A Nintendo 3DS life simulation game called Tomodachi Life has been available in Japan since 2009, and users worldwide have asked Nintendo to change something before releasing it anywhere else. The game allows people to have their avatars, or “Miis,” become friends, enemies, or husband and wife. What about other relationships though? In response to a social media campaign calling for a more open-minded version of Tomodachi Life, Nintendo confirmed that its release of the English-language version of the virtual reality game will not feature same-sex relationships.
A few weeks after its release in Japan, same-sex relationships were possible between two male avatars, but it was cited as a bug and removed by Nintendo before subsequent releases.
As one might expect, LGBTQ gamers and Nintendo fans around the world are troubled by the immense hole in this predominantly relationship-based life-simulation platform. Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gay man from Mesa, Arizona launched a social media campaign last month entitled #Miiquality to urge Nintendo to expand its scope for this game to allow Miis to engage in same-sex relationships.
Marini believes the #Miiquality movement could not only affect Nintendo’s stance on future game development, but the video game industry as a whole. He has launched his campaign through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages to promote it.
Nintendo will release Tomodachi Life in Europe and the U.S. on June 6, but has confirmed that same-sex relationships will not be featured in the virtual reality game, at least not this time around. In Japan, same-sex marriage is not legal, but in many places in Europe and the U.S., it is.
Other life-simulation games and narrative-driven video games such as The Sims and Grand Theft Auto IV have accounted for gay, lesbian and bisexual characters. Platforms like The Sims allow for users to program their characters to engage in same-sex relationships and start families. These games were initially developed in English-speaking countries, where the cultural commentary is much different than Japan, and users like Marini wondered if Nintendo would alter the game to better reflect Western norms.
A Nintendo America representative said that the company had not intended to make any form of social commentary with the game, and that it is meant to be “whimsical” and “playful,” rather than a representation of real life.
While the company may not have meant to instigate social commentary with Tomodachi Life, it certainly has. Gamers like Marini wonder how Nintendo can say that the game is not a life-simulation platform when avatars can be programmed to do everyday life things, like chores, listen to music and eat food. Furthermore, the title of the game is evidence for how much emphasis is placed on relationships, as “tomodachi” means “friend” in Japanese.
Nonetheless, Marini and other #Miiquality supporters are not calling for a Tomodachi Life boycott. They simply want Nintendo fans to continue promoting equality through their passion for gaming in hopes that the video game giant will begin to consider expanding its scope.
Although this summer’s release of the Nintendo virtual reality game will not feature same-sex relationships, company representatives say they are paying attention to the #Miiquality campaign and taking user feedback into consideration for future game developments.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization,” a Nintendo representative said.
By Erica Salcuni