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May 7
2014

Nintendo Says No to #Miiquality

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nintendogaytomodachi
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Sometimes it’s better to just not say anything at all. The last time Nintendo released a statement on Tomodachi Life, there was plenty of backlash for the problematic way they chose to phrase things. Using a word like ‘strange’ in regard to, among other things caused by a glitch, the appearance of same-sex couples in the game probably wasn’t the best choice. You’d think after that mess Nintendo would learn to just stop talking about these kinds of things. That’s what most companies do.

But then, after finding out about gaymer Tye Marini’s #Miiquality movement, they went and released a statement on the issue of same-sex marriage in Tomodachi Life. A really bad one, no less:

“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.”

Here we go. Again.

“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.”

This is understandable. I never expected Nintendo to make significant changes to a pre-existing game’s code. It’s unreasonable to think that a company would spend the time and money needed to fundamentally change a game that has long since ceased development to include features that, most likely, would not make any drastic impact on their sales. Less unreasonable, perhaps, would be expecting a game company to just include same-sex options in the first place.

It’s frustrating to be sure, but not unexpected. The video game business is, just that, a business.However, if Nintendo intends to keep their business separate from politics then they might want to hire a new person to write these statements. Or maybe they should just not write them at all.

“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.”

Just…-sigh-Tomodachi-Collection-nintendo-cortesia-640x280-14052013I don’t know how many times I have to say this, Nintendo: Ignoring the issue of same-sex marriage and relationships is the same as siding against it. It’s as simple as that.
Would including same-sex options in the game have been social commentary? YES. The comment would have been that LGBT players are just as valid as the rest of the people playing Tomodachi Life. Not including same-sex options comments that the needs, not to mention dollars, of gamers like Tye Marini aren’t important to Nintendo.

The only truly neutral option would be to not include any relationships in the game. Look at Animal Crossing or Disney Magical World, similar in genre but both allow players the freedom to express themselves as they please. Apparently defying gender norms is only acceptable until relationships, babies, and family-making enter the equation.

So Nintendo says that Tomodachi Life is not a ‘real-life simulation’ as their defense. If that’s the case then the ‘playful alternate world’ that Nintendo has created is one where gay people aren’t welcome, or even considered. You exhaust me, Nintendo. In the bleak, gritty, homogenous gaming landscape your games offer a colorful, light-hearted oasis with nary a five o’clock shadow to be seen. Then you go and do things like this

But there is some hope. Nintendo’s statement continues,

“We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses. We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We’re using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization. We have been looking to broaden our approach to development whenever possible as we put all our energy into continuing to develop fun games that will surprise and delight players.”

So in as vague a phrasing as possible Nintendo has left the door open. Nintendo, please take this as a learning opportunity and actually learn something from it. As I said the last time I wrote on this story, the true value in #Miiquality isn’t in getting Nintendo to alter the game. That, to me, was never a real possibility. The real value would be in inspiring some change; forcing Nintendo to finally acknowledge its queer fans.

Previously:
The Fight For #Miiquality
Tomodachi Life Comes Stateside! (Still No Same-Sex Relationships)
Nintendo Rids Tomodachi Collection: New Life of ‘Strange’ Same-Sex Relationships

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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

17 Responses

  1. avatar CPFace says:

    “We didn’t consider X because that would have been a social statement” is a social statement.

  2. avatar Pau says:

    The biggest problem is that their response was actually worse than not saying anything at all. Now with that response you can find 3 lies:

    LIE 1. “The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation.” That’s not true since in the game you can have a girlfriend, getting married and have kids. That’s a representation of a heterosexual love relationship in real life.

    LIE 2. “That game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan”. Good excuse but also incorrect. The Japanese code has been modified not only to allow English voices but also to substitute Japanese holidays with American holidays and future special events. The game was modified and it will be modified. Saying that you can’t do anything because of the code is just a lie.

    LIE 3. As mentioned by CPFace in the previous comment. “We didn’t consider X because that would have been a social statement” is a social statement. Ignoring an specific minority in a social game is a social statement. That’s like saying “I’m not racist, I just don’t want to have black friends.” Gigantic example of a common fallacies.

    I know it hurts, and I know that the knee jerk reaction as a Nintendo fanboy is defending Nintendo. Trust me, I get it; I’ve been doing that since I was 8 years old. I’m a hardcore Nintendo fan but in this type of games I like to play as a virtual version of myself. I don’t mind being ignored in other types of games because I’m playing often fictional characters but by forcing my Mii to be straight and have love relationships with women you are ruining my experience. I’m not playing as a generic hero number 2,543, I’m playing as Pau. Yes, I know that you can ignore love relationship in this game but I don’t recommend it that since things like love triangles are actually quite funny and random. Anyway, I just canceled all my pre-orders for any Nintendo product this year. Sorry Nintendo but before you can’t ask me for money you have to accept the fact that I exist first.
    Sincerely,
    An ex-Nintendo fan.

  3. avatar Douglas Bushey says:

    Sometimes I wonder why the gaming industry doesn’t want to support the one thing that makes it different then other media. Games can be as wacky as cartoons, but can’t support diversity. So Sonic can date a woman, but two men can’t be together. WTF Nintendo, there is a reason why I haven’t bought a Wii U or 3DS, if I felt hey I can pop in a game and make all the politics of the world go away.

    I’m just left with a bad taste that bioware, and maxis are the only two BIG companies who allow me to just date men, and guess what? They didn’t have to say shit about it and nobody hassled them.

    Both companies publish their titles on sony’s platforms, I feel good that they can accept diversity and not have to “not make social commentary”.

    • avatar K says:

      Just because they’re published on Sony’s platforms doesn’t say much about Sony’s willingness to accept diversity or not. The real key would be to look at Sony’s first party offerings and see how diverse they are (with the exception of TLOU, not very?).

      After all, Mass Effect 3 was also published on Nintendo’s platform with diversity in tact.

  4. avatar K says:

    Well, I hope the people boycotting all of Nintendo over this (and not just this one game) are extending their boycott to other developers who exclude same-gender romances in their sims and available love interests, too. Natsume, Atlus, Quantic Dreams, Square-Enix, and so on.

  5. I’m a graduate student in Sociology at UCD, and my research is on Japanese-to-US games localization practices, particularly as it relates to gender, sexuality, race, and nationality. I take serious problems with Nintendo’s response here.

    “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.”

    If my research is proving anything, it is that code changes substantially across national boundaries, both through unintended accidents and deliberate action on the part of developers, translators, and localizers. Cultural differences, both presumed and real, greatly influenced which games were brought to the U.S. from Japan and how such games were localized. From _Dragon Warrior_ to _Final Fight_, from _Final Fantasy IV_ to _Super Mario Bros. 2_, game code was altered to increase player accessibility and ease of play and to adhere to cultural, political, and social standards. Indeed, it was common practice prior to the establishment of the ESRB in 1994.

    To default to an argument about the non-malleability of code – nay, to refuse to adapt and change data when such action was commonplace in the 1980s and 1990s – in an attempt to dodge the political ramifications of being exclusionary and heteronormative is absolutely unacceptable.

  6. avatar Bearfamily says:

    Selling my WiiU today and that’s the end on nintendo for me, I’m seriously f**king done with this shit.

  7. I grew up playing in Nintendo consoles, and still today I wish to buy a WiiU, the only console I want to have since I started playing in PC, over a decade ago. I’m a Nintendo fan, but kind of disappoints me realizing what I always knew: while Nintendo is pretty avantgarde when it comes to technology and creativity, they still are quite conservative when it comes to LGBT subjects.

    Like Pau said above, I can ignore not being able to play a gay character in games when the game brings such a different reality that you just want to see the character’s story, and not really identify with him. I can understand not playing a gay char in a Final Fantasy, because that’s the way the authors originally imagined their characters. But when I’m playing a game that you create your char like a RPG or a simulator, I really don’t want to play a straight version of myself.

  8. avatar Pau says:

    The saddest part of this whole thing is the fact that I honestly believed that Nintendo is not a company with homophobic policies. Meaning, this is a results of a sloppy plan to release this game outside of Japan. A lack of understanding what a section of gamers in Europe and America want (which seems to be pretty common for Nintendo and other Japanese companies like Square-Enix or Capcom lately). A lack of understanding of the nature of their own fans. Shigeru Miyamoto did a few gay friendly comments in the past, and he actually sounded way more progressive than I was expecting.

    In my opinion the worse part of it is not the fact that they don’t have same sex marriage in the game. I understand that Japan does have equal rights for same sex couples. This is one of the cases where actually not saying anything was much better not saying anything at all. If Nintendo didn’t answer our request there would be so many valid but imaginary answers in my head: Japan doesn’t gay marriage, maybe the didn’t expect modify the game that much, maybe is too expensive…

    Unfortunately, their answer make things worse… Saying that by not allowing same sex relationships in your game you are avoiding making “a social statement” is extremely inaccurate at best. Ignoring the possibility of adding a minority in your game because you want to avoid conflict is not a good policy. Sure, if you don’t put interracial relationships you are going to receive less hate mail but is that the right thing to do?

    Let me use a less controversial example to illustrate my case: Is like saying that adding a main character that is overweight for example sends a message that obesity is ok. Not really, you are just giving the possibility (in this case gamers that are overweight) to be represented in a respectful manner instead of being the subject of ridicule or humiliation to deliver the cheap pun in the random media of your choice.

    If you don’t want add gay marriage or gay adoption in your game is fine. The problem is the fact that you don’t allow homosexual gamers to play as themselves. I can’t even flirt with the Mii of my husband. Nobody was asking for a huge political statement from Nintendo. We were just asking play as ourselves.

  9. avatar Liam says:

    This is my first time visiting my website. I was wary visiting a site called gaygaymer as I don’t really agree with fighting for equality and then having separation but hey ho.

    I wanted to post to say that I thought this was a great article that I agree with.

    Nintendo aren’t homophobic. At all. Their response to this issue was just very poorly written. I hope that in future, we will see same sex relationships available in the game but people campaigning for Nintendo to reopen development on a game that was finished a long time is just silly. Which is why I don’t have time for #MiiQuality. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase #FirstWorldProblems.

    There are a lot of real issues out there that we as gay people need to stand up and fight against. Tomodachi Life isn’t one of them. Nintendo have listened and taken on board what fans have said. Now it’s time to move on.

    • avatar CPFace says:

      This is about where I stand, yeah. The response is kind of clumsy and tone-deaf, but I don’t see any real malice in it. It hasn’t changed my opinion of Nintendo in general, and I’m still looking forward to the game. Like Sal’s said, the chances of actually getting this changed were never realistic; it was more of a “Hey, next time guys? Maybe think about it?” And we got a “Yeah, we’ll think about it.” back, so… mission accomplished?

      Barring some unforeseen jerk move on anyone’s part, I’m done worrying about it.

  10. avatar Al-Haleem says:

    I don’t know why this is such a surprise, Japan is not the west. In Japan, there is no same-sex marriage, so a Japanese game that featured it would have been incredibly bizarre. And while there are no legal restrictions, the prevalence of strong disapproval to homosexuality is still a feature of Japanese life. Just read ‘Lesbians in East Asia’ or ‘Homosexuality and Manliness in Post-War Japan’. Such books make it clear that the chance of something like ‘#MiiQuality’ succeeding in swaying Nintendo was on about the same level as Shinzo Abe’s lofty plan to include more women in the Japanese workforce.

    Alas, that is the world we live in…

  11. avatar CPFace says:

    Looks like they’ve updated their response, and it’s significantly classier.

    http://www.nintendo.com/whatsnew/detail/c4FWbi-Uave2T9R1h7SFzX0aoa-d4pgx

  12. avatar Pau says:

    New statement from Nintendo:
    “”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.” – Nintendo

    To be honest, I find this second message way better. It seems more direct and honest.

  13. avatar Ann says:

    Sometimes it’s better to just not say anything at all.

    That’s for the community as well…

  14. avatar Canaan says:

    “Look at Animal Crossing or Disney Magical World, similar in genre but both allow players the freedom to express themselves as they please.”

    Unless of course you happen to not have a pale skin complexion as is the case in Animal Crossing.

    Of course, gamers didn’t really care about *that*. It’s really telling the support the Tomodachi Life campaign received, all the while Animal Crossing got off completely scot-free with a handful of “thank you for your concern” corporate emails.

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