Same-sex marriage is already a hot-button issue in real life, but now the debate has entered the video game realm. Nintendo is facing criticism for its upcoming simulator title, Tomodachi Life, which doesn't allow its players to engage romantically with same-sex characters. According to The Associated Press, a fan launched a social media campaign last month pleading with the gaming company for equality, but Nintendo insists their creative choice wasn't designed to offend.
"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life," Nintendo of America Inc. claimed in a statement. "The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all 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 social media rallying cry was launched by Tye Marini, a gay 23-year-old fan from Arizona, who pleaded with Nintendo of America Inc. and the Japan-based Nintendo Co. to add a same-sex option to its English platforms on the Nintendo 3DS.
"I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé's Mii [the digital avatar used in Wii], but I can't do that," Marini said in an online video this week. "My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé's Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it."
Instead of boycotting the game, Marini instead hopes to persuade Nintendo to open their minds and include same-sex relationships on a future version or update of the game. He started the Twitter and Facebook hashtag #Miiquality and is urging fans to write the company directly.
"We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses," Nintendo commented on the hashtag campaign. "We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We're using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization." We have been looking to broaden our approach to development whenever possible as we put all our energy into continuing to develop fun games that will surprise and delight players."
Tomodachi Life (which translates to "Friend Life") was first released in Japan, where it has sold nearly 2 million copies as of last December (and where same-sex marriage is currently illegal). The game – which will be released on June 6th in North America and Europe – allows players to develop their characters' personalities as they "rap, rock, eat doughnuts and fall in love."
"It's more of an issue for this game because the characters are supposed to be a representation of your real life," Marini told The Associated Press Tuesday. "You import your personalized characters into the game. You name them. You give them a personality. You give them a voice. They just can't fall in love if they're gay."
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