Nintendo’s new life simulator game, Tomodachi Life, will soon hit U.S. shores, but despite a gameplay built around building a family, the game will not allow same-sex couples. The Sims-esque game uses the “Mii” personas from the Wii system, where they experience events, establish relationships, and live out their own (quirky) virtual lives.
Even though the game doesn’t arrive in Europe and North American until June, there has already been significant backlash that Nintendo will not allow Miis to have same-sex romantic connections. Gay gamer Tye Marini launched the #Miiquality campaign to raise awareness about the game’s exclusions. In a video introducing the campaign, Marini explained that he’s not calling for a boycott, but for a surge of visibility to encourage Nintendo to rethink the game’s forced invisibility of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community.
Nintendo responded to the controversy this week, claiming that it was trying to avoid “social commentary”:
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 game has been marketed with slogans such as, “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” For gamers like Marini, however, this simply isn’t true. As he explains in the video, he wants to marry his real-life fiance’s Mii in-game, but the only way they could play the game together in such a way is for one of them to change the gender of their character. And for the genre, Tomodachi Life is the exception; other games like The Sims have already allowed same-sex relationships.
Nintendo’s controversy reflects the ongoing problem of diversity in video games. As BioWare Montreal designer Manveer Heir implored earlier this year, game designers need to consider both the diversity of their gaming audience and the diversity they create with their games. The accessibility created by technology like smartphones has opened video gaming to a much wider audience, which means the exclusion of women, people of color, and LGBT people in games has become significantly more problematic to the marketing of gaming than ever before.
Watch Tye Marini explain how he’s the perfect example of an eager gamer whose experience is hindered when games like Tomodachi Life reject the existence of his identity: