Tomodachi Life and You
Recently, an internet-based brouhaha has surfaced around the upcoming 3DS title Tomodachi Life. If you haven't seen the trailer for it, you should. It's a wacky trailer for what will probably be a very wacky game. It's not a house sim like Animal Crossing, and yet it's still not a life and relationship sim like the Sims. The amount of simulating going on in Tomodachi Life will probably be pretty minimal. It seems to be more about fantasy and crazy Mii hijinks in 3D than anything else.
Tomodachi Life will, among many other things, allow the player to engage in romantic relationships with their avatars. According to Nintendo, these will only be between male Mii's and female Mii's. So heterosexual relationships only. Allegedly, there was a bug that would allow female avatars to look male and hence appear homosexual. Nintendo told the world that they fixed this bug.
The internet promptly burst into flames. Accusations of Nintendo collectively being homophobic and not accepting of alternative lifestyles ran rampant around the message boards and forums across digital highways high and low. Sensing the bad publicity, Nintendo made a statement that they had no intent with this game to make "social commentary". A strange thing to say. Users accused them of not representing homosexuals, not of making a statement against them. But whatever.
This whole situation has sparked a controversy larger than one handheld Nintendo game. The discussion has begun on the representation of different lifestyles in the video game medium. Is it fair to depict homosexuality as alternative and special? Or should being gay be just as mundane and normal as heterosexuality? Are life sim game makers obligated to allow everyone to be represented in their games? What does all this say about our society?
All this discussion is actually pretty interesting. There's some good food for thought out there. However, I think there's one very important angle that's being missed here. One topic has gone untouched for too long. And this bothers me.
Tomodachi Life. A 3DS game. By Nintendo. A Japanese company. From Japan.
Do you think a Japanese game would allow its players to play in homosexual relationships? Not a chance in hell. Over there, same-sex romance is so taboo that any expression of sexuality/love toward another man or woman is enough to ruin one's reputation. Secret feelings find their only outlet in internet fiction and manga. You'd hardly find any serious discussion about accepting alternative sexual preferences over there. It's a no-go topic in this day and age.
Contrast this from modern, twenty-first century United States. Yes, half this country despises and openly discriminates against homosexuals. And the other half is understanding and accepting of individual inclination. But that dichotomy is the key. It's an issue that's discussed. Debated, really. There are enough open homosexuals/bisexuals that giving the player options for same-sex relationships in something like the Sims is probably a good option. Because the Sims is an American game for an American audience.
Tomodachi Life? It's a Japanese game for a Japanese audience. An audience that would be shocked to see the possibility of condoning two men or two women engaging in wacky video game romance. This game comes from a place where the very practice of homosexuality would not be accepted on a mainstream level. At the end of the day, it's pretty arrogant to ask Nintendo to fix their game just for us at the risk of alienating its home territory.
Who are you, gaming community, to have the right to tell the rest of the world how to make their games? When did your preferred media creators have to submit to your cultural values? This whole debacle reeks of putrid ethnocentrism. This attitude is arrogant and really pretty embarrassing. I play video games to escape this line of thinking.
Of course international companies should tailor their products when sending them overseas. What is appropriate in one country may not be so somewhere else. It takes some research and understanding, but it shouldn't require entirely reworking software or changing one's values or views to suit someone else's that is different to yours.
This raises the real question that I'm asking today. In this age of the internet and global media transmission, when should a creation be re-created to adapt to a different culture?
Yes, there is a discussion about the widespread acceptance of alternative lifestyles to be had here. Our country is in transition. So much of our fine nation maintains its traditions of yore and reacts violently at the slightest upheaval. The rest of us try our best to think in a different direction and allow "to each his own".
This discussion, however, really has nothing to do with Tomodachi Life or Nintendo. Those things exist far away in Japan, where such thoughts on homosexuality are swept under the rug. It is very ethnocentric to expect Nintendo to change their standards just for our own entertainment. It's so selfish and short-sighted that it makes me a little sick.
Categories: Features, Nintendo 3DS