So, in just a few weeks, Nintendo have a new 3DS game releasing in Europe and the US. Its name is Tomodachi Life, and it is certifiably bonkers. It’s pitched as a life simulation game, however, if my life was more Tomodachi, I would spend far less time in front of Netflix and bag of Skittles and I would spend more time dancing around giant Virtual Boys, speaking in a synthesised voice and having my features removed from my face every time I was excited or shocked. Weird just doesn’t cut it.
Tomodachi Life was released in Japan, as Tomodachi Korekushon: Shin Seikatsu in April of last year. Like many of Nintendo’s more, umm, unique, releases, no instant western release was announced. Recently, after a small groundswell of support, a localisation was announced. Then, that was it. Trailers were released, fans became content and nothing else happened. I’m joking of course, this is the internet. What would we have become if we were not happy about something.
It was soon revealed that, in the Life Tomodachi, you could not romance couples of the same sex and have children, like you could do with heterosexual couples. After an incredibly respectful, social campaign to bring light of this omission to Nintendo, the company got rather defensive about the backlash. “Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life,’” Nintendo of America Inc said in a statement. “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.” Of course, while claiming they were never making any social commentary, they, inadvertently, made social commentary.
Almost immediately the Social Justice Warriors sprang up across blogs, Twitter and Youtube like wildfire, proclaiming that Nintendo is bad people and that they would never buy a Nintendo product again. I’m here to tell you to ignore those people.
Let me get a few things straight before the comments become a cesspool of hatred. I am a heterosexual, caucasian, english speaking male in my early-to-mid twenties. I have things incredibly easy as I am impossible to offend when it comes these issues. Therefore, I cannot be offended by the choice to leave out homosexual couples by Nintendo. However, I am not here to defend Nintendo. While I cannot be directly offended, I am completely sympathetic to the complaints of discrimination; it is sad that people have to defend themselves for who they are. I am here, on the other hand, to take issue with people spit shining their soapboxes.
One of the first things the SJWs singled out was a glitch in the original release of the game. Sometimes two men would fall in love and have a baby. It was described has ‘funny’ by someone – a name the soapboxes forgot to put in. The glitch was soon patched out. And, you know what, the glitch was funny because it caused one of the male partners to swell up and have a Tomodachi pregnancy. It’s just like that Schwarzenegger movie ‘Junior’ – which was funny. Kind of. Sure, Nintendo could have left the glitch in, but it was messing up game saves. Another thing the reactionary generation hastened to keep quiet about.
Next was the statement from Nintendo Of America, you know, the social commentary bit. One youtube purveyor of justice said that it was more commentary on Nintendo themselves, commentary saying “…aren’t we a bunch of horrible pricks.” To be fair, a small part of this criticism is correct. Nintendo should never have pushed out that statement. Although I put it down to PR bungle rather than the company being deniers of the existence of homosexuality.
Then the localisation argument comes in. Because the game is being released in western cultures, Tomodachi life should be changed to fit more in line with the western hemispheres world view. Apparently it’s just a switch to flick in the code. Easy. Iwata and Miyamoto pull the big red lever and suddenly men are hooking up with men and women and hooking up with women. Step down from your pedestal, return your crown to your head, your work here is done. Except it’s not that simple is it? Hours and hours of engineering work and quality assurance work; delays and patches galore. For a game with limited release and appeal, it may not be worth it. And then, if you could turn the homosexual variable in the code base from N to Y, it doesn’t accurately represent a western point of view. Believe it or not, people are still out there fighting for sexuality equality against certain religious and political persuasions of society. It may be progressive to place homosexual options in Tomodachi life, but how many will it offend after it goes in.
Like I said, I’m not here to defend Nintendo’s decision. The easy solution for them would have released a statement explaining why and promising change in the future – something they did a day or so later. The sad truth is that the Nintendo executives are old-fashioned and clueless about today’s progressive reality – something which is easily shown by their slow reaction to online gaming – but they didn’t intentionally shun the LGBT community. The real question that should be explored here is the rating systems from the ESRB and PEGI. How would this sort of sexuality be rated? And are games actively avoiding hitting those ratings, especially with for everyone mantra that Nintendo owns?
What I ask is for people to take a measured reaction to such an incident. Instead of climbing up on Youtube, NeoGAF, Twitter, Tumblr or your blog and twisting the truth to fit your worldview so you can get some clicks, subscribers and rousing comments. What you’ve actually done is turn an ordinary and honest campaign to spiral out of control into something it is not.
Next time, react every time, not just when the bandwagon starts up, or is the fact that you cannot have a black character in Animal Crossing unless you get a tan totally fine with you?