Tomodachi Life, a life simulation game from Nintendo released in Japan, has recently come under heavy criticism. With a recent patch to remove an exploit within the game that allowed two females to marry and have a child together questions arose in regards to whether homosexual relationships would ever be included in the game, particularly when it was ported to English speaking audiences. Nintendo has announced that it will not include same-sex marriages in any version of the game.
Japan, where homosexuality is both illegal and has slightly more than half of the population in favor of this state of affairs, has not had the same outpouring of protest as has North American audiences. With the recent hit to Nintendo’s finances with a poor reporting for the latest quarter, this kind of backlash against a game is not ideal. With all video game companies feeling some strain recently, the industry as a whole has been scrambling. In addition, recent attention to social issues in video games from women’s rights to LGBT issues has been increasing.
Commentary has begun to develop on the issue in response to the assumption that this would be a non-issue. Fans have been engaging in an ongoing social media campaign in hopes of pressuring Nintendo to make the change but they have remained firm in their opinion not to. At the time of writing, the Miiquality, a play on the Mii property and equality, twitter account has a mere 404 followers. Despite this, there is an avid twitter presence around the hash tag Miiquality.
Nintendo has said that they have had no intention of making any changes to the game in response to the campaign. Their stated intention was not to make any social commentary, in their own words.
This represents just a small excerpt of what is an ongoing set of tweets criticizing the decision to ban same-sex marriage. The official Nintendo twitter accounts have not engaged in discussion on this topic, limiting commentary to official public relations statements. From a strategy standpoint, activists on this cause are currently calling for pressure against Nintendo through social media and other venues rather than calling for a full boycott. The game is currently set for a June 6 release date, so it is unlikely that any major changes will be made to the game for release at this point.
The disconnect between Nintendo’s position and their outraged fans presents a surreal disconnect. Where many companies have moved towards collaborating and being open with their fans, here is what appears to be a more traditional approach; continuing to use their social media as merely a platform for their existing message.
This seems to reflect the larger situation that Nintendo seems to be in; releasing properties that are originally from yesteryear and counting on the goodwill of their employees to continue to support them. The rising tide of awareness and concern for these social issues amongst gamers may represent a major problem for Nintendo between the blow back on this issue and other properties such as the perceived problems with recent Metroid releases. Failing to accept that many of their other markets are pro same-sex marriage, even if their home market is fine with this, makes this ban appear to reflect a company out of touch.
By Tyler Omichinski