Nintendo Fails to Avoid Social Commentary by Trying to Avoid Social Commentary, Becomes Irony Incarnate
We really wish Nintendo would do what Nintendon't.
We were excited to hear that there was a campaign to bring some equality to Nintendo’s quirky 3DS sim title, Tomodachi Life. Fans were hoping that Nintendo would allow same-sex Mii relationships to be part of the game and its marriage system, but Nintendo has now come back with a pretty unfortunate response.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Nintendo had this to say:
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.
The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan.
It still would’ve been a pretty callous mistake, but it might have been easier to overlook if they’d simply stuck with a statement like, “We’re sorry that we made an oversight like this, but it’s not the kind of thing that can be fixed in localization. So, it’s too late to fix the problem in this game, but we will in future games.” In fact, they did also try to indicate that to the AP, saying:
We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses. We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We’re using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization. We have been looking to broaden our approach to development whenever possible as we put all our energy into continuing to develop fun games that will surprise and delight players.
However, the part of this response that has us all so upset is the claim that the game was not trying to provide social commentary. It’s not even that I don’t think that’s true. In fact, the upsetting thing is the thought that the developers’ idea of not providing social commentary was going out of their way to make sure you couldn’t do something in the game.
It’s a video game. If they’d just programmed it to let Miis marry other Miis and not worried about specifics of gender, that would be a lack of social commentary. The social aspect of it would be entirely in the hands of gamers. Deliberately coding a specific gender prejudice into the game is far deeper social commentary than not touching it at all.
The fact that people still think that going out of their way to exclude people is the same as steering clear of an issue says more about where we are as a society than any in-game relationships ever could.