Nintendo Excludes Same-Sex Couples in New Videogame: A Call for Virtual Equality

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Given their communicative and interactive nature, real life simulation games provide a critical platform for LGBT gamers to negotiate identity and to connect with their community. Thus, it came as a shock for LGBT gamers that Nintendo’s newest game Tomodachi Life, set for release in North America in early June, would not allow characters to enter same-sex relationships. Playing Tomadachi Life, users can create and personalize their avatars. While these avatars can enter relationships and marriages, they are not able to do so with avatars of the same gender. The controversy came to light after a bug in the Japanese version of the videogame allowed avatars to enter same-sex relationships. After the bug was fixed and things went back to “normal,” users demanded from Nintendo to allow the representation of gay characters. One of the LGBT gamers calling for virtual equality was Tye Marini from Arizona who started the social media campaign Miiquality. Our Executive Director, Christopher Wood weighed in on Tomadachi Life on BBC World Service stating “Nintendo has been in this area, in this space selling games all over the world for a long time and quite frankly, Nintendo is making a very strong social and political statement with it’s refusal to be inclusive. Its almost like their saying, we don’t’ support the right of gay and lesbian people to form relationships as they choose and quite frankly it doesn’t get much more political than that.” The controversy also prompted criticism by the LGBT community, with media watchdog group GLAAD expressing concern that Nintendo “is not only sending a hurtful message to many of its fans and consumers by excluding them, but also setting itself way behind the times.” After releasing a first statement that the company did not intend to make a statement with the game, Nintendo released another statement apologizing to LGBT gamers.

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. 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. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone.

In the statement, Nintendo also assured that future versions of the videogame would be more inclusive. The repres