Nintendo’s new 3DS game Tomodachi Life is an experience in life immersion that let’s players interact virtually, build a virtual life, and even fall in virtual love and get virtually married. There’s just one catch, the game won’t let you be virtually gay.
Tomodachi Life, expected in stores on June 6 and already available in Japan, is the international version of the hit Japan-only title Tomodachi Collection where users create Miis (these are cartoonish avatars that are build to resemble players) whose personalities are customised to reflect that of players as they live together and interact on an island. They gameplay is similar to Animal Crossing, another Nintendo series, in that everyday and realistic tasks are the focus, although in this title users act as human-ish Miis instead of cartoonish animals.
The portion of the game where users can fall in love and even get married, however, is strictly straight only, and Nintendo fans aren’t happy.
Diehard Nintendo fan and gay man Tye Marini was so shocked at the exclusion of gay relationships from the game that he started he hashtag #Miiquality to get the word out about the glaring omission.
Even more shocking was Nintendo’s outdated and misinformed reaction:
“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life,” Nintendo reps said in a statement to BuzzFeed in which they confirmed that they will not be adding same sex coupling as a feature of the game before the Western release. “The relationship options in the game represent a whimsical and playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We are a games company first and foremost and our main objective is to create games and consoles for players to enjoy.”
The most troubling part of the statement is the belief that by summarily ignoring a section of the population they are somehow avoiding making a social commentary on the status of homosexual people and gay rights when the exact opposite is true. The omission of gay people from Tomodachi Life is a statement and social commentary heard loud and clear — in the idealized world of Nintendo gay people simply don’t exist, and if they don’t exist their problems aren’t real problems.
The WiiU platform is tanking sales-wise and is hemorrhaging money for the Japanese company.
Time has their eyes on the pulse of the WiiU system ready to pronounce it dead at any time, not that far-fetched when you take into account that the company has been in a two year sales slump and has lost $228 million this year with an additional $358 million last year.
The system has failed to replicate the success of last generation’s Wii, a console that went after the demographic of casual gamers and families. Unsurprisingly, casual gamers don’t appear to have the same sense of brand loyalty that Nintendo cultivated in the ’80s and ’90s with state of the art graphics and big third party titles.
Video games are ready to accept gay players and characters — and they have been for quite some time.
Since the first gay character in video game history appeared in 1986’s Moonmist there has been no shortage of gay characters and storylines in mainstream gaming, including unflinching support for gay characters and players in the massively popular Fable series and a playable bisexual main character in Grand Theft Auto V, one of the fastest and best selling titles of all time. Nintendo could do well to take a page out of the competition’s playbook to highlight and include gay characters and players in their titles to help turn around their slow crawl towards financial failure and cultural irrelevance.
A brief history of LGBT characters in gaming:
Here are some highlights in gay gaming from the past few decades.
The first gay character appears in Moonmist, a text based adventure that features a lesbian lead jilted over her ex-girlfriend marrying a man.
Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. 2 features Birdo, a character that has been criticized for exploiting misunderstanding of trans people by casting a pink dinosaur who “thinks he is a girl” as a villain. Nintendo has since gone back and forth on Birdo’s gender being male, female, or indeterminate. Plenty of LGBT gamers have seized on Birdo as a symbol for queer gaming in spite of criticism, although Nintendo has remained largely mum on the matter.
In Capcom’s Final Fight the character Poison was again borne out of swapping the character’s gender late in development and frequent changed over the years, although now she is largely acknowledged as a trans woman within the mythology of the series.
SNES platformer Earthbound features the character Tony who is, according to the game’s creator, subtly attracted to his best friend Jeff.
Square’s SNES RPG Chrono Trigger features yet another trans villain, Flea, who appears wearing a wig and women’s clothes while being marked as a male in the gameplay and making remarks like “Male or female, what difference does it make? Power is beautiful, and I’ve got the power.”
In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty two bisexual characters are revealed to have had an affair, although the point is not dwelled on as much as it is simply acknowledged as a part of the overall plot.
Since the early 2000s there have been dozens of LGBT characers portrayed in console and handheld gaming, although there have been a sparse few in Nintendo titles aside from a couple trans villains who are casually ridiculed. Check out a complete list of gay characters in video games here.