Nintendo Submits Entry for ‘Out Of Touch 2014’ Award With Tomodachi Life

Localizing a game is not a simple process. You can’t just throw out a straight translation and call it good, because it will, frankly, suck. Dialogue gets enhanced, creepy moe-pedophilia gets ripped out or at least toned down, plot holes are patched up, and hopefully a better product is the result. It’s not easy, but it’s the price of doing business. It’s a price Nintendo is failing to pay, though, and their refusal is as tone-deaf a response as one would hate to hear.

The initial version of Tomodachi Life, which is basically a Nintendo-fied version of The Sims using the ubiquitous (and somewhat hideous) Mii, had a bug that allowed same-sex couples. (More details here) Nintendo patched it out a few years ago but the damage had already been done. Not to the game, of course, because an inclusionary option can’t help but make it better, but to the expectations of what Tomodachi Life should be. Nintendo wanted a society of pure whitewashed vanilla, while the rest of the civilized world expected a cute and fun reflection of the society they lived in. It seemed we got something a bit less bland than expected until the bug was patched out, but the memory of its existence stuck around.  And now, in an explanation as to why same-sex couples won’t make an appearance in the US version, Nintendo somehow managed to make it worse:

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of Tomodachi Life. The relationship options in the game represent a whimsical and playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We are a games company first and foremost and our main objective is to create games and consoles for players to enjoy.”

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She’s as depressed about the cluelessness of the statement as we are.

So how many errors can you count in those three sentences? Here’s the big ones that I’ve found-

1)  “any form of social commentary” Same-sex coupling isn’t a social commentary. It’s just the world in 2014. As has been mentioned a few million times in a few million places, same sex relationships today is only slightly more controversial than mixed-race relationships. Loudmouthed ultra-conservatives notwithstanding.

2)  “whimsical and playful alternate world” You can’t really create anything whimsical or playful if you’re telling a small percentage of your audience that their lifestyle is unwelcome, or a much larger percentage the lifestyle of their friends or family is excluded.

3)  “our main objective is to create games… for players to enjoy.” I’d enjoy, as stated above, not having my friends told they’re either unwelcome or will have to pretend to be completely different people in your games.

The world is a tricky place. Global climate change is real and largely manmade, evolution happened and is happening today, vaccines don’t cause autism, and homosexuality (and bisexuality, for that matter) is no big deal. Filtering out the Crazy and knowing what’s actually controversial and what isn’t can be hard, but it’s not that hard. Nintendo has decided they want to create a cute, fun little island getaway with the tag line “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” while somehow thinking excluding “your friends” avoids more controversy than including them does. This is, and I really don’t know how else to phrase this, brain-dead stupid. There’s something wrong with Nintendo that’s got nothing to do with the Wii U’s sales. A company this completely unaware of the world it’s operating in is going to have a hard, ugly future ahead.