Let's Play Devil's Advocate About Tomodachi Life
Posted on Thursday, May 8 @ 16:05:46 PST by Nicholas Tan
Yesterday our Associate Editor Ryan Bates had some sharp, candid words for Nintendo after the company released a statement about not changing Tomodachi Life to support same-sex relationships. As a gay man myself, it's difficult not to be disappointed by the company's decision. Being excluded by default is the result of the status quo, and the non-heteronormative community will always feel like "the gay agenda" is being pushed everywhere as opinions change on same-sex marriage. The lack of inclusion is one way this manifests whether or not people acknowledge it, or even accept it.
That said, let's play devil's advocate. I don't think Nintendo is trying to make so much of a political statement insomuch as it's making a financial one. While Tomodachi Life is moderately successful in Japan, I think the publisher knows that its reach in America is limited and really only wants to port the title over to the States without putting in much money into making any changes; that is, those changes that would be needed to have same-sex relationships in the game. Some of the programming would just be a matter of a switch variable and a few lines of code, but the developers may need to introduce some all-new features to do so, far more effort than Nintendo intends.
I also don't think Tomodachi Life is the right target if we want Nintendo to ask for gay representation in its games. If we're asking this game to have same-sex relationships, then does every game with character creation and relationships need to feature them? Sure, I would feel better about it, but I don't need every game to include a representation of me.
It's not really Nintendo of America's fault that Japan's position on same-sex relationships is more private and very different from America's still evolving position on the matter. I almost feel sorry that they're in this position now, since I think the issue is slightly overblown and that it's not really its fault that Nintendo central wanted an American localization of the game.
It's also true that Nintendo can sell whatever it wants and that it's our job as consumers to choose what not to purchase to voice our opinions. I won't be buying or trying Tomodachi Life. At the same time, not buying the game is different from not telling Nintendo we didn't purchase it. The LGBT community can "make our own game" with same-sex relationships, and we have, but it would be a powerful statement if a company as prominent as Nintendo would do the same, just as BioWare has.
The real problem is Nintendo's response, positing the position that none of their games will have any social commentary on the issue and probably won't have any gay or lesbian characters, even those of our own choosing. It's Nintendo's fantasy world and we have no part in it. Sad Rainbow Yoshi Cookies.
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