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Some people misunderstood my Tomodachi tweet

First of all, Tomodachi Life looks wonderfully bonkers and as soon as I saw that video I tweeted, ‘It’s like Nintendo made a game just for me.’ (Me being an awkward over the top parody of Peter Molyneux.)

Since then, the excitement around that game has become a bit sour. This is not necessarily because the game only represents relationships between men and women, but mainly because Nintendo’s official response was essentially, ‘Hey, it’s just a game lol. We have no obligation to make social commentary.”

You can read the official statement with the actual quotes here: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/nintendo-virtual-equality-life-game-23620844

Earlier today, I made a reference this situation with the following tweet: “I still get praise for allowing gay relationships in Fable. To be fair it was possible by default, we just decided not to disable it.”

I was surprised by all of the seemingly confused people sending me messages justifying Nintendo’s stance. These people noted to me that the game had already shipped, as if suggesting that this made the erasure of same-sex relationships okay. They missed the point of my tweet, which was that at some point during Nintendo’s development of Tomodachi Life, there was a conscious decision made that ended up hurting people within the gay community. The general response I received was that Nintendo had done all this hard work and so wanting them to rework it would be unjustified.

The key word in my tweet is ‘default’. When Nintendo coded the Mii’s into the game they are either male or female. They are not assigned as gay or straight in the code. So by default, any Mii character in Tomodachi Life could be imagined as gay or straight. The default character design does not have sexual orientation woven into it.

But Nintendo then included a feature that allows two characters to interact together. These interactions can be anything from dating to getting married. The point I want to make is that by default ALL characters would have been able to interact because code doesn’t judge. Code does not have a social agenda. Code does not make choices, nor does it make social commentary. But my point is that sometimes when a conscious choice is made, social commentary is made whether intentionally or not. Someone had to go in there and program the game so that women and men could date or marry, but not extend this interaction to encompass relationships between women and relationships between men. The choice NOT to do this is still a choice.

Going with the default (which is, to allow romantic coding to allow relationships between any and all characters) would have worked fine too. Nintendo wouldn’t have had to hire artists to draw horribly stereotypically gay-looking Mii characters or bring in voice-over people to do their best gay voices because gay people look, act and sound just like any of us. Gay people are an ordinary part of the world, and that’s the very thing that transforms their erasure into a statement, even if it wasn’t driven by a desire to make social commentary.

As Nintendo stated, this is just a whimsical and quirky game. No one intended to be political. Unfortunately at some point, somebody changed the code so that only 0 could interact with 1 and that that 0’s and 1’s could not interact. I am not suggesting that it was out of hatred. Maybe it more out of ignorance, possibly fear of the kind of waves this would create.

By default, the game would have included and celebrated everyone, but someone had to tinker with the default. And that’s why I think we need to talk about these issues as a gaming community – because erasure affects people and sends out a message about what kind of world is acceptable. I think it’s important to understand that for whatever reason at some point during development, someone or a group of people made a decision to disable the ability to represent gay relationships. I love the odd realities created by Nintendo. I really do. I love the strangeness and the creativity of the worlds they create. But eliminating gay relationships is destructive, not creative. Instead of creating new, surreal realities, you are chipping away at reality, a reality that has taken many, many years to become accepted (and which has yet to be fully accepted, to be honest).

And this is why I think it’s important to have these conversations. Everyone should be able to feel welcome in the gaming community. Let’s have games contribute to expanding reality, not erasing it. 

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Firstly, if you are taking part in Molyjam2012 you are free to pick ANY design from my entire twitter feed. These are just a list of the designs I feel would make for great Molyjam projects.


Genre : Action, Survival Horror

Survival Horror combined with Bowling

Genre : Puzzle, Adventure

Game where you are a coin being passed around. Must travel as far as possible, placing yourself in ideal places to be picked up and transported

Genre : Puzzle, Strategy

Game where you play a life support machine in a hospital but during the night you turn into a diseased rat.

Genre : Puzzle, Strategy

Imagine living in a world where all anyone can do is hurt each other. You on the other hand, your only ability is to hug those around you.

Genre : Puzzle, Strategy, Action

What if the pause button was a weapon? Until developers think outside the box we’re going downhill.

Genre : Action

Game where you control a full stop. Enemies read you stories you and you have to jump in between words at the right time

Genre : Action

Game in which you must comfort children on a plane who are afraid of flying, game mechanic is similar to spinning plates.

Genre : Survival Horror

A survival horror game where the enemies can only be seen in mirrors? Could add more depth by having dirty mirrors that need to be cleaned?

Genre : Puzzle

Your child is made of lego, you have to detatch bricks to make bridges etc You need to keep adding bricks to stop him getting depressed.

Genre : Strategy

I also love the idea of playing a character who is PRETENDING to be blind, so you have to keep bumping into things to not arouse suspicion

Genre : Puzzle

Try to imagine a game in which you have an imaginary friend who doesn’t believe you are real, you must convince them that you are.

Genre : Strategy, Action

What if you could plant seeds that grow into cover systems?

Genre : Adventure

Imagine carrying a radioactive baby in a pitch black environment, your baby would act as a torch. Rocking the baby intensifies the glow etc

Genre : Platformer

What if your body is essentially a hourglass? Intense acrobatic game where you have to make sure sand is always falling and never stops

Genre : Puzzle

What if you could steal animation frames from other NPC’s animation cycles and give them to yourself or others to solve puzzles?

Genre : Action, Strategy

You are Cupid, you must find compatible partners. One arrow in each partner, connected with lasers. If any NPC touches laser, game over

Genre : Survival Horror

A survival horror game where you have to sing lullabies to your 2 year old to stop them from screaming/crying and giving your position away

Genre : Strategy

You are a bear but for some reason your oxygen comes from hugging people. Problem is that hugging people breaks their bones.

Genre : Puzzle

Imagine a game in which you have to join protests to make changes to the rules within the game’s world.

Genre : Puzzle

Game in which you control a waterfall and must travel the world hiding outdoor passages from adventurers.

Genre : Puzzle

You control a mystical rabbit at a bus stop during Winter. You must find as many creative ways as possible to make people miss their buses.

Genre : Puzzle

You play a hole, you must move around an environment making certain elements fall into correct targets at the right time.

Genre : Platformer

Would love to make a platformer where you play as a thing with a microwave for a head. You have to grab enemies, put them in your head. Etc

Genre : Puzzle, Action

What if everyone in the world had an explosive telephone in their body? If you could find out their number you can detonate their phone?

Genre : Strategy, Action

What if you lived in a world where all guns are required to be plugged into wall sockets? Now THAT would be a tactical shooter wouldn’t it?

Genre : Puzzle, Action

A game where if you touch the floor you die. The only way to progress is to kill enemies and use their bodies as platforms.

Genre : ?

You are a Pigeon who must go around the city trying to persuade business men not to jump off buildings by retrieving items from their home.

Genre : ?

Game where you must hold onto your mother’s hand. Let go for more than X seconds and it’s game over

Genre : Strategy, Action

You live in a little house made of guns. You need many guns to fight invaders but you also need to keep a roof on top of your many children.

Genre : ?

You are a scarecrow in a world with just 1 bird

Genre : Strategy, Action

Game where your arms are controlled by a psychopath who keeps firing guns at innocent people. You must turn away from them and run.

Genre : Puzzle

Visualize an open world game set in a white box. During the night you dream and can place elements from your dream into the blank world

Genre : Action

What if you were half man half tree? You can only fight when in soil and constantly grow throughout the game.

Genre : Action, Stealth

Interesting concept, enemies with dirty piano keyboards for heads. To kill them you must clean the piano without making a noise.

Genre : ?

Imagine if instead of reading a bedtime story to your child you played a 10 minute portable adventure game that generated random storylines?

Genre : Action, FPS

A FPS where you control a soldier’s shoe, however imagine if you play as a shoe that was left at home with your wife and children during war

Genre : Action

What if there was a fighting game where the mechanic was to ‘colour in’ parts of your enemy to create your own weak spots?

Genre : ?

A game in which you control a boy playing with action figures, you only control his big hands and also his mouth for making SFX.

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