Saturday, June 07, 2014


This Whole Gay Tomodachi Thing

If you have been among certain circles recently, you've probably noticed a lot of buzz about this new Tomodachi game, Nintendo's decision to exclude same-sex romance options, and some of the related public relations fallout.

There is a lot to unpack here.  Let's start with how I, personally, relate to this single, very particular game.

Tomodachi and Me

Frankly, I'm used to not being represented in games like this.

From Harvest Moon to Whatever Else, I just sort of gravitate toward playing a straight character.  It's just my expectation; hetero is the norm in real life, so I figure that's the way it'll be in video games.  It's gotten to the point where, even when I've made games just for myself, things that I never plan on sharing with anyone else, I've set them up to be heteronormative.  It's just something that I take in stride.  After all, there are lots of things that I do in video games that I wouldn't or couldn't do in reality -- fight monsters, explore ruins, whatever.  I just sort of see it as part of the role I'm playing.

But that's not to say that I don't appreciate the option when I have it.  There's a shitty little DSiWare "life sim" called Miami Nights which is an utter disappointment in every way, but I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that I could hit on the hot guys every bit as much as on the girls.  I've been gay in every Choice of Game that has a romantic subplot.

So when I heard that same-sex relationships wouldn't be possible in Tomodachi Life, I just sort of shrugged.  And when I heard that people were speaking out to try and get the feature added, I was like yeah, I could go for that.  And when Nintendo promised that they'd bring the feature to future installments in the series, I thought yeah, fair enough.

It's not a deal-breaker to me.  If it was an option, sure, I would have turned my island into a huge gay party.  But as it is, eh.

This feeling has only grown stronger for me now that I have the game and I'm spending a little time with it.  Nintendo was right -- this really isn't a very strict life simulation.  The player ultimately has very little control over any of the characters in the game, including his or her digital "self".  It's more like a Tamagotchi -- you feed them and give them toys, and then you just sit back and watch them go about their business.  I don't feel connected with the little "me" in the game.  It's just a box of people who do silly things.  To the extent that relationships in the game matter -- a few minor locations open up when your Miis start falling in love -- I'm content to pursue them with the fictional hetero characters that I've populated my game with.

My problem isn't the game.  It's everyone else.

People is Dicks

For the most part, I have been willing to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt about the whole issue.  Like I said, it's such a marginal part of the game.  But then they have to stick their foot in it:

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 argument that immediately springs to mind is that a decision not to include same-sex relationships is a form of social commentary.  But... okay, read it again, and you can kind of see that their intention was more along the lines of "We didn't do this with the intention of saying we hate the gays."  And they did come along with a much nicer apology shortly afterward.

Well, then you get a Joystiq review of the game, where the author mentions that the lack of same-sex options is limiting.  Of course, this triggers a huge argument in the comments section:

"a lack of gay hurt the game? I've just about lost all hope in human logic now..."

"well it kind of comical that 20 years ago the majority believed that it was morally reprehensible and now all of a sudden because journalists, TV, etc. says "oh no, your a bigot if you don't accept" "teach your children it's OK". Well I don't think so, what was wrong 20 years ago is still wrong no matter how you spin it. I for one would never teach kids that it's OK, because it's not."

"yeah guess your right...forgot Hollyweird in general. BTW, not that I'm overly religious...but what is the Catholic Churches view on Homosexuality? Oh, & what were some of the causes of the fall if the Roman Empire? Overextension, decline in moral values?"

Hahahahaha, okay.  My fault, never read the comments, right?

Ah well.  At the very least, there's still an option in the game for me to take a picture of myself with my bear-crush walking hand in hand on a sunset beach.  But... maybe I should have known better than to post it on Miiverse?

"what is this...act of injustice?"

Act of injustice?  Really?


You know what I would like better than having a same-sex dating option in a video game?  Is if people could just stop being dicks.

I'm tired of hearing about the idea of equality -- whether it's gender equality, nationality equality, race equality, ability equality, orientation equality, WHATEVER -- treated like it's just another social issue with two sides that each have perfectly valid arguments, and gosh, isn't it difficult to decide which one's right.

The game is fine, but the discussion surrounding it has shone a white hot light on just what a huge sack of dicks everyone is.  We can't even talk about a fucking video game without blaming the gays for the fall of Rome.

Yes, this is just one debacle over just one game, but it's not an issue that's going to go away.  As we move toward the future, I think we're going to see people putting a piece of themselves into their games more than ever before -- either themselves, or who they want to be.  And game designers are going to have to get used to the idea.  Now's as good a time as any to get on the right side of history.


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