Nintendo’s step backward reflects a social leap forward

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Nintendo is backpedaling following news that it would not include same-sex relationships as an option for their upcoming western release of the life simulator Tomodachi Life for the Nintendo 3DS. In the game, the player’s avatar can only be romantically involved with a character of the opposite sex.

"Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary," was the defensively worded statement from Nintendo of America Inc. as it appeared in Time four days ago.

How did you miss this, Nintendo, especially when relationships are an intricate part of the game? Needless to say, there’s been an uproar from fans and gamers around the world.

Now Nintendo is changing its tune. The company has since released an apology. CNN reports that the company now “apologize[s]for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life."

Nintendo has pledged that if it creates a next installment of the game, it will be "more inclusive, and better represents all players."

Now some will say it’s insulting that Nintendo only changed its tune once people made some noise. More importantly, perhaps the travesty is that such a popular game, selling almost two million copies in Japan since its Japanese release early last year, is not more sensitive to such an important issue.

Personally, I see this as a victory for gay rights. How? For the simple fact that it is a travesty. It has become an issue in our modern culture that such an important element is not included in a popular video game.

Ten years ago, a company would have been providing social commentary by including gay relationships in its game. Now, they’re making a social commentary – the wrong commentary – by not providing homosexuality as an in-game relationship option. Mass Effect, The Sims, Fable, Grand Theft Auto: all examples of big-name games that allow players to choose same-sex relationships. Gone are the days when gay rights were accommodated by the insertion of an insultingly comical, flat, and stereotypically flamboyant character.

This is not only a victory for today, but it reflects a shift that will echo across the next generation. Today’s young gamer is now growing up in a practical world and a virtual world where LGBT is just a natural part of how the world is. It’s not a matter of "tolerance" or "acceptance" for these young people. It simply is the way things are, the way the world is, the way things are supposed to be.

And I, for one, smile at the notion that we are emerging into an era of social consciousness in which it’s rarer to hate than to not. OK, maybe I’m taking this a bit far. But the situation with Nintendo does show one thing: our society and our world is slowly moving in the right direction – a nice feeling.

When he’s not teaching high school, St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus Derek Mitchell can be found attached to a video game console.

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