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.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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16 Comments on Nintendo Apologizes For Excluding Gays In Tomodachi Life

Gypo

On May 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Great, point-scoring PC thuggery wins yet again.

MarkEMark

On May 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I feel that was a good apology.

Good job Nintendo for recognizing what the problem was and promising to fix it in the future.

Bob

On May 9, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Seriously phil grow up you little whiney cow

AxΣtwin

On May 10, 2014 at 12:11 am

This right here is why art can never be considered any form of art. Art first and foremost is about expressing yourself. What do you do when art, as part of a consumer driven world is debuted and you disagree with the way the artist expresses themself? You ignore it or you simply don’t buy it. What you most certainly should NOT be doing is forcing the artist to conform to your way of thinking. That is exactly what you and so many others are doing. That is why video games as medium WILL never and SHOULD never be considered an artform. Because the artists are not free to express themselves the way the want to should be allowed to.

I agree with Gypo. This is more PC BS that is not only dumbing down our world. But is also ostracizing those that dare to think differently from the hivemind. On the previous article a user named Franklin mentioned that all games need to pass a checklist of PC guidelines. It’s ruining the gaming industry. When it doesn’t check all the boxes, people start throwing a tantrum and throw around word like “bigot, and racist and misogyny”. Those words have lost all meaning due to the number groups that are real quick to use them everytime a game comes out that doesn’t meet their perfect ideal of what said game should represent.

You wonder why so many gamers are entitled? It’s because of crap like this. A specific group of people didn’t like the fact that children’s game; yeah, I said it, a game that is targeted to kids; didn’t include same sex romancing. So the LGBT grabbed their torches and pitchforks. Everyone else around saw the LGBT up in arms so they joined the cause. The problem is, everyone saw that the LGBT was angry at Ninentdo and never stopped to consider whether or not Nintendo was actually in the wrong.

So let me end this little rant, tirade, whatever you want to call it with a question. A question directly to you Phil, because quite frankly, you are better than this. You are better than this narrowminded, the world is black and white, if you’re not with us you’re against us point of view. So let me ask you, if the situation were reversed. If Nintendo had released a kids game that focused exclusively on same sex relationships and some pro-traditional values group was up in arms over it. Would you still call Nintendo a bigot? Or are you one of those people that think only straight people can be bigoted?

T. Jetfuel

On May 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

Yeah, the whole notion of “games as art” is pretty suspect, at least when it comes to big-budget titles that need to recoup the development expenses. Of course, games can and do include artistic elements as a part of them, but they do not meet the conditions that would qualify them as Unified Works of Art in and as of themselves. For anyone wanting to get all super-IQlectual about it, a good reference might be some of the “Frankfurt School” critical theory stuff, like the relatively short essay “The Culture Industry” by Theodor Adorno. TL;DR version: need to attract mass audience invalidates the autonomy necessary for true artistic work.

Of course, it also goes into the whole idea of mass entertainment consciously promoting an agenda that serves the interests of the powerful folks who control its production, which does lead Adorno to proclaim things like the apparently fundamentally fascist nature of Jazz music. Yeah. It’s surprising that Mussolini never commissioned a Dixieland jam for a national anthem.

MarkEMark

On May 10, 2014 at 4:12 am

lol. The hypocrisy.

Is this the same Axetwin that writes lengthy rants on Mass Effect, complaining that game creators shouldn’t be in touch with their audience?

If you ask me this is Nintendo having the sack to do what Bioware couldn’t. That is acknowledge a particular creative decision that a lot of their fans have a problem with.

SweetPea

On May 10, 2014 at 5:52 am

“The company’s earlier apparent-refusal to include same-sex relationships came off as bigoted against 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.”

Wait, are you saying that being straight isn’t the normal thing now?

T. Jetfuel

On May 10, 2014 at 6:35 am

I think an issue that gets confused a lot in this kind of discussion is the whole concept of “normal”. What I would hope he’s saying is that “normal” covers more than just straight, not that straight needs to be rhetorically denormalized in a bid to radically problematize heterosexuality. The latter seems to be a strategy favored by some critics of “heteronormativity”, and often seems fueled by some kind of vicarious vindictiveness over a history that people living now neither instituted nor suffered.

“Normal” is kind of an ambiguous concept though. I guess there is a significant difference in whether you view it as descriptive or as prescriptive. A descriptive use of “normal” takes account of observed phenomena to determine what is normal. Since non-heterosexual identity occurs with some frequency, it may be a minority phenomenon, but still quite normal. A prescriptive use of the term, on the other hand, will formulate an idea of “normal” on theoretical grounds, and may then be used to enforce behavior consistent with that formulation. It is basically this possible enforcement that the criticism of “heteronormativity” was designed to counter. Such distinctions, however, are lost in the polarized world of identity politics, so we get a lot of commenters who took Rad. Q. Theory 101 telling us that “LOL, hetrosex is so dum!”, with the righteous conviction that they are Fighting the Good Fight.

AxΣtwin

On May 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

@ MarkEMark – Lengthy rants about MassEffect? Yup, I do that. About how the creators should not listen to the fans? No, not at all. If Bioware had listened to the fans, ME2 would have been a VERY different game. Instead, Bioware listened to the people that saw a shooter and were too stupid to comprehend how RPGs were supposed to work and demanded that the game be redesigned to fit their limited thinking capacity. Those aren’t fans, those are simpletons that think all shooters need to play like CoD/Gears.

My feelings about the overall game aside, the romance options in ME3 and DA2 were more about EA/Bioware screaming “LOOK AT HOW OPEN MINDED WE ARE!!” than it was about them actually including legitimately three dimensional romance options. Which would technically make it fan service but most people wouldn’t know fan service unless it was a scantily dressed large breasted woman smacking you in the face with how obvious it is.

Phil Hornshaw

On May 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

The whole concept of “normal” is why this is a problem. “More common” is not the same thing as “normal,” and yet what Nintendo has done by not including certain people is to create a situation that makes something as minor as a relationship into a question of normality. When one thing becomes described as “normal,” the minority case then becomes “abnormal,” and thus a situation as simple as failure to include same-sex relationships, coupled with Nintendo’s originally dismissive attitude, seems to suggest some people are normal and some people are not. And that can be seriously harmful when you’re talking about a historical standpoint that is echoed in a lot of places. The discussion here is that Nintendo shouldn’t contribute to it.

It’s not so much that Nintendo wasn’t inclusive in the game — their apology suggests learning, and coupling that with being a little less tone-deaf in the future will likely solve any issue people had altogether. It’s the attitude of equating some people’s experience as not being worth including unless you’re trying to make some kind of statement that galls.

It’s the question of “normal” that’s harmful, as well as false. It’s Nintendo’s supposition of normal here that makes this a problem — if it had issued this apology and this technical explanation in the first place, instead of that other statement, we’d be having a much different discussion (if we were having one at all).

T. Jetfuel gets it right. The point is not to value same-sex relationships over opposite-sex ones, but that the assumption of one normal over the other, when what we’re talking about is merely what’s more common, is known to hurt people. It’s really a nothing thing for Nintendo to include more kinds of relationships in its game, but that can have a huge impact on people who go unrepresented, while having zero impact on people who are well represented.

Red Menace

On May 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Games should only allow same-sex relationships. That will show those heteros.

SweetPea

On May 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

@Phil
Thanks for the clarification. I have to disagree with you, however. You seem to think that the word ‘abnormal’ has a very negative meaning. It doesn’t, it’s not the same as “wrong”.

And really, from a biological viewpoint, same-sex relationships are abnormal. Dyslexia or color-blindness isn’t normal either. That doesn’t mean those people can’t be perfecty fine however, but let’s not call it normal.

bob

On May 10, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Seriously this is about nothing, why should a kids game have same sex implications WTF is wrong with you people this is about CHILDREN NOT SOME DAMN PUSHY POLITICAL VIEW. seriously GROW UP PEOPLE . This IS A KIDS GAME SEXUALITY SHOULD NOT BE EXPLORED. no one would complain if this was ANIMAL CROSSSING. seriously this is all caused by god damned special needs VIDEO GAME JOURNALISTS that have nothing to report so lets MAKE UP AND BE A TOTAL >

Rho

On May 10, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I don’t see how the absence of same sex relationship in a game is supposed to be a problem. And I don’t see why someone is supposed to apologize for that. Does a meat store supposed to apologize to vegetarians for not selling bread? Does the fact that the above mentioned shop doesn’t sell bread or vegetables means that the owner hates vegetarians?

Absence and exclusiveness is a common thing in real world and most people know how to deal with that. Can’t join that motorcycle club on your newly tuned car for some reason? I bet Street Racers will welcome you. Not enough RPG elements in Call of Duty (oh, the horror)? There are a lot of RPG games out there. Can’t find same sex relationships in Tomodachi? Go play Mass Effect or Second Life. It’s that simple.

I can’t believe that a relatively small group of people became so unreasonably vocal and demanding to the point where majority is pressed to apologize for every move and afraid to say “no”.

AxΣtwin

On May 11, 2014 at 12:49 am

No, Phil, Nintendo is NOT “learning”. First of all there is not a lesson to be learned here. Secondly, this is just one more item they have to add to a checklist before every game gets released. That’s conforming. That’s them caving to the pressure of someone else’s ideals being forced upon them. In the real world, we would call that fascism. Are you a fascist Phil? Are the people that support you fascists? I’m willing to bet not. How did it feel for me to pull out that word and have your own actions compared to it? Bet it didn’t feel good. I bet your kneejerk reaction was to immediately deny it, I bet you even had a flair of anger. Now, how do you think Nintendo felt everytime someone called them a bigot simply because they didn’t stop to think about including same sex relationships in this game?