Recently, Nintendo caused a mini-sensation when it announced that its upcoming 3DS social simulation game Tomodachi Life will allow players to import their Mii, a personalized representation of the player, into a virtual world and meet new friends or even start romantic relationships and marry, although not with avatars of the same sex.
The game was released in Japan last year, and was an instantaneous success. What happened next is open to interpretation and discussion. One thing is for sure, however, a fan campaign to include digital equality for same-sex relationships in the North American release was straight-up refused by Nintendo on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. According to a company statement received by the Associated Press, the iconic video game company declined to add same-sex relationships but insisted its decision was not intended to be “social commentary.”
Without meaning to be Mr. Smarty-Pants here, I have to say that Nintendo have dropped the ball so badly here that they may, unwittingly perhaps, have really hurt their product or are attempting to make themselves the darling of the Conservative Right. One way or another, Nintendo need to fasten their seat belts! Go to their website and you’ll see the opener says: ‘Your Friend. Your Drama. Your Life.’ This is not really true. It depends on your preferences!
This is how Nintendo put it: “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.”
How did this all get started? It seems that in June of 2013, after the powerful Japanese media review Kotaku published the rumor that the game allowed male characters to marry other male characters, Nintendo executives supposedly held emergency meetings in which they reversed course and patched the game at the last minute before release to remove the option. And although Nintendo worked hard at exercising some mode of damage control, saying that the move was to “fix a fault” and not to get rid of a gay marriage option.
Bad news travelled slowly in this case, but it was eventually passed across the Pacific. This mess was then further complicated on Monday, May 5, 2014, when a gay political activist, Ty Marini, began to put the word out in the aging world. His #Miiquality campaign, put in motion to coerce Nintendo into including digital marriage equality in the game was launched. A gay gamer out of Mesa, Arizona, Marini has used social media pages and a video to describe his personal issues with the restrictive nature of relationships allowed in the game.
“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiance’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” he says quite quietly in the video. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiance’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”
I, for one, believe in the transcendental aspects of the U.S. constitution and everybody’s right to free speech. Having gay marriage as one workable option in the game seems reasonable, too. As a compromise, there are those who insist this ‘gay option’ might need to be ‘locked’ away and encoded for under-18s, although it seems to be the height of absurdity, and would agree to it for the, umm, greater good. Consider also that there are other video games with life simulation aspects, such as The Sims and Fable roleplaying series, which already have allowed for same-sex options and don’t seem to have cause any damage to the youth of the nation.