Tomodachi Life – Nintendo’s Unfortunate Situation Regarding Same Sex Marriage

By James Sweeting

Over the last week since the launch of the Miiquality campaign, the press surrounding Nintendo’s forthcoming release of Tomodachi Life has exploded.

This large amount of mostly negative press has been due to game not including same-sex marriages. The vast majority of videogames do not include or make reference to same-sex marriages. So why is it a problem with this particular game?

Tomodachi Life is essentially a mix of Animal Crossing, The Sims and irreverent Japanese TV; but with The Sims allowing same sex-marriages since 2009 many people query why a game where, supposedly, anything is possible excludes a similar feature.

People have been discussing the absence of this aspect since the game launched in Japan last year. Especially after a glitch was found which allowed for same-sex Mii’s to get married and have children. The actual situation was corrected by Nintendo explaining that the pictures were actually displaying female Mii’s in male clothing, and that the subsequent patch was to fix a save breaking glitch associated with all of this.

When it was announced the game was being translated and released in the west many were excited, especially after the release of the absurdly brilliant Nintendo Direct showing off the game. After the initial excitement calmed down, some began to question whether Nintendo would bring same-sex marriages to the Western release. After silence on the issue from Nintendo, a campaign was started called Miiquality.

Miiquality’s objectives were perfectly rational; they wanted same-sex marriages to be added to the game, but were under no assumption that they should be added for the launch. Instead, knowing that the translation process has already been completed, they asked for the possibility of a patch to be created adding the option at a later date. But the more realistic option they asked for was for it to be added in a potential sequel. Towards the end of the video the statement is made that they are not calling for a boycott, realising that to do so would like contribute to future sequels not being localised and the prospect of same-sex marriages having even less chance of being added.

However, since the movement began getting traction the press had begun twisting the aspirations of the movement and turning it into attacks against Nintendo. This ultimately caused Nintendo of America to respond, stating that they were ‘not trying to provide social commentary’. This incensed many, but the unfortunate reality is that as a whole, the main country Nintendo is trying to market this game in, the United States, is not ready for same-sex marriages.

Nintendo is in the unfortunate position where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, with the latter being the current reality. There are two main negative outcomes that are possible if they had add same-sex marriage. The first is the likely increase in age rating from the ESRB which would likely, though this is not certain, raise the age rating from E (for everyone) to T (for Teen).

The second, and more prevalent, outcome is the potential outlash from the American conservative right. Same-sex marriage is still a highly contentious issue around the world and in the US especially. Nintendo does not want the highly detrimental negative publicity that these groups can generate.

Does that make it right? No, but it also doesn’t make it wrong. Whilst The Sims 3 included same-sex marriages, it was an established franchise, able to take risks and is also backed by a large American corporation that has a history of promoting LGBT rights. Tomodachi Life might be a success in Japan, but that is in part because it is a very Japanese game and is highly influenced by the country’s culture. Now Nintendo are taking a risk releasing this unusual title in the West, and instead of one country it is now being released to a dozen countries all with subtlety different cultures.

Since initially writing this article Nintendo have issued an apology, in their apology they express regret for disappointing people but explain that it is not possible to change the games design at this stage, nor is it possible to accomplish this change via a post-ship patch. They then go on to make a pledge (although this is by no means binding but is a good gesture) that if they do create a next installment that they will strive to make it even more inclusive.

As far as I am concerned Nintendo have now done all that they can, this was the only realistic option for them, but it was also the right option. Will this appease everyone? No, as one LGBT group has stated that Nintendo still needs to do more, and others still wrongly argue that a patch is a legitimate option and argue how Nintendo “patched out” same-sex marriages, when they were never properly in there in the first place.

For now all everyone can do is put this whole affair behind us, buy the game, enjoy the wonderful absurdity it provides and wait for the next videogame drama.

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