these days… Seems so to me.

    • avatar Christian says:

      Or maybe, just maybe, a consumer voicing their opposition to the way a company they purchase goods and services from does business – in this case, the content they provide, or don’t, in their games – is a way to affect positive change.

      Re: cannot get a child – ummm, adoptions, surrogacy, biting the bullet and having hetero sex to make a baby…no reason a same sex couple couldn’t be awarded a child and let you fill in the blanks as to how it happened.

      Also, the “Geez, if you don’t like this one thing then you should just abandon your whole hobby” line is a garbage argument. Having a problem with one facet of a hobby does not mean that the hobby is suddenly devoid of all value and that it should be abandoned. One can still love movies while acknowledging how pathetic it is that so few pass the Bechdel Test. One can still enjoy sci-fi despite the fact that Orson Scott Card is a vile piece of trash. And one can still enjoy video games despite the very regular omission of homosexuals.

      • avatar Ann says:

        It sure is a silly argument. Such is starting the whole adoption stuff. The game got the “basic” way. Two guys or two girls dont get a child that way.

        The whole issue is selfmade. There is nothing to change, cause there never was homophobia. Homophobia was made by the readers.

  3. avatar david says:

    This is why nothing changes. Nintendo knows that you will still fork over your hard earned money for a game that purposefully excludes you. They take a gamble on the number of people that will buy it anyway. Even though you voice your opinion here, they have your money. As long as they are still getting your money, they do not care about anything else.

    For a game to claim “Your Friends. Your Drama. Your Life” in it’s tagline and not make that available to everyone is false advertising at best.

  4. […] bug rather than a feature, Nintendo is deliberately excluding gay couples, a decision which invited criticism and a petition, as well as the creation of Twitter hashtag campaign #Miiquality started by Tye […]

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