Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
September 21, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Nintendo: 'We're not trying to provide social commentary' with Tomodachi Life
May 7, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

May 7, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
Comments
    35 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Video



Nintendo issued a statement to the Associated Press yesterday asserting that it was "absolutely not trying to provide social commentary" with the upcoming launch of 3DS life sim Tomodachi Life and that it currently has no plans to update the game to allow same-sex relationships, despite a fan campaign requesting the feature.

That #Miiquality fan campaign was started by Tye Marini last month, shortly after Nintendo announced plans to bring the Japanese game Tomodachi Life to the U.S. in June.

"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of 'Tomodachi Life,'" Nintendo of America told the AP. "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."

Marini released a video (above) explaining his reasons for starting the campaign.

The original Japanese version of Tomodachi Life launched with a bug that would randomly assign imported Mii characters to existing relationships, which led to some players having same-sex couples appear in their game.

"Because this bug caused the inability for the player to save the game data and continue the game, we released a patch," a Nintendo representative told Gamasutra via email.

It was also common for Japanese players to dress up their Tomodachi Life characters in clothes from the opposite gender, giving the appearance of same-sex relationships in screenshots published to Japanese websites.




When reached for comment, Nintendo of America provided Gamasutra with the same statement it has provided to other media outlets. To wit:

"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life. The relationship options in the game represent a whimsical and playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We are a games company first and foremost and our main objective is to create games and consoles for players to enjoy."


Related Jobs

Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard Entertainment — Irvine, California, United States
[09.19.14]

Art Director - World of Warcraft
GREE International
GREE International — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
[09.19.14]

Senior Game Designer
SAE Institute
SAE Institute — San Jose, California, United States
[09.19.14]

User Interface Design Instructor
SAE Institute
SAE Institute — San Jose, California, United States
[09.19.14]

Compositing Instructor










Comments


Wendelin Reich
profile image
I can totally see the thinking behind Nintendo's dodge. 'Our games are just for fun!' 'We would like to minimize the number of people we upset with our games so that we can maximize our profits!' Really, it's so obvious and so commonplace in the corporate world that it's almost boring.

But for the sake of progress, I do hope that this will be a battle that Nintendo looses.

Rodney Emerson
profile image
What Nintendo thought would be a simple release of a wacky game has suddenly transformed into a social justice issue.

The Big N just can't get a break.

Frank Smith
profile image
As though Nintendo is intentionally attempting to marginalize a demographic, or prevent another demographic from being uncomfortable? I think any reasonable person, especially another game developer, would realize this was most likely an either overlooked feature whose inclusion would create too much work and stress on the development cycle, or perhaps was not relevant to the primary culture it was created for.

As this petition was created last month, we all know its a bit too late to include in the game's release, and like the rest of us Nintendo still has ship dates that it committed to retailers and it's own internal stake holders.

In regards to their press release, it seems unreasonable to take the statement "Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of 'Tomodachi Life,'" as their reason for not including a same sex feature, rather than it's absence should not be taken as a social commentary or as their own opinion on the subject.

As nice as it would be to include every group in a product, no company owes it to a consumer to do so. That's why if 'Company A' does not produce what you want, you should consider purchasing from 'Company B'.

As boring as that conclusion may be. Who knows? Perhaps they made a decision to exclude a group for whatever reason. To call it a 'battle' and imply that it was anything other than a financial decision is a quite sensational. Fortunately the consumer has choices.

Ian Richard
profile image
I'd wager the reason it was excluded is just that same-sex marriage isn't legal in japan... so developers just overlooked that it's different over here. No terrible intentions... just cultural differences.

While my first thought was that they can just patch in a change to a boolean to fix it...but someone on twitter pointed out that it might not be so smooth depending on the way they did pronouns in game. It could be a more expensive fix than they can afford for one of their smaller titles.

Even if they can't patch it into this version, I hope they do put it into their next game.

Ron Dippold
profile image
"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of 'Tomodachi Life,'"

But you did. It takes more game logic to forbid same Mii marriage (some work) than it does to allow it (no work at all).

I can see how this is unintentional radioactive poison lava for Nintendo. But 'no comment' would work better than trying to justify it.

Kaitlyn Kaid
profile image
And it isn't like there has never been LGBT characters in Nintendo games before (heck, they are usually censored for the West).

Hakim Boukellif
profile image
"It takes more game logic to forbid same Mii marriage (some work) than it does to allow it (no work at all)."

Not necessarily. I don't know how much control the player has over the relationships between Miis, but from what I've seen it seems to be at least semi-autonomous...? In that case, if someone's collection of Miis is dominated by one gender (which for most people would be the case if they're using their friends as models), then the majority of sexual relationships would be homosexual if they simply removed the gender check and made no other changes.

Realism aside (which is clearly not the game's goal), that too would be interpreted as social commentary and would likely upset a greater number of people.
...which is what this all boils down to, really.

Kaitlyn Kaid
profile image
except by saying "hetero is ok, gay is not" it already IS a "social commentary".

Hakim Boukellif
profile image
My "not necessarily" was in response to Ron's argument that it takes more work to exclude homosexual marriage than it would to include it, not to whether it's "social commentary" or not. I've edited my previous comment to make this clearer.

To respond to your comment, though: no, they are not necessarily saying that. The fact that they're not actively including something doesn't have to mean they consider the thing they're not including "bad" or that the game was made to convey that. Otherwise, you'd have to assume the same about everything they're not including, like asexuality or people who don't identify as either "male" or "female".

If a violent game doesn't give you the option to talk out your differences, does that mean it's suggesting we should always resolve our problems through violence?

Scott Lavigne
profile image
@Kaitlyn

Except they didn't say that "gay is not". They just said "hetero is ok". I don't disagree that including marriage at all almost inherently opens themselves up to this criticism, but it wasn't their intention, if nothing else. They intended to "default" and avoid a statement. People are seeing the lack of a statement in favor of gay marriage as implicit disagreement with gay marriage, and that's just simply not fair. Honestly, they should have just avoided marriage at all in the game since this was very predictable, but I don't think they've actually done anything wrong.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
Ideally every game would have inclusive options for gay gamers, but I just don't see the reason to get so mad about dinky games like this one perhaps being a bit out of touch. The exaggerated reaction makes people defensive and less open to inclusion.

Ian Richard
profile image
I actually disagree with you on this one. The game might be small, but the company is big. They have enough meaning in the industry that they should have expected such a reaction.

Besides, this is the single most respectful reaction I've ever seen.

He literally says "Don't boycott the game! Support them in hopes they'll be more inclusive next time." There was no name-calling, insults, or DEMANDS! that I see in most responses... just a simple request.

He asked so nicely that I'd support him even if I disagreed.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
Yeah, fair enough. I guess I was more thinking about some of the tweets I have seen, like Ben Kuchera calling Nintendo bigots. I don't think that kind of quick-defense name-calling really improves anything.

The above guy though? You're right, totally cool. My mistake.

Eric Harris
profile image
No you were right the first time Dane. Ian is just being overly sensitive. Nintendo wasn't thinking about sex when they made this game so naturally they did not consider other people's sexual behavior. Nintendo, like they said, did not want to get in the middle of some social change movement that is sweeping the West.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
I think it would be a bummer if I were gay and couldn't marry my husband's Mii character in this game, if I played it. I can understand saying "hey I wish I could do this, please add it." That's totally understandable and right.

What I don't like is exaggerated judgment and hate being thrown back, like it solves anything. That's more what I am against. "Nintendo is filled with evil people and this is the worst thing ever." The guy above is not doing that, random jerks on Twitter are doing that. So I am happy to clarify.

Eric Harris
profile image
Well that is the point of the demanding same sex options. Now that sexual relationships between the same gender "must" be recognized, it is an oppression to not include the feature. It is how the politics of society work. Ian is not being sensitive to the business men in the East where the issue is not that big.

Eric Harris
profile image
Well I want to see more diversity in the various human nationalities in games before we shame Nintendo for not including enough same sex relationship options.

Steven Stadnicki
profile image
Why should we be restricted to working on one social issue at a time?

Eric Harris
profile image
Considering that there are plenty of same sex options in games and very little few main characters, I think we are ignoring the bigger problem.

Kevin Fishburne
profile image
As much as I enjoy the inclusion of the various forms of love, coupling and sexual lifestyles and preferences in games, this particular case struck me with a ridiculous idea that may be the ultimate conclusion of, well, inclusion, in games; that any game representing gender or sexuality in any way should by default include all accepted forms of it. Super Mario Bros, having a male protagonist, should also have a female and post-op transgendered protagonist. Any game with sex should include all forms of it, etc. So at one extreme you have games where your only protagonist choice is a straight male, and at the other all games must include all genders and sexual orientations. I think either extreme is ridiculous. Not sure what the solution is, though.

Dane MacMahon
profile image
In this one in particular though your "Mii" can marry another "Mii" so it makes a ton of sense for all couples to want access to that.

Eric Harris
profile image
Ultimately though Kevin the argument will at the very least go as far as you are asking. Most people have come to accept certain choices when it comes to entertainment like the fantasy genre and it's lack of diversity. But homosexuality will be required in any game that includes sex or marriage, and customization.

Kevin Fishburne
profile image
Fantasy games need to take a few notes from Game of Thrones. I think that show pretty much has all the bases covered, including a few that would make even the most progressive person on Earth throw up in their mouth a little (Joffrey + crossbow + pretty girl = close your eyes).

My main concern is with games that don't really have the scope or budget for that kind of variety. In this case, as Dane mentioned, marriage is a big part of the game. So yeah, Nintendo fucked up.

Mark Verrey
profile image
Nintendo is cursed to be making a game at a particular point in time where society is completely divided and polarized on this issue. It's obvious where society is going here, but society isn't there yet. In twenty years, they are going to look terrible for this, and yet if they do the right thing, they're going to be punished. To make things worse, this has to sell in Japan, too, where I can guarantee it would not be received well.

It's very similar to having an interracial couple on TV in the '60s. A fair size of the population knew which way the wind was blowing, but you still couldn't do it without creating uproar. Now anything from that era looks either quaint or offensive, depending on your point of view.

It's a question of going with your heart vs. what's safe. I think that's why Marini is as forgiving as he is. But even then, I don't think it's so clear cut. There are probably inter-office politics at play here as well, with NOJ likely being much more conservative.

Matthew Ribkoff
profile image
It already is social commentary; its exclusion of a part of the normal lives of part of the population in order to adhere to a certain narrative of society makes a point of exclusion.

Walter Verburg
profile image
Exactly. What it all comes down to is that it is social commentary either way, especially in this day and age. Nintendo clearly doesn't want it, but they have it, and they are going the wrong way with it.

Leon T
profile image
There is not gay marriage in Japan so the exclusion is cultural. The game was released in Japan a year ago and the older entries never made it out of Japan.

Brandon S
profile image
Eh.. since someone hasn't mentioned it yet ,but this seem like another misguided political correct avenger campaign with righteous white liberals trying to civilize the savages .Ever consider the idea culture don't view marriage the same way you do ? I know it North Americans have tendency to rage when media in another country doesn't exactly mirror there own for some bizarre reason wither it be thematically or political. There are tons of what we might be consider "Gay and lesbian content in Japanese media " much more than the US games and comics . Particular games and what not But all this has nothing in common with how same sex media is discussed in the West .

Firstly Marriage (In the American context is historically christian religious traditions and victorian it a god given individual right that make you a proper member of society with someone you love )

Traditional Japanese marriage was and still is ,a Business contract and has nothing to do with christian mythical concepts or secular mythical political correct concept of marriage or love (It has nothing to do with love and still doesn't , I know that difficult for American to comprehend ) It was a contract to reproduce kids, a contract for social alliances between wealthy family and contract for property rights . It has nothing to do with Individual /life style ,beyond you need to reproduce kids for the sake of your kinship and ancestors . Frankly it represented your duty to reproduce , you could be "gay sexually " and get married " you still would have a wife because you need to produce kids . There none of this christian idea of purifying the individual to align with the right sexuality to be in the good graces of god. Far as I remember it was not uncommon to have other lovers while being married , long as whatever Individual social behavior (Wife or husband) didn't interfere with your duty to kinship society .

That the basis of the idea of marriage in there society .

. Traditional Japanese wisdom is it " Marriage SHOULD NOT include Individual love" love causes problem and interfere with the business of marriage .If you compare this idea to (Individual/life style choices Western style marriage , individual right etc etc ) they have nothing in common ,Trying to explain the value of this to someone coming from a culture with a very different idea of marriage , you might as well be talking to a brick wall . Far as Nintendo is concerned (Something Random offended a foreigner, we better ask Nintendo America what offended the foreigner.) and that the most you'll get communicated.



Marriage in japan traditionally is Not an individual right .

Compare that to the Western Concept of marriage about Individual bonding + sexuality/lifestyle + social Rights + marriage all in the same package . They almost have nothing in common conceptually .



If this game was made for a North American market(Design and styled) I could be least empathic to complaining that it wasn't localized to fit a hot topic of USA ,but it was a Japanese game "ported to the USA " . obviously there not going to go back and altered it and I can't blame them .


Well actually.. I take that back I understand avoiding it .if I was localizing it for the US market given how half the society believe they should burn gays and all the sexual deviant to a stake , and default to using political correctness as a new age means of censorship.From a foreigner business perspective it seem like a bad idea to bring content that would cause controversy and hurt sales (Hence reason most Japanese game are not sold here to begin with ,I wouldn't be interested in hearing the moral rant of a foreigner either if I was Japanese for a media product or something that meant for some group in my culture) and Despite the talk about being Opening to "Diversity of game " generally anything foreign that float into are media that doesn't perfectly fit American sensibility(Left or Right) at the moment causes Massive controversy and moral discussion . It is a horrible business decision to simply bring over "Anything" simply because you can. So No it not logical for Nintendo expect to cater to ever social-political conflict in American society particular for one from there perspective doesn't make a lot of sense . The game suppose to be a whimsical-unreal take on social life of Japanese society (Yeah because Marriage in traditional Japanese context usually it a job/duty to the nation state not a individual life style choice , Only for reproduction money and and power alliances and Nothing else ).

Eric Harris
profile image
To be safe Nintendo should just remove the marriage/relationship feature from the game. Sex does not have to be in a social game anyways.

James Coote
profile image
They should allow it in countries / territories where same sex marriage is legal. I think that'd be a far more subtle way of highlighting inequality.

Imagine if you were in the armed services, and you were posted to Saudi Arabia. You fire up a game of Battlefield during some downtime, but you can't drive any of the vehicles in-game because women aren't allowed to drive in that country (and the game doesn't know if you're a man or woman, so can't take any chances, right?)

Leon T
profile image
To me this movement for attention only as there is no way the game would change now. Its clear that the exclusion of gay marriage is because this game is very Japanese and there is no such marriage in Japan (Where this game was released over a year ago). People in the west are too ignorant to comprehend cultural differences and want to get on their soapboxes and shout cries of injustice whenever something doesn't fit their mold.

Personally I play games for entertainment and an escape from reality and not to have them reflect it.Where do people that want games to reflect life draw the line? Does every life sim with marriage have to gay marriage now? Does every games set in a demographic area have to have every ethic group in the area in the game?

Matthew Cary
profile image
I think this is a question of framing. If black Miis couldn't marry white Miis, this would all be playing out very differently and Nintendo would be accused of some pretty blatant racism.
Hetrosexual marriage being fine but same-sex marriage not existing may not seem like a big deal to those of us who are Hetrosexual, but if you actually are in a same-sex marriage this is a game telling you that you don't exist.

Leon T
profile image
No , but what is being framed here is that Nintendo is refusing to include same sex marriage in their new life sim. What's really happening is someone started a movement for a year old game that was made for and released in Japan because it doesn't include something that doesn't exist in Japan. All because its being ported to the West. No one started a movement when the gameplay was known about but its the exact same game.

Matthew Cary
profile image
And I think had it stayed in Japan people would have continued to ignore it.
By porting it to the US, they have opened themselves to being judged by US standards.

Eric Harris
profile image
Yes but for a longtime after the civil rights movement it was rare to see a mixed color marriage... Come to think of it, the last Cheerios commercial made a big fuss when it featured a mixed kid, her black father and white wife.


none
 
Comment: