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Douglas: Don’t Super Smash Nintendo for avoiding same-sex marriage

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Douglas: Don’t Super Smash Nintendo for avoiding same-sex marriage

Sam Douglas, Columnist

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In 2013, Nintendo launched a game for its 3DS Mii life-simulation franchise called “Tomodachi Collection: New Life” that allows players to use personalized avatars, Miis, to live in an imaginary gaming universe. It performed well in Japan, and the makers decided to try their luck with releasing the game to audiences in the United States this coming June.

The game, as a life simulator, depends on characters forming relationships with one another. In this way, it is possible for Miis to flirt, go on dates and get married. Here’s the big glitch: The game doesn’t allow for same-sex marriages.

Actually, it’s not a glitch. The game is built that way. After it was brought to the attention of a gay 23-year old Arizona gamer named Tye Marini, he began a social media campaign aimed at protesting what he considered to be Nintendo’s discriminatory artistry. Marini says, “I want to be able to marry my real-life fiance’s Mii, but I can’t do that.” The gaming company has responded by reminding that “the relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation” and that “(they) hope that all of (their) fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that (they) were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.” Well, Nintendo, you’re going to provide social commentary whether you allow same-sex marriages in your “whimsical and quirky game” or not.

Although when I heard this news, my brain went through several iterations of confusion and unhappiness with Nintendo, I don’t believe it is necessarily right to fault the gaming company. Nintendo is a Japanese company, and Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages. In a country that does not allow or recognize same-sex marriages, it seems only understandable that a product from that country would conform to that ideology. If it had been possible to make video games in the antebellum South, would anyone expect them to be free from racism? I would not. I would hope that they were, but my hopes would be low. Very low.

It is appropriate to expect that Nintendo, knowing its international audience, would choose to include the option of same-sex relationships in its games, and it is also appropriate to be disappointed when that is not the case. However, it is not right to fault the company for it. Perhaps the company could have been braver; perhaps it could have assumed a more humane position than its home country’s politicians. But is it right to expect someone brought up in a house of racism to censor or change her beliefs after seeing someone of another race? No. After time and rehabilitation, maybe, but not after a single interaction.

Yes, this argument is broad; yes, we do live in a technologically advanced society where it is possible to distribute thousands of ideas with the click of a trackpad; yes, Nintendo has been releasing games in the United States for years. But I believe that humans are, at heart, homebodies. We appreciate when our families in our homes and home countries support us; our families appreciate it when we do what they want or at least take their opinions into consideration. It is also important to consider the speed and vigor with which the “homosexual agenda” has progressed throughout the United States. Now, over 38 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state that has either the freedom for same-sex couples to marry or recognition for out-of-state same-sex marriages. Japan does not. Nintendo, perhaps, has not been able to keep up.

Sam Douglas is a Communication sophomore. He can be reached at samueldouglas2016@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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