Nintendo of America says in a statement that it “never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of’ Tomodachi Life,” but if that’s the case then they probably shouldn’t have included marriage in the game at all.
Tomodachi Life is a Mii-based game for the 3DS, where crude, big-headed avatars (Nintendo encourages the player to create Miis in their own likeness, hence, well, the name) engage in various gamified family friendly pursuits: shopping, dating, sports, etc. Think The Sims, or Animal Crossing. The packaging proclaims “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” Unlike Animal Crossing, however, characters in Tomodachi can marry. And unlike The Sims, there is extra content associated with having a character that’s in a marriage. Tomodachi‘s American release is in less than a month, and, in anticipation, a fan campaign has sprung up in an attempt to encourage Nintendo to allow characters of the same gender to marry in game.
Gamer Ty Marini explained the disparity in a video: “I want to be able to marry my real-life fiance’s Mii, but I can’t do that. My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiance’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”
After a month of online conversation around the issue, Nintendo America has released a response.
Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of’ Tomodachi Life. 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.
I certainly understand why Nintendo wouldn’t want to approach the marriage equality debate with its localization of Tomodachi Life. Same-sex marriage is illegal in all of Japan, and in America Nintendo has gone a long way to brand itself as the console that brings a family together for all-ages fun, where the PlayStation and Xbox have focused much more the advanced graphics, online features, and general home entertainment functions of their consoles. Marriage equality is seen as the opposite of an “all ages” feature for many Americans, unfortunately.
I find it harder to understand why Nintendo wouldn’t just push ahead with it anyway. Not only would it be the, you know, moral thing to do, and align better with the game’s promise to model your own life in a playful world, but Nintendo already mentioned their excuse to any criticism in their response. If Tomodachi Life is such a “whimsical and quirky game,” then they could just say that anyone trying to take the game’s same-sex marriage features as a serious statement on a prominent social issue is reading too much into it.
You know, just like all those folks who tell me I should calm down about diversity in media because it’s “just a game.”