It’s a little hard to explain what Tomodachi Life is — it’s kind of The Sims plus Animal Crossing, where you create a little town and manage the weird relationships of its inhabitants. One aspect of the game is romantic attraction between the characters that you create. And wouldn’t you know it, in Nintendo’s version of the world, gay couples do not exist.
But it gets weirder. In the original version of the game, released last year in Japan, there was a bug that allowed gay couples to form. It was never supposed to happen, so Nintendo released a patch that eliminated that functionality, claiming that it caused game-stopping data corruption.
And then they referred to the bug as “human relations becoming strange,” which is kind of awful. Except maybe they didn’t? Maybe it was a bad mistranslation? The internet is divided on that point. They said “Ningen kankei ga okashiku naru,” so Japanese-speaking readers, please weigh in with your interpretation!
Culturally, LGBT relationships are not quite talked about in Japan as openly as they are in some parts of the US. So this could just be a blind spot on Nintendo’s part. They have plenty of gay and lesbian employees, after all, and they surely didn’t set out to spurn queer players.
But eliminating gay relationships from the game doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something that would have to be deliberately designed: the game would have to inspect each character’s gender to determine whether they’re allowed to fall in love. That’s lame, and if Nintendo could create a patch to fix a data-corrupting bug, we hope they can also issue a patch to fix an offensive design flaw.