Sections

Nintendo runs afoul of GLAAD

LGBT advocacy group takes issue with Tomodachi Life's exclusion of gay marriage, Nintendo says it wasn't attempting social commentary

Nintendo is coming under fire for a feature missing from its new 3DS game, Tomodachi Life. The game lets users import their collection of personalized Mii avatars and follow them through a series of life events, including marriage, but it doesn't allow for same-sex unions. While the criticisms to this point had come from within the gaming community, LGBT advocacy group GLAAD weighed in on the matter today with a statement provided to GamesBeat.

"In purposefully limiting players' relationship options, Nintendo is not only sending a hurtful message to many of its fans and consumers by excluding them, but also setting itself way behind the times," a GLAAD spokesperson told the site. "It's been over a decade since The Sims--the original 'whimsical and quirky' life simulator--allowed its users to marry any character they wanted, and many other mainstream and massively popular video games have followed their lead since. Nintendo should do the same."

The issue started gaining traction last week, when Nintendo fan Tye Marini launched a social media campaign dubbed #Miiquality to convince Nintendo to allow gay marriage within Tomodachi Life. Nintendo yesterday acknowledged the campaign with a statement provided to the Associated Press, saying, "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."

Nintendo also said the possibility of same-sex marriages wasn't part of the original Japanese version of Tomodachi Life, and that other versions were based on that build of the game. As for the #Miiquality campaign, a Nintendo representative said the company was listening and thinking about the feedback, adding it was an opportunity "to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization."

Related stories

Nintendo getting its mojo back

Weekly Roundup: The house of Mario has been steadily gaining momentum, but will it last?

By James Brightman

Nintendo offering $20,000 for those that find 3DS security flaws

Although how much you'll receive is at Nintendo's discretion

By Christopher Dring

Latest comments (31)

Jim Burns Research Asisstant 2 years ago
The game launched a year ago in Japan, and nobody said anything when it would have been easier to patch.
7Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz2 years ago
I have a feeling cultural differences had a big part to play in this. I don't think Nintendo fully realized/understood how it would be perceived in the West.
7Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd2 years ago
Yeah I'm sorry but the word "intentionally" is incredibly misused here. There was no act of malice involved in the development of this game toward LGBT people. Yes, it would definitely be a good feature to add in the future, but no, it doesn't warrant anything like the amount of attention it's gotten.
23Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (31)
Ben Furneaux Designer, Turbulenz Limited2 years ago
@jim It's not the public's job to police LGBT rights. A forward thinking industry leader should know better and strive to set a better example.
@James I'm not so sure about that. And I think LGBT people of Japan would want to be fairly represented as us in the west.
@Nicholas It doesn't take malice to be exclusionary or marginalise a huge percentage of the population, not to mention Nintendo's fan base.

Sorry to do the 'triple-disagree' combo, but I'm quite frankly shocked by the collective shrug going on here -- this is supposed to be a creative and open industry. We should be calling out this kind of bullshit and setting a better example.

Polygon had a great opinion piece that deconstructed this situation, I suggest you read it.
13Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Justin Shuard J - E translator 2 years ago
Didn't realize including same-sex relationships was some sort of prerequisite to make a video game.
25Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Germán Vázquez Executive Producer, Neggi Studio2 years ago
@Ben While I do undestand your comments I think that you are not taking into consideration the cultural differences of east and west, Japan and US, etc. For example you are assuming that the LGBT people of Japan want to be fairly represented but we have no background as to how the movement works in such a traditional country. I am not saying its right but just like we want to take into consideration how things are changing around the world we have to realize other countries are different and somehow we should be respectful of it and look for a change by being inclusive and not up in arms, what I means is dialogue that will be more beneficial for the cause.
Finally you are refering to Nintendo as a "forward thinking" Industry leader?? I think you can´t be more wrong, cause while Nintendo has shown innovation in their hardware and the like, as a company Nintendo is just as stuborn as my great grandpa was, not wanting anything to change, just look at the cartdrige vs CD fiasco, its online strategy, etc.
Like I said I do not think its right either but take into consideration where it is coming from.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 2 years ago
As for the #Miiquality campaign, a Nintendo representative said the company was listening and thinking about the feedback, adding it was an opportunity "to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization."
I read this as they already acknowledged their mistake and very open for any feedbacks. Is this still not enough? This's not a bullshit, it's just cultural difference and they already learned from their mistakes. Not sure why some people is still so angry about this, tbh.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
The game launched a year ago in Japan, and nobody said anything when it would have been easier to patch.
http://gaygamer.net/2013/05/nintendo-rids-tomodachi-collection-new-life-of-strange-same-sex-relationships/ (May 15th 2013)

And it was patched... To remove the (accidental) ability for men to marry each-other.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th May 2014 7:02am

11Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Does this mean by purposefully limiting the character creation and players' relationship options, Nintendo is sending a hurtful message to people in wheelchairs, deaf people or anybody not living in a single partner relationship
Hmmm... But just because other groups are also excluded, doesn't mean that people don't have a point. People (all sorts or people) bring themselves into games - they're as much wish-fulfillment as comics or Bond movies - so when they see themselves specifically excluded (patched out, as I note above), then it does hurt. Because, once more, they're marginalised.

I would even venture to say that the only reason people in wheelchairs/the deaf, etc. aren't causing this much fuss is because they're barely acknowledged in games as it is, so this is the status-quo for them.
Or does the fact, that you can't assign a religious faith to you Mii mean, that Nintendo is purposefully excluding religious people from their game?
I think you might've stumbled onto the reasoning Nintendo have done this. They chose the most family-friendly path. No awkward questions from children, no anti-Nintendo articles in the Daily Mail, etc. And for those exact same reasons, they wouldn't touch religion/religious faith in a game like this with a barge-pole.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th May 2014 8:11am

6Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
I think there is little more to say aside from what @Nicholas Pantazis just stated. Nintendo is Nintendo and they are quite "old school" in that regard. They are not going to support or take in consideration anything related with this topic but they also will never rise voices against it.

Besides. I can understand why gay people who will buy the game will miss that, but it's not like because of this game you are going to be prosecuted and attacked from now on...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Lee Ryall Online Server Administrator, Ubisoft Singapore2 years ago
Should Nintendo have allowed gay marriage in the first place? Probably, but I can understand why it is not there. (Gay marriage is illegal in Japan where the game was made for after all)

Should they have to rewrite the game because it is not there when they come to do a translation port of the game? Nope.

If someone makes a film and you don't like how it excludes or marginalises someone then you negatively review it, you don't demand that the Director/Producer get everyone together and re-shoot it to your tastes.

If you don't like the way the game "marginalises" gay marriage then negatively review it for that reason. Don't demand a re-write of the game to your tastes.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
It wasn't patched out, it was never in the game,
Buuuuuuut it was in the game, you just said so. :p Perhaps "bug-fixed" is a more technically accurate term, then? But just as offensive, I think. It shows no malice, but also says "Hey, you know your sexual orientation? In this game we think it's a bug!"

(Not trying to be argumentative, btw. It seems we both agree on it being there, and it being removed, just not on the terminology being used.)
So you say, because it is the status-quo not to acknowledge people in wheelchairs or deaf people in games at all, it is OK to not include them
Nooooo. :) I didn't say it was "OK" to not include them. I said that there's no controversy ("lack of fuss") surrounding their lack of inclusion.
Same here, why is it on one side choosing the most family-friendly path and totally understandable, that they decided to not include a religious faith option, while on the other side you say it's not good to not include a same sex marriage option?
I understand their reasoning, but that doesn't mean I agree with it. The article deals with LGBT in TL, not religion, which is why I'm arguing that LGBT should be included. :) But, yes, if you want me to put it into words - why not have religion in TL? There's very few faiths (I think :) ) which would have a problem with it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th May 2014 9:21am

5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Mmmm... True. I did entirely forget the Orthodox/hardline (for want of a better word) faiths. :(

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th May 2014 9:40am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Burns Research Asisstant 2 years ago
I really feel like this situation has been completely overblown. The game launched over a year ago in Japan, sold 5 mil copies, nobody complained, because nobody really should complain, this is not a life sim. It basically makes a joke of life and the people in your mii list. It does not have every conceivable situation covered. Nintendo going back and re developing the game essentially is time and money. I am all for gay rights, but this is not not the game to pick that battle.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Jim Burns on 9th May 2014 1:51pm

14Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
"I think you might've stumbled onto the reasoning Nintendo have done this. They chose the most family-friendly path. No awkward questions from children, no anti-Nintendo articles in the Daily Mail, etc. And for those exact same reasons, they wouldn't touch religion/religious faith in a game like this with a barge-pole."

Off course that's the reason. While EA are perfectly happy to side with LGBT activists and rightly are applauded for it shouldn't it also not be Nintendo's right to "sit on the fence". They've come out and basically said "They aren't making any social commentary" so maybe we should just leave them alone to make their games.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd2 years ago
You couldn't create black characters in Soul Calibur and a shed load of other games. To suggest Nintendo's done something wrong is to suggest the entire world is wrong for not representing other races enough.

How far do we take this? Should it be a requirement for EVERY game to represent EVERY group? If not, which ones should be given priority and why? These are questions we should ask ourselves before making demands because thoughtless tirades are the bane of societies.

And what about short people? we're usually represented as elks or non playing sages with long ears. Or people with glasses, why do characters with glasses always have to be geeks or only for representation of the BEFORE the makeover look?

Really not sure about this one. I'm with Jim Burns.
8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
"They aren't making any social commentary"
Yes they are. They don't want to, but they absolutely are. Someone designed and someone programmed checks in the game to determine which Miis can and cannot marry each other, it was a deliberate decision to exclude same-sex couples and whether or not it happens to be legal in Japan, it is legal in many Western countries but left unchanged during localisation.

Nintendo's 'fantasy land' does not include gay people, and I think it's absolutely appropriate for their potential audience to question and protest that decision. There was similar controversy over Animal Crossing: New Leaf's character creation that has no good option for dark skintones and the questionable old 'Oh, Japan is just kinda racist/homophobic, but that's foreign cultures for you, mustn't question it' excuses were wheeled out then too.

I think it's really quite sad that people are trying to shout down expressions of concern and disappointment when a game comes out in 2014 from one of the biggest publishers on Earth that deliberately excludes something as simple as gay or bisexual people being allowed to fall in love and marry each other. Tomodachi Life is supposed to be fun and silly, yes, but I don't find it especially fun or silly when the identities of my friends are ignored and belittled again and again in supposedly 'family friendly' media - as though gay people are somehow harmful to children, as though gay children and gay parents do not exist at all.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 9th May 2014 3:04pm

14Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Burns Research Asisstant 2 years ago
If Nintendo is guilty of anything, it is lousy PR. Assuming there is a sequel (which I highly doubt now), and they still do not include said option? Then I would say that is absolutely outragious because they did say they were listening and would take the feedback into account. Nintendo over the last 15 years has been extremely progressive in terms of including everyone in gaming, I feel like they are being raked through the coals in an ugly and mean fashion over a single game. I feel like they have earned the right to correct themselves. This game was already done a year ago, they were never going to go back to it. We can only move forward and see what they do.

@Jess Really amazing comment.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jim Burns on 9th May 2014 3:24pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
game comes out in 2014 from one of the biggest publishers on Earth that deliberately excludes something as simple as gay or bisexual people being allowed to fall in love and marry each other.
It does not allow two characters with the same gender to use the relationship aspect of the game play. Nintendo's game did not stop any living people to be in love.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Without running this thread in circles, I think there's a couple of points which haven't been brought up (explicitly, anyways).

1) You can't look at this TL "controversy" without also looking at the past year in LGBT rights. This past year has seen multiple bans on gay marriage struck down in the US courts, and a widening awareness of these issues in the gaming media (helped by Gone Home, as a for-instance, as well as the general political/social climate). This means that some things which don't at least implicitly support equality are going to be attacked. Whether rightly or wrongly, this is going to happen more and more, because gaming is less and less going to be given a free-pass by those outside the industry (and, consequently, those inside it).

2) To those people who say "cultural differences": surely Nintendo, as a global company, should be aware of those cultural differences, and the fact that support for gay marriage/relationships in the US/UK is a very big thing? Would it have eaten into their profit-margins to code in equality? Yes. Should they have done it? Well, considering they must've seen the criticisms when TL was released in Japan last year, I'm going to go with "yes".

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th May 2014 4:45pm

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Christian, are you really comparing a sexual orientation to fetishism? I don't consider an interest in BDSM to be quite on the same level as being gay or bisexual.

I worked on Runescape for a month, as an asset artist churning out weapon racks and tents. I had no involvement in the design of quests and would have been very concerned by a quest that conferred a particular sexuality on a player character if I had known it existed. It's a huge game with many years of content in it and I was involved in very little of it. I'm not condemning the entire Tomodachi Life team, I'm condemning whoever made the decision to exclude same-sex marriage and whoever agreed that was a good idea.
7Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
Yes. Should they have done it? Well, considering they must've seen the criticisms when TL was released in Japan last year, I'm going to go with "yes".
It depends on what percentage of their userbase has complained. If the complainers were not Nintendo customers, it would be logical for them to ignore it - sure, its politically correct to do it, but is it going to result in more customers, and if yes, how many? They run a business first, not a civil rights movement.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 9th May 2014 5:08pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Gabriel Islas Associate Interface Scripter, Electronic Arts2 years ago
I didn't realize a cultural difference would give Nintendo such a bad reputation regarding this. Its not exactly a social issue in Japan, so its a bit much to scrutinize them for it now when its been out in that country for a while.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
I don't think Nintendo was making any kind of statement either way which I believe is their right and shouldn't result in a public shaming and I think the fact that bug existed in the first place indicates this.

If they where do you not think at some point someone would have designed excluding same-sex marriages, programmed it or even tested it?

After it was discovered they simply fixed the bug because as we all know even the slightest change from the designed behaviour can lead to all sorts of unforeseen behaviour.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship2 years ago
Holding other people and companies to some unattainable standard on the myriad complexities of whatever identity politics you favour seems, to me, to be an exercise in futility. Honest oversight is treated as being of malicious intent. Benign ignorance is pilloried, and all are judged on their level of tolerance without even a hint of self-awareness in the irony involved.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 9th May 2014 5:57pm

5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
History shows that as any civil rights movement expands, it's going to want and need representation in as many forms of entertainment as possible and that's always been a case where companies that make entertainment spend a lot of time and money catching up (even if they might know they need to be more forward leaning). But it can be both bad and good if the result is catering to please in a case by case manner as opposed to creating NEW content or adding an update via DLC if possible that's tailored for as wide an audience as possible.

I'd consider this: if Nintendo were to delay the game and have it altered so they can gain (back) some respect from the community and any one else offended (and of course, that will offend more people who don't get it or don't want to see it), will there then be requests to dip into that hefty back catalog and add more representation in older to recent titles? I actually overheard someone suggest this a few days back and I had to wonder when that shoe would drop.

Eh, who knows? Maybe Nintendo will end up as a backwards and sideways-walking crab pioneer when all is said and done... we shall see.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
I think what folks miss when trying to understand why people get upset about being excluded in various media is that it's normal. Being gay is normal. Being trans is normal. Being female or black or middle eastern or chinese, japanese, korean etc... is normal.

The problem for those affected by it is that they are seen as some special interest that has to be "tacked on" and "catered to" instead of just being depicted as part of normality. Sure, it may be a numerically smaller part in some cases, but when we think about it as something we have to choose to add in or not, we're mentally airbrushing it out of our normality.
10Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tanya Rei Myoko Programmer 2 years ago
@Nicholas its not misused. They had to go out of their way TWICE to block gay marriage (the second time cause their first attempt failed) The game would have supported it, but they deliberately blocked it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tanya Rei Myoko on 9th May 2014 9:01pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
"In purposefully limiting players' relationship options, Nintendo is not only sending a hurtful message to many of its fans and consumers by excluding them, but also setting itself way behind the times,"
That last part pretty much says it all. While I don't think that Nintendo were intentionally trying to hurt anyone by way of exclusion, they have once again proven that they are way behind the times in regards to their thinking. Coincidentally this is also how most people feel about their online gaming strategy and friend codes(among other things).
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tomas Roller Bohemia Interactive, 2K Czech2 years ago
While being pro-gay rights, I don't agree with a dictate of what type of characters or interaction an author needs to put in a game. Nintendo doesn't owe anyone anything.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tomas Roller on 10th May 2014 7:06pm

4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Payton Liu Production Support Analyst, IBM China2 years ago
I see there is too few comments from Asian here, to be more specifically, East Asian.

As some of you already pointed out, I can tell you that it has everything to do with cultural difference. Especially for Nintendo, who holds Japanese values deeply.
It's illegal for LG(B)T people to marry in China, Japan and South Korea. B types people can still get married legally if he or she marries the opposite sex person.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage
(You probably will be jailed or get shot for marrying same sex person in North Korea, but evidences are hard to come by for this country.)

Surely, there are LGBT people in all these East Asia countries. However, they can't voice out. It's considered a taboo subject in China, and general public perceive these people mentally illed. No media will openly address LGBT matters in China, nor broadcast news about them. Even movie/TV celebrities in Hong Kong chose to hide their "unusual" sexual attitude mostly, and it's just getting better lately since public are educated to accept the concept of LGBT.

For Nintendo, it's a PR disaster. When I first read the news, I was not shock by Nintendo's stance on LGBT matters, but I WAS shocked by their AP press comments. Those words literally translated to 'We do not like LGBT people, stay away from our games'. They should really change their mindset as an international corporate, not just a locale Japanese company.

For believe deemed OK in Japan or in any other East Asia countries, it could be a bad idea to make it as a policy on a global scale.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Payton Liu on 11th May 2014 3:14am

8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.