Friday, May 9, 2014

Nintendo nooooo

In video game news, Nintendo will soon release Tomodachi Life in North America and Europe.  It's a "whimsical life simulation" which allows you to import avatars of you and all your friends and watch them have wacky adventures, including romantic pairings and marriage.

This is significant because it forces Nintendo to take a stance, to either include same-sex relationships in the game, or not to include them.  I'm not sure when this last happened to Nintendo.  They don't make an awful lot of life simulations.

Unfortunately, Nintendo appears to be taking the wrong side.  There was a "Miiquality" campaign to let Nintendo know how much we want this feature, but Nintendo issued a tone-deaf response, saying they "never intended to make any form of social commentary", and that it "was not part of the original game that launched in Japan".

I seriously considered buying Tomodachi Life, because I like Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  But whatever desire I had before, the lack of same-sex relationships kind of kills it.  Not because I want to boycott it to make a political statement (there's blogging for that), but because it would honestly give me less enjoyment.  It would be very jarring and uncomfortable to see all these alternate versions of myself and my friends, all forming male-female pairings.  I and many of my friends are queer!

For many queer people, heterosexual relationships were the kind of thing forcefully pushed upon us by unsupportive parents and grandparents.  And now this game is pushing it too?  Nope, not gonna play that.

In the comments of Polygon and Kotaku, many players mount defenses of Nintendo, saying that they have to pay attention to the bottom line, and make the game that players will want.  I find this to be strange argument.  Yes, it is true that Nintendo does not deserve exclusive blame for making exclusionary games.  Some of that blame belongs to consumers, who either prefer or tolerate exclusionary games.  In the Japanese version of Tomodachi Life, I mostly blame the Japanese consumers.  In the rest of the world, I blame consumers as well as the Nintendo localization teams.

But wait, aren't the people making this argument themselves consumers?  Are they trying to shoulder the blame themselves??

I mean, who exactly do they think these consumers are, who are stopping same-sex relationships from appearing in games, movies, and fiction in general?  It's very convenient to think that the blame belongs to such conservative groups as Focus on the Family and Million Moms.  But when I look around the gaming community, it's much more common to see people who argue, "Don't blame the game creators, they can't do any better in this market!"

People think they know what heterosexism and sexism looks like, but they're wrong.  It's not an angry gang beating people up in the street (at least, it isn't only).  It's a million people shrugging their shoulders saying, stop complaining, nothing can be done.

Update: Later, Nintendo had a highly positive response.