Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wow, That Got Big

Tomodachi Life is a game that Nintendo announced not too long ago that is...well, more than a little hard to explain.  It gets even harder if you actually watch the video included above, but it also elucidates that difficulty that I bear.

Put simply, Tomodachi Life is a Life Sim that uses your Miis (well, you have to make them in the game, it doesn't just pull them, I don't think) to create the living, breathing element that "Life Sim" implies.  It's like The Sims with full Automation, because your Miis will live out their own life without needing you to tell them to brush their teeth or go to sleep.  Instead, important things (or, you know, less so) will be asked to you for your input every now and again.  Along the way, a ton of zany shit happens.  If that wasn't obvious already.  Basically, it is in every way a light-hearted, whimsical game that means only to entertain.

Which is why it's a little odd that it was found dead-center of a rather extreme and heated debate about really important issues.

A rather large part of Tomodachi Life, being a Life Sim, is the ability for your Miis to marry one another.  Like The Sims, this will usually lead to having a child, and in Tomodachi Life, this child can hop around from your version of the game to others over Street or Spotpass, I believe.  However, it quickly surfaced that this was only possible with heterosexual couples and, indeed, such a coupling was the only one possible in the game itself.  Fans took to Twitter to ask Nintendo of America to add Homosexual coupling to the game for the Western Release and the whole thing could have just ended there.  It really did not have to snowball to just where it ended up, but, well...
"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life," a Nintendo of America representative said in a statement to the Associated Press. "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."
I want to know just what part of that they thought was a good idea.  Like, on a basic, simple level, how does "Can you add homosexual orientations to the game?" elicit a response that is basically, "Woah, hey wait, we're just trying to localize a fun game here, we don't need to muddy it up with shit" and someone went "Yeah, that works."?  That's just poor decision making, pure and simple.  It is clearly not the right way to handle the situation, and it's a little disappointing that it went down that way.

I would like to sidebar here for a moment and say that, on the whole, I'm not really a fan of Internet Activism.  The goals are generally, inherently noble, yes, but the methods and the execution of being heard is usually not.  Nor is it usually pleasant.  More often than not, the common person walks away from the entire experience with a -negative- opinion on the whole of it because it all devolves into a shouting match between people on their respective high horses.  Harken back to the Dragon's Crown debacle, where a simple argument over some admittedly eyebrow-raising sections turned into "THE GAME PROMOTES RAPE CULTURE" versus "IT'S FUCKING ART" and neither side was willing to budge because the sides were simply too extreme from one another, destroying any and all middle ground that could've been discovered.  It became a cesspool, to be frank.

The sad thing is that the argument resumed by Tomodachi Life is far bigger than the game and honestly didn't need to be as laser-focused on it as it was.  I blame the majority of that on NoA's original, stupid response.  A lot of the things that the Internet Activists get bent out of shape about are fairly malleable, adhering to a certain set of standards that, while not 'mandatory' to have, many people do have anyway.  Things are in a grey area, I should say, whether it be a real one or an argumentative one.  The issue of homosexual relationships in games where -you- as a person are supposed to be represented by your avatar?  That's easy.  That's binary.  If you are gay, your character should be able to be gay.  Full stop.  Just like if you're a particular race, your character should be able to be that particular race.  It is meant to be -you-, so allow the tools and the options for that to be possible.  It's not a matter of "every game has to have 'the gay character'" or silly bullshit like that (which is actually counterproductive), but just a matter of ensuring you can play you when the developer wants you to play you.

That said, it was never Nintendo of America's battle to be fought, and had their second statement been their first, it would've been that much more obvious and simple.
"Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game's design, and such a significant development change can't be accomplished with a post-ship patch," the statement continues. "We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment 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."
NoA is simply localizing the game.  They're the ones translating the text and making sure the game plays nice with the different versions of the hardware that are in our region.  They don't have authority or the ability to change entire swaths of the actual game itself and that was obvious from the start.  Tomodachi Life was going to release as-is, and that's not some sort of crime against humanity.  It was never really about Tomodachi Life itself, but rather the larger issue present.  If they would have just said it was out of their hands from the start, people (the sane ones, anyway) would have shrugged and either said "That's reasonable, we'll just see next time, I guess" or went "That's reasonable, let's ask Nintendo of Japan about it instead, since they made the game." and it would have just went from there.  Cooler heads would have (likely) prevailed and we would all be the better for it.  Instead, we have the things being said in the comments section of those posts linked in this one and -yes- you should always ignore the comments section as a rule, but good god there is some extraordinary bullshit in there.

Some seem to think that the last part of that second statement, the "if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series" line is a thinly-veiled threat to the tune of no more Tomodachi games being localized.  That is then being levied at anyone who dare say anything about the gay issue as ammunition for a take on the "This is why we can't have nice things" guilt trip.  If that's the case, then, well, so be it.  We have evolved beyond the point where a glaring oversight over something as binary as orientation is 'alright', and it's hard to say whether or not the next game will see a change in that, given that Nintendo is not exactly widely celebrated for flexibility.  Not to mention Japan's views and policies regarding same-sex marriage, which aren't nearly as open as America's are becoming.

None of this is an actual condemnation of the game or Nintendo, really.  A lot of it is just issues regarding circumstance and of an issue that isn't actually directly related to Tomodachi Life beyond the solitary obvious reason that was likely not done out of malice or pettiness.  As such, with it more or less 'resolved', you should certainly pick up the game if it looks to be something that you would enjoy.  I myself am on the fence about it because, while I love quirky, weird shit (as we have established) I'm not too sure on Tomodachi's staying power beyond the initial "oh wow this is sooooo crazy" parts.  When everything is random and silly, it just becomes routine and when that charm is gone, it has to stand on its own mechanics and I'm just not sure -what- mechanics are really present.  Perhaps I'll grab it at some point, however, to find out!

okay, this post was entirely too serious for a game where you can RPG battle a fucking hamburger

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