Nintendo vs. game journalism

We’re currently in what we call a slow period of gaming news. The late winter releases have come out, and only a handful of games are being released between now and the fall. E3, the Christmas of gaming news, is less than a month away, meaning companies will be keeping their news secret in anticipation.

I mention this because, as an avid (read: obsessive) reader of gaming media, I get a little bit cynical about journalism during this dry-spell for gaming news.

As the news slows, controversy erupts from the inhospitable grounds of the spring term.

Quirky 3DS game <em>Tomodachi Life, </em>which appears to be <em>The Sims </em>populated by Miis, was recently berated for the fact that, although you can allow your Miis in the game to enter a romantic relationship with each other, only heterosexual relationships can be created.

I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s Nintendo of America&rsquo;s fault. As mentioned in their response, the game was created in Japan, for a Japanese audience. Their job when bringing the game to North American audiences is simply to translate the game to the appropriate language and potentially censor things that do not meet the demands of the local government.

Expecting a localization effort to completely alter an entire aspect of the game may be expecting too much.

Honestly, I don&rsquo;t get any sense of homophobia or intended slight from Nintendo. It may just be a case of a programmer just not thinking of providing the option, we don&rsquo;t know.

Inclusiveness of homosexuality in gaming will be a slow move, but for their part, Nintendo has been vocal, saying that, if another <em>Tomodachi Life </em>title was created, they may include the option for same-sex romance.

The fact that our complaints can actually affect a company enough to make them allow homosexual options in games is the most encouraging thing to come out of these stories.

However, I&rsquo;m skeptical that gaming blogs had same-sex inclusivity or a fair portrayal of Nintendo&rsquo;s decision in mind when they picked this story.

Nintendo has had another bit of controversy, linking back to the fact that E3 is a month away. Classically, the &ldquo;big three&rdquo; companies will have a big press conference, revealing their newest products to the glee of gamers everywhere.

But unlike Microsoft and Sony, and for the second time in a row, Nintendo is opting instead for an online presentation, Nintendo Direct, broadcasting their new products directly to their consumers on YouTube.

The alarmist articles reading &ldquo;Nintendo skipping press conference&rdquo; soon erupted. I&rsquo;ve started raising an eyebrow.

Despite the breakneck pace of the Internet, I found it suspect so many would complain about an already established practice.

The more conspiratorial idea has been that the gaming press doesn&rsquo;t like being cut out of the announcements. It honestly comes off as juvenile: &ldquo;Nintendo isn&rsquo;t inviting us to their party, they&rsquo;re just letting everyone in.&rdquo;

But it could just be as simple as Nintendo being the current whipping boy of the industry. The gaming community has a bad habit of fickle polarized viewpoints. With their WiiU sales doing poorly and record losses being reported, it&rsquo;s easy to point at any shortcoming as yet another indication of a &ldquo;doomed&rdquo; company.

It&rsquo;s all just a spin for ratings. Homosexuality. Press conferences. Finance. It doesn&rsquo;t matter as long as it makes a good headline that will get people clicking.

The world has never been so quick to change. Be it Nintendo&rsquo;s non-inclusion of homosexuality in their games, the lack of homosexual representation in gaming in general, or the future prospects of Nintendo itself, these are not things that will change from one fleeting decision.

Martin Luther King once said, &ldquo;The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.&rdquo; Proper representation of the LGBT community in gaming, I hope, will be a long-awaited but eventual reality.

Also, Nintendo is a long-standing company with a lot of unique ideas &mdash; it will take more than a bad year and a few bad stories to kill it.

I just hope our gaming press will find a better balance between alarmist stories meant only for high views, and stories of actual consequence, painting a picture of the real problems with the industry. But unlike representation of the gay community and Nintendo&rsquo;s business prospects, I&rsquo;m far less convinced that will ever come to pass.

And I appreciate the potential irony.


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