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‘.
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.
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.
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.
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.