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COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
#Miiquality, Nintendo

COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

It hasn't been a great week for Nintendo. We were singing their praises from the rooftops only seven days ago, but now a truly depressing financial report has turned smiles into bile. Then, to top it all off, they find themselves under fire for not including same-sex relationships in upcoming 3DS game Tomodachi Life. Not content with public outcry, NoA decided to transform discontent into disaster with an utterly horrendous public statement. Some pundits and gamers have now even accused The Big N of being bigoted and prejudiced as a result.

But here's the thing. Nintendo aren't homophobic. They're just terrified.

Nintendo are terrified of absolutely everything, to be clear. They're scared of sex. They're petrified by graphic violence. They can't stomach the idea of sexuality or even romance of any sort - remember, this is a company who'll cut away from a heterosexual peck on the cheek because it's a bit racy. More than anything, though, Nintendo are scared of scandal.

And in this specific case, they're frightened half to death by a single nightmare headline...

COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

"Nintendo Turned My Child Gay"

Cont. Page 4

See, folks, that's where the real prejudice is. It's in the political propaganda machines disguised as American news networks. It's in the pages of godawful rags and the hack writers who fan the flames under their readers' fears. Remember, this is the same "mainstream media" who dragged Mass Effect over the coals for having the nerve to show a blue lady in a bikini for a split-second, and recently linked Dark Souls with a horrible knife attack - and they're who the majority of Nintendo's enormous dormant casual fanbase pays attention to.

Now imagine what they'd do to a game that exposes our poor innocent kids to... shock horror!... all that nasty gayness. It'd be a miserable, biased, one-sided bloodbath.

COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

Of course, we all know that Tomodachi Life should allow for same-sex relationships. Guys fancy girls, girls fancy guys, guys fancy guys and girls fancy girls.  This all happens, it's all a natural part of life that should obviously be reflected in a life simulator. Plus, regardless of your sexual orientation, it'd just make for really fun emergent gameplay. Us gaming press would rightly praise Nintendo for promoting inclusivity were they to pull the trigger.

But they won't. They can't. Like a cowardly old toymaker in a world they don't understand, all they want to do is create their wares without ruffling any feathers.

Geppetto, perhaps, terrified that FOX News and the Daily Mail will kick Pinocchio to death in front of his potential customers as soon as he walks out the door.

COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

And the #Miiquality movement knows that.  "I believe this is a significant issue that should be resolved or at least acknowledged by Nintendo, so I started a movement in hopes to convince Nintendo to add same-sex relationships to Tomodachi Life via an update, or at least ensure that it is included in a future sequel—the Miiquality movement," wrote #Miiquality founder Tye Marini. Just a little 'acknowledgement' is all everybody wants, and a promise that they'll try to be as inclusive in future.

All Ninty needed to do was admit that it was an oversight that the Japanese developers didn't appreciate and was too difficult to implement for the Western release -- but that they were receptive to the issue, grateful for the advice and taking feedback seriously for future sequels. Just the gesture, a few well-placed words, would have sufficed.

After all, Nintendo moves slower than any other software company and everybody appreciates that. Geppetto doesn't leave the workshop very often. It's scary outside!

COMMENT | Nintendo Aren't Bigots, They're Just Cowards

Sadly, as we all know, cowards do stupid things when they're scared. Like rabbits in headlights, Nintendo Of America decided to unilaterally ruin everything with their Earth-shatteringly, head-deskingly, face-palmingly atrocious press statement. I'm not going to retread old ground -- Matt has painstakingly explained why it was embarrassing, pathetic and insulting to pretty much everyone involved -- but suffice to say that they've made a mountain out of what probably should have been a molehill. We seriously need more diversity in games, both in terms of characters, protagonists and relationships, but asking a company like Nintendo to take the initiative on that front is... well...

... actually it's fair enough. Companies ought to be able to stand up for themselves, and at the very least, NoA deserves a lot of stick for their gaffe.

But you should pick your battles and remember that Nintendo will only be coaxed out of the workshop when they feel safe to emerge. Making noise is definitely appropriate here, it really can help to push gaming forward and inspire genuine change, so keep pushing, but making an example might not be the smart play here nor help anyone much at all. Cowards? Yes. Out of touch? Definitely. But bigots they ain't.

Add a comment14 comments
Late  May. 9, 2014 at 15:33

I don't for an instant believe that it never occurred to them. That not one person on the development team noticed that you can only have a relationship with the opposite sex.
Any "we're trying to avoid controversy" argument has no merit, when any sane person can see that strict governance over sexuality will cause more controversy than would giving customers the option.
And it's not like they're being controversial or ground breaking if they include that option. (And we are talking about an option - not a requirement.) You don't see people complaining about Sims or Skyrim for allowing gay relationships. (I'm sure there's some folk that complained, but nowhere near the complaints there'd be if homosexuality were outlawed in the games.)

Hell, it's possible (or likely? - I don't know much about computer programming) that they actually had to put in more work to keep things heterosexual than if they'd allowed same-sex relationships. After all, I imagine favourable interactions between characters increase an "affection/like" attribute - and they've presumably had to create two distinct branching sets of code to ensure things don't get too distasteful for their warped sensibilities.

No, I'm going to disagree with the article and say they've knowingly and deliberately gone out of their way to exclude same-sex relationships. They're bigots, plain and simple.



Edit - added the "I'm sure there's some folk that complained..." bit.

Last edited by Late, May. 9, 2014 at 15:43
JonLester  May. 9, 2014 at 16:04

That's a very compelling rebuttal, Late, and I'm not going to try to pick holes in it. Your opinion is every bit as valid as the one I presented above. Plus, as I said, Tomodachi life should include same-sex relationships - that's a no-brainer.

What I would say, though, is perhaps there's difference between not including the option and deliberately not including it out of malice or prejudice. They've shown themselves to be incredibly out of touch with Western audiences and depressingly timid, but genuinely bigoted? I'm not so sure.

Edit: added an extra "depressingly," because I love my adjectives.

Last edited by JonLester, May. 9, 2014 at 16:07
soulleech  May. 9, 2014 at 16:37

I don't see the fuss in all this, if I'm honest.

So they haven't included same-sex marriage. Does this really make them cowards or bigots? I can't even begin to list the amount of games that don't feature same-sex marriages.

Considering gay marriage legal in barely 16 countries (which don't include Japan) is really so outrageous that a Japanese company would port a Japanese game worldwide and not bother to change one feature in order to cater for only 16 countries?

I completely agree that same-sex marriages should be as accessible as straight marriages in-game, but I'm not about to start a blood-feud with Nintendo over one Japanese game that doesn't cater to our every wish.

Lemming  May. 9, 2014 at 16:52

I really don't think Nintendo are bigoted, I just believe they are unbelievably outdated and old fashioned. If anything their success with the Wii reenforced this as they ended up believing that they had no need to adopt a new approach for a modern gamer, just stick out a new console with a fancy gimmick and the same old Mario etc that every other console had.

Sony and Microsoft have worked hard to engage both young and older gamers. They know the customers who early adopt their new consoles aren't 8 year old kids but 20-40 something workers and teenagers who will spend that kind of money to play games.

To me Nintendo haven't done this, they keep this "child friendly" image where everything is all colorful and happy because they still think this is what their customers want. So when it comes to things like this they have no idea how to approach sexual issues.

As you say they are terrified of alienating what they see as their "core" audience and getting backlash against their brand. The irony is that most of this audience probably don't care so much about this, however a huge population of angry twitter users is a different matter entirely.. Issues like this cause uproar from all quarters, even people who barely even know your brand or would consider being a customer now see you as some evil company suppressing civil liberties.

If they had included same sex relationships no one would really have given a crap and this would be a none story. Instead they continue to shoot themselves in the foot and show how out of touch they are with current culture as well as modern gamers.

For me as a (horror) middle aged gamer, Nintendo has really lost all relevance now. It's only that they lucked out with two excellent concepts (the Wii and 3DS) that they are even still ticking as far as I'm concerned. Either they have to change their corporate identity as a whole and embrace more mature content and ideas or they need to pack up their bags.

I recall a Sony exec (Yoshida was it?) who made a quote about them not being a competitor to PlayStation but instead being a way to introduce children to gaming so they could grow up to be Sony gamers.. To me that defines their position now and is exactly the reason they can't cope with these sort of issues. If they continue to avoid all things sex and violence then their future console are doomed to gathering dust in the primary school cupboards.

Last edited by Lemming, May. 9, 2014 at 16:56
Zeipher  May. 9, 2014 at 18:04

Remember, the Binding of Isaac was rejected by Nintendo because it had religious elements.

My game was rejected because I missed a part of the digital manual out.

Does anyone here read those?

Grrrr....

MattGardner  May. 9, 2014 at 23:36

UPDATE: Nintendo UK released a statement to us this evening as follows...

"We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players."

Still fairly wishy-washy and vague, but it's a start.

Last edited by MattGardner, May. 9, 2014 at 23:37
Zeipher  May. 10, 2014 at 00:38

Poor programming then, surely! They have to have a line of code that differentiates between male and female, and must have something that checks whether or not the two are opposite. A simple tweak to this should be easy to do in patches.

In fact... I doubt there's anything you CAN'T fix in a patch. It just depends on whether or not you want to put in the effort. If this is as small a change as I imagine, it should just take a couple of days. I think it's more of a refusal to, rather than possibility.

Anarchist  May. 10, 2014 at 02:29

If I have to be honest, I think Soulleech hit the nail on the head.

Same sex marriage is still a VERY western thing. There are far more countries, more people, more religions, that completely forbid it than allow it, and many to the point of pretty much issuing the death penalty.

For them to put same sex marriages into the game, they would have to have made two completely different games.

I believe commercially, they made the correct decision. The inclusion of same sex marriages would have had their game banned in probably half the world, potentially including Japan. As it stands, there are just a few people crying about equality.

Sorry guys, while I agree with the sentiment, I can't agree that this is a valid point.

stalepie  May. 10, 2014 at 02:50

I don't want them to encourage or support same-sex relations in their games. People should want children of their own, to extend their family and have a son or daughter that is their own flesh and blood. I know this is just a game, so it doesn't matter very much there. But it just speaks to a larger societal acceptance of homosexuality that I really don't agree with.

it's disheartening to me that so many have accepted this as normal and good. The beauty of life is that you have extended families where everyone is related to each other. It means something. A grandmother or grandfather has a grandchild and it's still their DNA. They see that their line continues on.

imdurc  May. 10, 2014 at 02:59

If I have to be honest, I think Soulleech hit the nail on the head.

Same sex marriage is still a VERY western thing. There are far more countries, more people, more religions, that completely forbid it than allow it, and many to the point of pretty much issuing the death penalty.

For them to put same sex marriages into the game, they would have to have made two completely different games.

I believe commercially, they made the correct decision. The inclusion of same sex marriages would have had their game banned in probably half the world, potentially including Japan. As it stands, there are just a few people crying about equality.

Sorry guys, while I agree with the sentiment, I can't agree that this is a valid point.


Yeah, ditto.

Zeipher  May. 10, 2014 at 14:50

I don't want them to encourage or support same-sex relations in their games. People should want children of their own, to extend their family and have a son or daughter that is their own flesh and blood. I know this is just a game, so it doesn't matter very much there. But it just speaks to a larger societal acceptance of homosexuality that I really don't agree with.

it's disheartening to me that so many have accepted this as normal and good. The beauty of life is that you have extended families where everyone is related to each other. It means something. A grandmother or grandfather has a grandchild and it's still their DNA. They see that their line continues on.


Religious or homophobic? I on the other hand, feel that people should be able to do what ever they want to do. Are you against The Sims because they allow gay marriage?

One person said "I should be able to marry my real life fiancée in a game that allows marriage."

The beauty of life is freedom. Not to procreate. We're living in a world where women are to be treated as equals, and people are free to love and marry whomever they wish. To think otherwise is old fashioned, un-evolved, but sadly, not necessarily wrong.

Anarchist  May. 10, 2014 at 15:15

Hold on, hold on. We're dangerously close to turning this into a debate about things that actually matter.

Can we bring it back onto track and continue the Ninty bashing please.

This isn't about whether we're all GAY-OK! It's about whether Ninty made a commercially good or bad decision. They didn't say 'we're not allowing those bean queens and marmite miners to get married because this world should be free of their dirty shenanigans'. They are just aware that just as many (if not more) people in a global audience WILL be offended by allowing it, than if they don't.

There are far more people living in this world than those in the USA and Western Europe. And even then, I would guess just as many people in those areas are against it than for (whether they admit it or not). We need to remember that, and not assume the rest of the world has to pander to us.

And just for the record, I don't really care one way or the other about the gays, they can do what they want, its no concern of mine, and its no concern of anybody elses. Unless they fancy a bit of Bum Buccaneering that is.

Last edited by Anarchist, May. 10, 2014 at 15:16
MacDonagh  May. 11, 2014 at 09:08

You're asking Nintendo, a company which primarily aims for a younger audience to shoehorn in something that was never supposed to be in the game? Why this particular game? Tomodachi is clearly a silly little game that shouldn't warrant this outrage and it's frankly reprehensible to claim that Nintendo are cowards for implementing something that wasn't in the game.

Here's the thing. What if a child were to create a Mii and it asks what sexuality they are? Is that morally correct to force a question on someone who hasn't enough experience to know or figure out whether or not they are gay or straight? It's actually rather disgusting to push an issue over a game that is rated for everyone and is clearly meant for a younger audience.

Here's another thought. Harvest Moon: DS Cute had same-sex marriage in the form of the "best-buddy system" but the North American version had to get edited over concerns over the age rating being raised.

Take the example of Vivian from Super Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for instance. In the Japanese version, Vivian is depicted as a male who identifies in being female but when the game made the crossover to North America; all remarks, quips or jokes about Vivian's gender were removed completely with the plausible reason that it would bring unnecessary controversy to a game and would've adversely affected the sales of their game.

If you want something to be angry at; be angry at the rating boards and/or the massive homophobia that is present in western society. It just seems that you're dumping on Nintendo because it's the "in" thing. It's not their job to tackle "mature" themes, as it's more on the onus of 3rd parties to actually write good stories, good characters and most of the time; they are completely incompetent to write at all.

Last edited by MacDonagh, May. 11, 2014 at 09:09
Ilium  May. 11, 2014 at 14:02

I think you could implement this without breaking the experience to ask "are you gay or straight?".

The association of same-sex relationships with "disgusting" issues and "mature" themes is exactly what Nintendo have done. There was a chance here for relationships of all kinds to be treated as whimsical, playful, and fun. That's a great message...or at least it would have been. There's no forced question there. No fuss, no furore, just the option.

It's no-one's "job" to stand up for equality and being afraid of homophobic backlash is a poor reason for not doing something.

You're right about anger directed elsewhere, though. Nintendo can't fix society's ills with a single game. But they had a chance to do something positive and inclusive here. And they botched it.

It's disappointing but not surprising. Nintendo are behind when it comes to tech, when it comes to features, when it comes to online, when it comes to communication. It figures that they're behind when it comes to this too.

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