Talking Point: Nintendo Fans Have A Social Responsibility, And They Failed To Meet It

Our very own Ryan Parreno talks candidly about the fallout of the Tomodachi Life Miiquality controversy.

by on 17th May, 2014

The past week was the most shameful for me as a Nintendo fan. Not because of Nintendo’s gaffe in a recent press release. Not because of news reports that reported on that gaffe. Not even because of the reporters and pundits who didn't do their research and misrepresented or exaggerated Nintendo’s statement.

I was ashamed because of us. We failed to live up to our promise, as a community that stands up for each other. I thought that we were better than this. Maybe we have been better at this before, but last week, we showed that we were not.

· I think it is important to revisit the main points of the Tomodachi Life issue and how it led to where we are now. Here’s a brief timeline of events:

· Reports come out that a bug that allowed people of the same gender and / or sex to marry each other in Tomodachi Life was removed by Nintendo.

· Nintendo explains the bug was removed because it was game breaking, but some media outlets fail to report this, and even misrepresent Nintendo’s statements.

· Nintendo fans Tye Marini begins the #Miiquality fan campaign, to ask Nintendo to add same sex relationships to Tomodachi Life.

· Nintendo comes out with a press release stating they did not intend social commentary with Tomodachi Life.

· Nintendo’s statement is immediately condemned by the media, and makes national news. The issue snowballs to the point that GLAAD reacts to Nintendo.

· Nintendo immediately apologizes for their earlier statement, promising to do what they can to represent all their fans in future installments of Tomodachi Life.

I want to take this moment to point out that Tye handled all the pressures his Miiquality campaign came to bear on him with stride. He was civil, he was even reasonable (he was the first to point out Nintendo would have to add same-sex marriage to the next game), and he deserves to take the credit for a successful campaign.

However, Tye was only one voice, among many who had the wrong ideas on how to react to the issue, and how it snowballed. Let me make it clear now: it was misguided to think you could protect Nintendo. It was wrong to think that you had to. Sure, we’re all fans and enthusiasts, but we don’t work for the company.

More importantly, it’s become clear now that fans did not properly recognize that Nintendo made a mistake. Some of you are still in denial, but it’s true. Nintendo crossed the line saying adding same sex marriage constituted some sort of social commentary.

I know some of you are itching to say “But a lot of the reporters lied and picked on Nintendo!” And I have to admit, I also think that’s true. However, if your reaction was to pick fights with said writers and reporters, you did the wrong thing.

Nintendo recognized and acknowledged they have a social responsibility, when it came to their game fans. Nintendo fans have a social responsibility to their fellow fans too, and this is not something that needs to be pointed out. We should not have cowered from talking about same sex marriages, or reacted pettily, or worse of all, defended Nintendo’s statement.

Do you guys know that there are gay people working in Nintendo, too? Do you think that statement represented what they wanted to say? Do you understand the corner those Nintendo employees were painted into?

To a certain degree, that’s the place we put other Nintendo fans into. We thought our differences were more important than the things that we had in common. As a result, Nintendo fans did not show a united front, and we lost control of the situation.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. I asked another Nintendo fan--game developer Christine Love--for her reaction to the company’s controversial press release. This was from before Nintendo’s retraction, and I’m reproducing the statement verbatim below:

Tomodachi Life seems like a really exciting game from everything I've heard about it; it's pretty much right up my alley, and looks super-cute. It's a game designed around including your friends in ridiculous scenarios and posting screenshots of it, that sounds AMAZING. Here's my problem: I just don't see any reason to buy it if there's no way it can represent me, or even most of my friends. And there's frankly no good reason for this to be the case, it'd be the easiest problem in the world to solve, from a technical perspective. So that's a disappointment and I don't feel very interested in buying the game as a result. The tagline "Your friends. Your drama. Your life." is kinda baffling; no, actually, all three of those things kinda depend on queer characters existing.

Where it goes from "disappointing" to "actually upsetting," though, is when Nintendo tries to suggest that excluding queer people isn't a political statement. They've literally created an alternate version of the real world where queer people don't exist; how could that not be political? They're saying that to pretend that people like me don't exist is "whimsical" and "quirky." To suggest that by trying to erase people is "playful" is outright offensive. If they want to make a bad gameplay decision, fine, that's their mistake to make. And while they should've known better from the start, I don't think anyone was really expecting them to immediately try to patch a game that's just before it's released. Nobody would've been upset if they'd said "we'll try to patch that later," or "we'll fix that for the sequel!", but instead they made a statement that was very much political to justify it.

And on top of being disappointing and offensive, frankly, it just plain doesn't make sense. What's more whimsical than girls kissing? I don't get it. That's like the highest form of whimsy I can think of!

I’m sure you remember another feeling from that week. The feeling that you were powerless to stop the torrent of bad press and bad vibes being thrown your way, for being a Nintendo fan.

We can stop that from happening next time, but to do that we need to face reality. Nintendo does not always represent its fans. Gaming writers, journalists, pundits and vloggers (like me) do not always represent the fans as well.

We need to represent ourselves, and the only way to do that properly is if we do not leave anyone out. The next time an issue comes like this, that would divide us along lines of sex, race, culture, or other differentiators, we need to stand united. We should not be afraid to stand up for our own, because as we have shown before in the fan campaigns for Earthbound, and to bring Smash back to EVO, we can do amazing things when we work together.

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