LOS ANGELES — Nintendo isn’t allowing gamers to play as gay in an upcoming life-simulator game.
The publisher of such gaming franchises as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Mario Bros.” said it wouldn’t bow to pressure to allow players to engage in romantic activities with characters of the same sex in English editions of “Tomodachi Life.” This follows a social-media campaign launched by fans last month seeking virtual equality for the game’s characters, which are modeled after real people.
“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of ‘Tomodachi Life,’” Redmond-based Nintendo of America said in a statement Tuesday. “The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that ‘Tomodachi Life’ was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”
Tye Marini, 23, a gay Nintendo fan from Mesa, Ariz., launched the campaign last month, urging Nintendo to add same-sex relationship options to English versions of the handheld Nintendo 3DS game.
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The game was originally released in Japan last year and features a cast of Mii characters — Nintendo’s personalized avatars of real players — living on a virtual island. Gamers can do things such as shop, visit an amusement park, play games, go on dates and encounter celebrities such as Christina Aguilera and Shaquille O’Neal.
“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” Marini said in a video posted online that attracted the attention of gaming blogs and online forums this week. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”
“Tomodachi Life” has been a in a Japan, where Nintendo said in December it had sold 1.83 million copies of the game.
The English-language packaging for “Tomodachi Life” — “tomodachi” means “friend” in Japanese — proclaims: “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” A trailer for the game boasts players can “give Mii characters items, voices and personalities, then watch as they rap, rock … and fall in love.”
However, only characters of the opposite sex are able to flirt, date and marry in the game, set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.
“It’s more of an issue for this game because the characters are supposed to be a representation of your real life,” Marini said Tuesday in an interview. “You import your personalized characters into the game. You name them. You give them a personality. … They just can’t fall in love if they’re gay.”
The issue marks a cultural divide between Japan, where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places, and in the interactive world, where games are often painstakingly “localized” for other regions, meaning characters’ voices and likenesses are changed to suit different locales and customs.
“The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan,” Nintendo noted in an emailed statement.
While many English-language games don’t feature gay characters, several role-playing series produced by English-speaking developers, such as “The Sims,” “Fable” and “The Elder Scrolls,” have allowed players to create characters that can woo characters of the same sex, as well as marry and have children. Other more narrative-driven games, such as “Grand Theft Auto IV,” “The Last of Us” and “Gone Home,” have included specific gay, lesbian and bisexual characters.
“We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses,” Nintendo said of the #Miiquality campaign. “We will continue to listen and think about the feedback.”
Marini isn’t calling for a boycott of “Tomodachi Life” but wants supporters to post on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Miiquality, and to write to Nintendo and ask the company to include same-sex relationships in an update to “Tomodachi Life” or in a future installment.
He noted that Nintendo’s exclusion of same-sex relationships is a form of “social commentary.” “I would hope that they recognize the issue with the exclusion of same-sex relationships … and make an effort to resolve it,” he said.