Virtual Life Mirrors Real Life In Tomodachi Life


You can get married in Nintendo’s new simulation game, but not if you’re a lesbian.

Nintendo is best known for games that are a bit whimsical — and, for grown-ups, often full of childlike nostalgia. After all, what gamer didn’t spend their earlier days playing Mario or Zelda titles? But recently, the company made a big mistake when it came to LGBT gamers.

Tomodachi Life, set to be released on June 6, is a simulation game that takes your Mii — a virtual representation of yourself — to an island where it can interact with other Miis. Not unlike The Sims, once you put your Mii into Tomodachi Life, it can make friends, fall in love, and even have children. And here’s where the controversy comes in: when Tomodachi Life was released in Japan last year, the game’s Miis could only fall in love and marry Miis of the opposite sex, and the upcoming release in America and Europe follows the same trend.

The gay gaming community has pushed for LGBT rights — or Miiquality — for Miis, but to no avail. In a statement earlier this month, Nintendo claimed that it “never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life,” saying that the game was intended to “represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation.”

Considering many gamers who fall into minority groups play games to escape real world discrimination and marginalization, it’s disheartening to see Nintendo write gay gamers off. And by creating a game where LGBT players simply don’t exist, Nintendo denies us a place in their “playful alternate world,” making it rather more of a real-life simulation than they intended.

This didn’t sit well with gamers, some of whom called for a boycott of Nintendo — bringing enough pressure on the gaming giant to garner an apology. “We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone,” Nintendo said in a statement on its website. “We pledge that if we create a next instalment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.” While it’s great to see one of our favorite gaming companies step up for equality, Tomodachi Life still only has the option for heterosexual relationships, as Nintendo says it’s too large a change to add at this point.

So is this a win for LGBT rights or not? It’s really hard to say. While activists did get Nintendo to issue an apology and promise more equality in future games, Tomodachi Life remains the same — and we may never actually see that more inclusive sequel. While the apology is certainly better than nothing, we’d much rather see Nintendo taking action to move away from its conservative interpretation of social norms. You’ll be able to find Tomodachi Life on store shelves soon — just don’t pick it up expecting your Mii marrying your wife’s Mii.