Let’s talk about the scandal of the week, shall we? Tomodachi Life, a new Sims style game by Nintendo, has come under fire in recent days. The game lets you create a fantasy version of you and all your friends, allowing you to get a fantasy job, go on fantasy vacations, live in a fantasy house, and even get into fantasy relationships. Unfortunately, a lot of this fantasy content is locked out until you get fantasy married, including bigger houses and things to put in your house. Doubly unfortunate is the fact that you can only get married to a member of the opposite sex in Tomodachi Life, which has lead some to claim that Nintendo is homophobic.
But I’m not so sure. Nintendo has been pretty apologetic about this oversight. "We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life," Nintendo said. "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… 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."
I, for one, and tempted to believe them. When a game is out of development and into localization, many times the original programming team has already moved on to new projects. Depending on how much of the game is programmed around the marriage mechanic, patching it or reprogramming may be a HUGE undertaking, either impossible to handle with the 3DSes hardware, or impossible to arrange by hiring back on the original team and ripping them from whatever projects they are currently on. They could hire another team to try and reverse engineer the game, but doing so would be spotty and glitchy at best and would cost the company even more money and time, likely enough time and money that the game itself doesn’t turn a profit. At that point, the only option is to just not release the game to western audiences, which means a whole lot of money is still wasted in the process, which means people could lose their jobs, and Nintendo would never risk that. The fact that they guaranteed us that future installments would be more inclusive is really telling of their viewpoint here.
Do I think what Nintendo did was homophobic? No. No I don’t. I think it was ignorant. I think it came from a society that may be dealing with institutionalized homophobia. However, I don’t think that this decision was motivated by a hatred or fear of the LGBTQ community.
I think it’s important to draw a line between homophobic and heteronormative here. What Nintendo did was heteronormative, a product of thinking that the basic “normal” state of affairs is the heterosexual state. Somebody in an office in Nintendo of Japan said, “Hey marriage that’s cool. Let’s put it in the game!” And the thought of same sex marriage likely never crossed their mind. Then it came out in the west and the LGBTQ community started complaining and Nintendo said, “CRAP CRAP CRAP we forgot about gay marriage guys!” and now they are apologizing for it and trying to make it right.
Am I saying that people don’t have a right to be upset? No of course they do! I would be upset if I couldn’t marry my real life fiancé in a game about fantasy lives. Am I saying that Nintendo didn’t do anything wrong. No, Nintendo goofed, that’s why they are apologizing. Am I saying that this issue isn’t important or is overinflated for press purposes? No, gay rights are a real and important issue, and should be addressed both on the big and small scale. Also games have a long track record of having only heteronormative protagonists, so it’s not like we haven’t grappled with this issue in the past. All I’m saying is that I don’t think that the decision to only allow heterosexual marriages in Tomodachi Life came from a place of hate. It came from a place of ignorance and Nintendo has acknowledged that and is trying to make things right to the best of their ability.
Senior Contributing Writer