Monday, May 19, 2014

On why I'm still planning to buy Tomodachi Life

Given all the bitching I've done on Twitter in regard to the lack of gay relationships in Nintendo's upcoming Tomodachi Life, I can't blame anyone for assuming I've decided to "boycott" the game when it hits North American store shelves (as well as the 3DS' eShop) on June 6.

I haven't.

Have I considered it? You bet--especially after reading Nintendo of America's awkward-at-best-insulting-at-worst PR response to the situation that was published in this recent article. (Thankfully, the company later apologized, at least somewhat, for those rather tone-deaf comments.)

The fact is, though, that I really want to play this game. I've wanted to play it ever since I heard someone describe its Japan-only predecessor, Tomodachi Collection, as "Animal Crossing with Miis." (Which isn't the most accurate summation of the game, I have to say, but let's save that discussion for another post, shall we?)

And then there's the fact that, surprising as it may sound, I kind of see where Nintendo of America is coming from with Tomodachi Life's unfortunately gay-free localization.

After all, the game was made in Japan, where "gay rights" and the LGBT community are far less visible and are far less a part of the cultural conversation, if you will, than they are in, say, North America or Europe at the moment and, as such, likely were far less of a consideration for the folks who developed Tomodachi Collection than they would've been had the game been made by a Western team.

Speaking of which, I have to imagine Nintendo's American and European arms probably were stuck between a rock and a hard place once they were tasked with localizing this game. Specifically, I have a feeling the brass at Nintendo of America may have pressed their cohorts at Nintendo of Japan to rejigger the game so it would allow for same-sex relationships, only to be rebuffed. That's just a guess on my part, of course, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's in line with what actually happened given the latter's rather odd way of handling "gay content" in past games.

All that said, I'm still disappointed that Tomodachi Life won't allow for same-sex relationships and I'm still a bit irked by how Nintendo of America's press team handled the controversy surrounding this situation (early on, especially), bit I'm also still picking up a copy of the game once one finally is available.

Now, should the "workaround" that supposedly tricks the game into allowing same-sex relationships (make a female Mii that looks like a guy, give it a guy's name and, bam, you have a gay guy--and I'm assuming doing the opposite will make a lesbian) not actually work or should its insistence on attempting to hook up my male Mii with female Miis piss me off or depress me or anything of the sort, I can guarantee you I'll be selling my copy faster than you can say "Tomodachi!"

How about all of you? What are your current thoughts on and opinions of this game, or the (rapidly cooling) controversy that surrounds it? Also, are you planning to buy it or ignore it upon its release?

See also: Gamasutra Blog Director Christian Nutt's well-worth-reading thoughts on this issue


Zaphod65 said...

I will probably buy it and leave some angry feedback on the Club Nintendo survey about the lack of a gay option with hopes they make good on their promise to add it next time.

My compromise for the game is that I will not be playing it as myself because I don't want my Mii courting a woman. I have a friend who hates celebrity chef Guy Fieri, so instead I will use Fieri's Mii and send my friend screenshots of his crazy adventures to see how long it takes to make him snap.

I never said I'd use my powers for good. said...

Oh, yes, I'm going to let NOA know about my dissatisfaction, too. Actually, I already have done that on a number of occasions, but I'm going to continue doing it moving forward, just to make sure they get the picture :)

As for your idea, well, it certainly sounds like it'll be fun! I'm sorry you'll have to look at a Guy Fieri Mii for so long, though. Ugh!

Zaphod65 said...

I'm acclimating myself to the Guy Fieri Mii by playing Mario Golf. He shows up in the background as a cheering crowdmember every so often. It dulls the shock of seeing him.

Bruce Aguilar said...

I'd definitely prefer to play this game with gay marriage a part of it, but it's not going to stop me from buying (and therefore supporting) the game.

I kind of liken it to millions of females and non-white people having to play most all games as male critters (bunnies, hedgehogs, etc.) or white dudes. Many haven't liked it, some haven't been bothered and there has been some slow progress in representing females and other races. Their fight has been going on for a few decades already. So can gay representation in games really expect to move any faster? It's sad that when inequality is discovered it can't (or won't) always be quickly remedied.

I'm glad pressure was applied to Nintendo and they know that gay representation is something they need to be aware about in certain kinds of games. But I do fear that the ruckus has probably scared them from releasing a new Tomodachi game in US and UK for a very long time, if ever again. So another reason to buy is to experience this (most likely) one off crazy experience.

One thing I really question though is why marriage (in any form) is an integral part of the game to begin with. Maybe that's something that will be answered once I've played the game for a bit. Personally, I'm hoping I can play as my custom made Captain Jen Luc Picard. Hmm, maybe I'll play as Captain Kathryn Janeway instead. said...

Hey there, Bruce -- thanks for the great, thoughtful comment.

I agree with what you say about women and minorities having to play as white guys, for the most part, since video games began being made and how that situation's slowly but surely being improved upon -- and how gay gamers likely are going to have to put up with the same snail pace of change for some time to come, too.

As for your comment about the controversy surrounding Tomodachi Life scaring Nintendo from releasing any more of these games outside of Japan, I certainly hope that isn't the case. If it is, though, it says far more about Nintendo than it does about the LGBT community, IMO.

After all, all Nintendo would have to do to keep such controversy from surrounding a Tomodachi Life sequel would be to allow for same-sex relationships -- something they should be able to do quite easily this time around. So, to me, any hesitance on the company's part to release any future sequels to this game in the West would signal to me that Nintendo isn't interested in addressing the concerns LGBT and LGBT-friendly gamers have put forth so far, which I'm hoping beyond hope won't be the case.

BTW, I also question why getting married and having a baby has to be such a big part of this game. Like you said, though, maybe/hopefully that'll be made more clear once we've finally spent some time with it.

Matt S said...

There is no way I will be buying this game, or publishing any further articles or reviews of it on DDNet.

I do think the reason this industry is so slow to change is because publishers and developers do crappy things, and then people complain... And buy or cover the game (giving it free advertising) anyway. It sends the message that people do not care that much about the issue.

I care that Nintendo is being regressive, and I won't stand for it. Just like Far Cry 4's poster immediately disqualified it from ever getting coverage on my site, I'm not tolerating developers or publishers being obnoxious any longer.

Zaphod65 said...

Nintendo is sending out early demo codes to people who've registered Animal Crossing New Leaf with Club Nintendo. Maybe some of us will luck out. I'll be checking my e-mail regularly. *fingers crossed*

Franggio Hogland said...

hmm, while I see where you're coming from and I agree to a certain extent that if we want another iteration of the game we will need to buy the current to "show" Nintendo that there is a market for these games.

I don't really agree with that reasoning but publishers have come to think so when their games haven't lived up to their sales potential and ignored why it didn't, problems like this can be one of the reasons, instead of curating the sequel even further and releasing an improved game many more might feel like buying.

Anyway, no sorry. This is it for me and Nintendo for a while. Will try and explain why as well.

If you remember the writer Casey Malone on pastemagazine? The writer who pointed out the omission of people of color in the Mario world? I chuckled way to much that it took someone 30 years to figure that out. Also when Animal Crossing launched last year and the only choice to stay my own color was to import my Mii mask and run around in Black face? Sure I could live with it. What I couldn't live with it one of the younger nieces asking me why she couldn't be herself in Animal Crossing when her friends could(btw we're Black, White and Asian in my family, Unicef is all over the place :)) and I had to try and explain it to her, badly. In the end she went back to the game since she finds it really adorable but I'll never forget the look she gave me.

And now recently Sakurai posted that you could be the female villager as well in Smash, I'm suddenly really excited again just to be taken back to the real world and wonder(sent an email to Nintendo Bergslagen) if they'll at least allow a basic skin change for the villager. I asked around and I was reminded by another internet denizen that in a "Iwata asks" that he had to remind the people that there actually existed people of different colors in the world.

I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry.

And most recently, the first response to #Miiquality. I can't really deal with it all atm. I played games in my youth mostly to escape these things that messed with me in the "real world". The world changed, slowly and still is, games became inclusive. There where characters I could really relate to. I could even import a romanticized image of myself or just create/chose avatars that where really out there. I could be anyone but not black in my favorite Nintendo games.

Of Course there are exceptions, a simple setting of skin tone in Pokemon X/Y but the mother stayed caucasian meaning interracial. But then Fire Emblem Awakening, the kids come in default Caucasian color so I don't see it other than a tan :/

Yeah no, I'm beat up and tired. I deal with this crap on a daily basis I don't see why I should deal with it when I'm trying to escape from it. So yeah I'm sorry but I can't.

Ps. If you remember you asked I should tell you what I thought of "Demon Gaze"? Well I'm still working through it but it's a very mixed feeling I get from it so far. Will respond as soon as I'm done.

TheGameroomBlitz said...

I feel somewhat relieved that I don't have any interest in this particular kind of game. Animal Crossing wasn't my bag and this seems even less suited to my tastes.

I think Nintendo of America's reaction to Miiquality was more reasonable than Nintendo of Japan's ("we don't really see this as a problem" I believe is how they put it), but as was mentioned before, Japan doesn't really have a great attitude about homosexuality. A lot of the beefs Americans have with the lack of diversity in Nintendo's games stem from the fact that Japan is relatively homogeneous. The whole "melting pot" culture we have here doesn't apply over there, and Japan is fiercely defensive of its own culture and stubbornly resistant to change. Japan's gay community seems to have pretty much given up on being recognized and respected by the rest of the country.

I don't think a game like Super Mario Bros. absolutely demands racial diversity, but it would be interesting if someone squeezed in a new member of the cast who differed from the usual cast of Italian plumbers and blond princesses. The flagship series has been stuck in a comfort zone for so long that I don't see it happening there, but maybe one of the RPGs? said...

That sounds like an awful lot of Guy Fieri to me, Terry. Are you sure you aren't some sort of closet fan of his? said...

I can't argue with the decision you've made, Matt. In fact, I applaud it--although I do think this is a situation where everyone kind of needs to come to their own decision as to how they're going to respond to this controversy, how they're going to react to the game, etc.

For me, I feel like I've made it clear enough--on Twitter, especially--to the folks at Nintendo of America that I think it's shitty that they decided against altering the game in this for its NA release. I've also made it pretty clear that I think they reacted to the initial controversy in a completely terrible way.

Has all of that made me consider not buying this game? Yes, of course. The thing that eventually got me to go ahead with my purchase (or pre-order, I guess) was the idea that I really should play through it in its current, "non-gay" form to see how I actually feel about it. I can totally understand you not wanting to do the same, of course, but that's the path I want to take at the moment.

By the way, I'm not planning to ramble on about this game once I've finally obtained it, but I will publish some posts that hopefully will detail how it's making me as a gay man feel in the early goings. Who knows, maybe that'll bring about some more discussion related to this topic, and maybe it'll continue to keep people talking about the importance of any possible sequel allow gay relationships, etc. said...

Yes, I saw this. Strange that it isn't being offered to everyone, though. I'm guessing they're hoping to create a bit of word-of-mouth buzz? said...

Hello, Franggio, and thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

One thing I want to point out right from the start is that I am *not* buying this game to show support for it or to show Nintendo that there will be enough interest in a potential sequel. I know a lot of people feel that way about this and other situations, but I do not.

For me, I'm buying it simply because I want to experience itself, in person, before I fully pass judgment on it. (And please don't take this as me saying/feeling others should do the same. I don't think that at all. Rather, it's just something I personally feel I have to do to work through my feelings about this game and about Nintendo in general, actually).

I actually think it's sad/terrible that people feel the need to buy a game like this just to get a company to believe they should release a more inclusive follow-up/sequel. To me, if that's the only reason you're buying it ... maybe you should consider.

By the way, I actually think the way Nintendo has treated non-white gamers/people is more shameful than how they've treated the LGBT community so far. I can't imagine what it's like to buy a game like Animal Crossing and not be able to play as a character that looks like yourself--if that's what you would like to do.

Here's hoping they make some strides in this area in the coming months/years, because if they don't ... I think they deserve whatever future shit storms my come their way.