[Editorial] Nintendo is making social commentary: A history of sweeping LGBTI themes under the rug

Nintendo today released a statement explaining why they will not allow homosexual relationships in the upcoming Tomodachi Life.

It was a lacklustre statement.

"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life," Nintendo of America said. "The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of 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."

Little did they realise, that very comment would spark far greater social commentary than they'll be comfortable with. The sad revelation throughout this matter is Nintendo doesn't approve of same-sex relationships, and certainly doesn't want gay characters or themes in their games.

The first instance of Nintendo removing an LGBTI theme in one of their games goes back to 1988's Super Mario Bros. 2. Birdo was first described in the game's manual as a male who identified as a woman. Moreover, Birdo wanted to be called "Birdetta". Take a look a game manual post-1988, and you'll find those references have been removed.

In 1992, Enix -- this was before they merged with Square, kiddies -- was ordered to remove a gay bar from Dragon Warrior III before the Nintendo Seal of Approval would be issued for the game. Without that seal, the game would not be allowed on a Nintendo platform. Amongst other content, Ultima VII was also censored to remove the option to sleep with a same-sex "bedmate"-slash-prostitute.

Around 1999, it seemed as if Nintendo might be relaxing their stance on GLBTI issues, with Banjo-Tooie introducing gamers to a gay frog named Jolly Roger and his cross-dressing co-worker Merry Maggie. Dragon Warrior III was even re-released on Game Boy Colour with its original content intact. To a lesser degree, Conker's Bad Fur Day allowed for homosexual-themed jokes, though one would argue gays were usually the butt of those jokes and nothing else.

But flash-forward to 2001, and Nintendo was already back on the path to "purity". The company removed homosexual relationships from the Game Boy Advance and DS versions of The Sims before allowing them to be published.

Nintendo had the chance to redeem themselves last year, when it appeared as if Tomodachi Collection: New Life briefly allowed for male-on-male relationships. It even looked as if one of the members in a homosexual coupling could become pregnant with child. Sure, it wasn't exactly true to life, but it provided for gay and gay-friendly players to engage in relationships and create families within the title.

Or, as #Miiquality's Tye Marini put it, Tomodachi Collection: New Life would have let him play as the man he identified himself as.

When made aware of the situation, Nintendo immediately classified it as a "bug", and made their intentions to remove the relationships from the game as quickly as possible quite clear.

Worse yet, they described the male-on-male "bug" in the following manner: "human relations become strange".

Nintendo's Bill Trinen has recently clarified with the media that the Tomodachi Collection "bug" wasn't one at all, but a manipulation of the game. "Essentially [players] would create a male version of a Mii character and assign their gender as female, and that was how the two males were able to have a baby," Trinen said. His clarification of the New Life bug doesn't change the fact that Nintendo was quick to pounce upon the very idea of male-on-male relationships and work to remove them from the game.

So there you have it: Nintendo never intended for same-sex partnerships in one of their games. Nintendo wasn't going to celebrate the fact that, if true, Tomodachi Collection: New Life would have been the first first-party Nintendo title to allow for same-sex relationships. Worse yet, Nintendo's statements in the last week just show how closed-minded they are.

"I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé's Mii, but I can't do that [in the game]," Marini said in a #Miiquality statement. "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. But none of these are a real solution."

Nintendo doesn't care. The fact of the matter is that Nintendo has created a very gripping piece of social commentary with their decisions on Tomodachi Life, and we as a community should certainly remind them of that.

About the Author
Steve Wright

Steve Wright, aka Stevivor: A Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, freelance journalist, sweet games blog owner, ice hockey player/fan, beer aficionado and tech trainer. Steve is proud to be the Australian iiNet TopGeek 2.0! Check him out on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

  • NL37

    Down with Nintendo!!!!!! Haha youd think they’d accept homos in this age, although I don’t k ow what Japans stance on this is? Bioware deserves a shoutout

  • your mort corn

    yes! Thank you for covering this!!

  • Anon

    Hey, Steve. Be who you are. We should all be who we are. I agree with this. But stop trying to justify forcing others into agreeing with your views and choices. It’s no more discriminatory than vocal “anti-LGBT” people who do the same to the gay community. People and businesses have the right to view life as they wish within the context of allowing others to do the same. Your distorted view on this is quite disappointing but hey, like I said, it’s your view and that’s fine. The problem here is that you’re attacking a company’s views for the same reason you’re defending your own views. That’s very hypocritical and pretty much invalidates your argument in this piece. Good luck with overcoming your intolerance!

    • Tracey

      Only wimps post anonymously. Seriously.

    • Steve Wright

      First off, your opinion might be considered more if you stood with it rather than behind it.

      Second, I find it hard to believe I’m intolerant when pointing out Nintendo’s intolerance and seeking equality. Something doesn’t add up.

      People and businesses DO have the right to do and think as they please, and others, especially in the public space, have the right to bring question to policies and public statements. In this piece, Nintendo said they weren’t making social commentary, and I believe they are through a myriad of documented instances of scrubbing the notion of homosexuality from their titles.

      This conservative notion of being the victim when others comment or question their bigotry is tired and cliched. Try a new angle.

    • Matt

      So Hitlers view on the world was ok because it was totally just his opinion?
      Would you be ok if Play Station made a statement saying it was taking all black people out of video games.

      Even though you are posting as an anon let me guess who you are. Middle age white make (maybe female). Maybe was lightly bullied at highschool but fit in and was mainly fine. You’ve never been ridiculed for your sexuality or sexual identity. Never struggled within yourself because of societies views telling you that you aren’t normal. You’ve never felt ashamed of who you are and desperately tried to change so you could fit into the norm of society. And failing that you’ve never had to battle with thoughts of suicide because who you are is supposedly wrong.

      Any homophobic company is dangerous but particularly because Nintendo’s key audience is school age children. Some of who would be struggling with their identity.

      Click off anon next time you wanna say something like this to someone.

    • Serah aka Anon

      Something doesn’t add up? Yes, it appears the collective intelligence of Tracey, Steve, and Matt.

      Tracey, then apparently I’m a wimp in your view. Guess what? I doesn’t bother me because your view is your own and whether I post anonymously or not doesn’t invalidate my argument the slightest. But what your comment does do is prove how immature and similar you are to people like Steve who want to attack others for their views but aren’t intelligent enough to understand their hypocrisy.

      Steve, if you have a mind – and I’m talking about reason, not emotional and irrational outbursts – then you’d understand your hypocrisy on tolerance. If you find it “hard to believe”, then perhaps you should realize that you don’t need belief to understand what it means to “live and let live”. And I’ll excuse your ignorance, I’m not a conservative nor is it a “conservative notion” to be a victim when others attack a person’s belief system. It’s a actual “happening” and to be a victim.

      Matt, it wasn’t Hitler’s view that killed millions of innocent people. It was his actions. If your going to bring such an adolescent and, I’m sorry, but fully stupid argument, you’re not even worth the time. And then you go and attack not just me but stereotype an entire populace?! Wow. You sure are tolerant and exceedingly wise. Not. But just to give you a response to your assumptions, I will let you know “what” I am. I am 28, black female. You nailed those two. I had to move from school to school when I was young and I dropped out of high school. I was ridiculed because I wasn’t “pretty” enough or “smart” enough. I never had a problem with my sexuality because I accept myself for who I am. I found myself and connected with the Higher Love. I’m a woman, so if you have any sense of awareness, you’d know I’ve been barraged by images of what I should look like and if I don’t then I’m not normal. Oh, and yes, I’ve battled with thoughts of suicide but fortunately I myself decided to grow instead of become a lowly, rotten, and selfish “victim” of society like so many others. How? Because I let myself. Instead of trying to blame others for my problems, I knew my problems were my own and I fixed them. And what I’m telling all of you is that you need to understand that your problems are YOURS not anyone elses. Until you realize that, you’re never going to be truly happy, and you’ll continue to be a victim to society, culture, trends, and whatever else you “need” to be a part of. Open your eyes, people. Get it together. I got my shit together and as I watched my life around me was fall apart. I didn’t want to be a part of that. I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I focused, put in effort, and got a college degree. And now I’m throwing banter and advice to a few people on some stupid site because they have no idea about reality and how to change life for the better. Instead they just waste their time and rant on about social issues that will NEVER go away.

      • Steve Wright

        It seems like you’re hellbent on attacking, Serah.

        I’m not attacking anyone’s belief system, but I am questioning why Nintendo can whitewash homosexuality from their games and third-party games that are published on their platforms. As I said before, Nintendo is allowed to think whatever they want, but I’m allowed to question those actions.

        Think back to the start of this century: people were saying that women shouldn’t be trusted with the vote, and that black people should use a different water fountain. If people still think those things today, they sure as hell shut up about them, because society questioned those attitudes and turned their back on them. That’s exactly what’s happening here. Think and act whoever you want, but don’t pretend there won’t be consequences.

        Think what you want. Fight for what you want. That’s completely your right. Don’t assume that because I disagree that I’m questioning you and your belief system. I’m not playing that victim card in this discussion with you, and you shouldn’t either. Again, that angle is tired, old, and reeking of the Tea Party movement.

        At the end of the day, having same-sex options in games don’t mean you have to go and explore them yourself. You play your hetero-styled game, and homosexuals should be able to play theirs. In the same game. That’s living and letting live.

        Niceties aside, if you’re going to come in here and call me stupid, call readers stupid, and call the site stupid, maybe this site isn’t for you. Feel free to visit others that better cater to your reading habits.

        Anyone who comments on this story from here on in better play nice. No name calling. No mud slinging. Okay?

  • Tracey