Note – Republished from an old blog. A decidedly polemical piece criticising Nintendo’s curious attitude to politics. I ought to note that Nintendo, and the video game industry in general, has improved with regards LGBT issues since I wrote this piece. This is not to say that homophobia., transphobia or discrimination are now absent from the industry, far from it. Nonetheless, I welcome such progress as exists, and hope anxiously for more.
It has always seemed to me that Nintendo is the Disney of games. It has huge, “family friendly” icons like Mario or the Miis or brave young Link. Just as we learnt that the word “God” was taboo in the House of Mouse ,“Politics” has the same weight in those big offices in Kyoto. It’s games don’t mention God, or justice or society. Its family friendly you see, you don’t have to like poor people or minorities to be part of the Nintendo plan. You just have to swing your wiimote around like a moron with Paul Merson or Jamie Oliver or something dumb. Its okay to glorify celebrity but asking ,for example, whether or not this a good thing is not on.
To this end, same sex relationships are not included in Tomodachi life. Nintendo were pressured into putting them in by a political campaign of gamers in the west, but have clarified that the game was, “never intended to be a form of social commentary”.
This is, in and of itself, a form of social commentary. George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay, “Why I write” that the “political motive” was foremost in his writing not because he was naturally political, but because it had to be. Due to the threat of totalitarianism and what he saw as the remedy of democratic socialism, “It seems to me a nonsense…. to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.” One aspect of his message in these paragraphs is that ignoring political issues or societal change can be just as much of statement as addressing them directly. What you omit is as political as what you highlight. When an issue is ubiquitous we sometimes cannot ignore it.
There is a worldwide debate on gay marriage and the role of Homosexuality in law and society. There are the homophobes in my country doing their best to ignore this clash of opinion, in the US the courts are picking up the issue that politicians are trying not to touch, and there are reactionaries in Nigeria banning the impulse to love your fellow man altogether. Nintendo can join hands with the DUP if they wish, and help bury their heads even deeper in the ground, but they should know they are making a political decision. Considering the current circumstances, we cannot pretend Nintendo are ignorant of the issue altogether.
It is important to remember that as Jeanette Winterson says in her introduction to “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” that, “what makes Life difficult for homosexuals is not their perversity but other people’s”. Once one accepts there is nothing at all odd or immoral about homosexuality, a few conclusions follow quite simply. Firstly that a society with hatred, fear or ignoring of homosexuals and their rights and their love is a distorted society. Secondly, that It is not said often enough that idea that a woman who falls in love with another woman is somehow of less value than one who falls for a man is a profoundly strange one. I feel that the burden of proof has been placed on the wrong side of this worldwide debate, that it is those who wish to hinder the lives of homosexuals who ought to producing evidence for why this strange state of affairs should continue. By representing our current perverted society, Nintendo has, probably quite unwillingly, made a commentary on society and a very political statement.
Nintendo probably wished to avoid controversy and sidestep the debate that is happening all around them. After all it is only a silly little game about manipulating toy characters. They have instead politicised it. Ignorance of the world around us is not an option. While the legal precedent still accepts that corporations are people too, we might expect the same of them as we do of individuals in a debate; that they address the world as it really is, and accept that to “plead the fifth” as the Americans would have it, is barely a defence at all.