Nintendo Apologizes For Excluding Gays In Tomodachi Life
Nintendo released a statement today apologizing for not including same-sex relationships in upcoming Mii-based life simulator Tomodachi Life, while also stating there’s no way for the company to add those relationships to the game.
In the statement posted on Nintendo.com, the company wrote that it would strive in future Tomodachi Life games (should they exist) to be more inclusive:
“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. 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. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. 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.”
Key to the statement is Nintendo’s claim that it’s impossible to change the code in the game, which allows for opposite-sex relationships between Mii characters, but not same-sex ones. The code is based on the original Japanese version of Tomodachi Life, which does not include same-sex relationships (except for a bug that allowed them, but also broke the relationship system). But the statement goes on to say that Nintendo will work on any future Tomodachi games “from the ground up” to support more inclusivity. So… that’s something.
Nintendo kicked off a controversy over the upcoming 3DS game earlier this week, when it sent an email statement to the Associated Press that said it was not trying to make a “social commentary” with Tomodachi Life. Nintendo fans had created a social networking campaign to ask Nintendo to bring same-sex relationships to Tomodachi Life, but the statement released by Nintendo sounded much more like a refusal than an unconquerable technical problem:
“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life,’” Nintendo of America Inc. said in a statement to 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.”
So at least Nintendo is learning something (even if that something is that it better apologize when faced with a big controversy such as this one), it seems. The company’s earlier apparent-refusal to include same-sex relationships came off as bigoted against gay people, as if including same-sex people in the game was a social issue, but ignoring their existence — and thus treating “straight” as the same thing as “normal” — was not. That also gives the company the benefit of the doubt of assuming the failure to include same-sex relationships was more an oversight by heterosexual creators than a deliberate decision to leave them out.
However, as mentioned, there does seem to be positive motion out of Nintendo on the whole issue, and we’ll have to take the company at its word that changing the relationship system at this point is an impossibility.
The real test comes with Nintendo’s actions in the future, which will lay bare whether this apology statement is just lip service in the face of PR fallout, or a real indication that Nintendo will try to be more inclusive of its audience in the future. Given that the company just came off a nearly half-billion-dollar loss in fiscal 2013, it doesn’t need any other reasons for fans to stop buying Nintendo games.