Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Your friends. Your drama. Your life. Not Nintendo's.

For those of you who don't really inhabit the internet (how did you get here, anyway?) there has been some controversy regarding Nintendo's title Tomodachi Life. This previously Japan-exclusive game for the Nintendo 3DS is making it's way to North-America and Europe June the 6th of this year. Wikipedia describes the game as a "life simulation" game.
To be upfront about it, most of my experience with life sims comes from my brief encounters with the Sims 2 & 3. Although to some extent I guess games like the Fable-series also have life sim elements, which broadens my experience with this genre slightly.The one thing that slightly confuses me is the distinction between sim-games and RPG's. I guess what I would label RPG is actually more related to adventure and fantasy games while sims boast realism? Anyway...

The game in question
Apparently Nintendo deleted a "glitch" in the Japanese version that allowed players to create male characters but label them female, thus enabling them to circumvent restrictions placed on same-sex relationships. A Miiquality campaign was started to appeal to Nintendo's social side, but to no avail.
Not only did they refuse to add any same-sex relationship functionality, they also "never intended to make any form of social commentary".

Now, this last bit really ticks me off.

If you accept games as art, that's fine. Put whatever kind of functionality in your game that you want, I would call that artistic freedom. But when people critique your work, ACCEPT their response. If it was the intended response, kudos to you. If it wasn't, don't come running up with your intentions as some sort of excuse. Admit your ignorance of the impact of your actions and try to learn from it. And especially do not pretend that any work of art is not a form of social commentary, regardless of whether it is intended as such.

If, perhaps, you think what functionality is in the finished game is not so much up to developers but to marketers, you may be right. In my view that sort of eliminates any applicability of artistic freedom. So marketers want to sell as many games as possible (I assume). Wouldn't being inclusive only increase the potential customer-pool? But marketers also like to cater to their main/target demographic, perhaps they are all heterosexual? Well, ass far as I now Nintendo has by far the most diverse group of users.
Why not reflect this in your games?

By now Nintendo has apologised, and made the promise to try to be more inclusive in later instalments.

Perhaps this should be enough. If it would have been their first response that's what I probably would have thought. But now it just feels like damage-management to me. Really Nintendo, you will try to be more inclusive?! (they actually use strive, I know)

But no, they are "absolutely not trying to provide social commentary".

For additional reading, I'd like to refer you to people who say it more eloquent than me.