Nintendo recently announced that it will not allow same-sex marriage or the use of gay characters in its popular game, Tomodachi Life, after a glitch in the original Japanese version allowed users to re-gender characters to simulate same-sex relationships. The gaming company quickly patched the bug, sparking a wave of flames.
Several online campaigns urged the company to incorporate same-sex marriage into the game. One such campaign is Miiquality; launched by Tye Marini, a gay 23-year-old Nintendo enthusiast from Arizona.
Marini, who is currently planning his own real-life gay marriage, told the Associated Press, "I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé's Mii, but I can't do that." As a result, he's missed out on exclusive game content.
Nintendo made the statement that they "never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life."
The real-life simulation game, available on the Nintendo 3DS, lets Mii avatars act out normal situations—from going to theme parks to getting married—and allows for personalization through adding voices and personalities.
"The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation," Nintendo said in the statement. "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 ability to be able to express one's identity in a safe and comfortable environment, whether among peers or behind a computer screen, has defined the gay-rights movement, and same-sex marriage is intertwined with that. Several other major companies have allowed users full expression of their self-identity, such as Facebook's gender-neutral profile options. A game that mimics the real world should allow just that.
Controversy over not allowing same-sex marriage in the game can be rooted from the localization of the game itself and the cultural divide it provides -- which is currently only available in Japan where gay marriage is not legal.
Several American-made roleplaying games, such as those in The Sims and The Elder Scrolls series, allow for same-sex marriage. Other games, such as The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto IV, include gay characters.
If Nintendo allowed same-sex marriage in the game, even if it resulted in a backlash among anti-gay activists, that would only help the game gain more exposure and wouldn't prevent the company from making a sizable profit.
"We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses," Nintendo told the Associated Press in light of the #Miiquality campaign.
Nintendo released a formal apology on Friday, saying, "We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life." The company went on to say that while "it is not possible for us to change this game's design," they do pledge that if they create another installment in the series, they will "strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players."
Popular in Japan—having sold 1.83 million copies, according to the Associated Press—Tomodachi Life will be available in North America and Europe on June 6.
What is your take on same-sex marriage in video games? Let us know in the comment section below. Don't forget to tag #Miiquality on Twitter.