Iwata and Reggie in Nintendo's controversial Tomodachi Life, which came under fire for not recognizing same-sex relationships

Nintendo Recognizes Same-Sex Partners In New Diversity Policies

July 13, 2022

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

Nintendo has released a new CSR (corporate social responsibility) document that outlines its policies towards diversity, work-life balance, and other important aspects of corporate culture. Included in the document is a recognition of same-sex partnerships, which the Japanese government does not currently recognize.

What does Nintendo's new policy document say about same-sex partnerships?

Right now, although homosexuality is legal in Japan, the government doesn't legally recognize same-sex relationships on any level, meaning same-sex partnerships don't have the same rights as heterosexual partnerships do. Despite this, Nintendo's new policy document confirms that the company is offering benefits to same-sex partners on a level with those enjoyed by heterosexual partners. Here's what the document says about the policy, which was actually introduced in 2021 based on the philosophy of "[supporting] and [empowering] each and every one of our unique employees".

 

Although same-sex marriages are not currently recognized under Japanese law, this system ensures employees who are in a domestic partnership with a same-sex partner have the same benefits as employees in an opposite-sex marriage. We have also established that a common-law marriage between couples will be observed in the same way as a legal marriage.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a Nintendo game that allows (limited) same-sex relationship options
Nintendo games such as Fire Emblem: Three Houses do allow same-sex relationship options, although there's still a long way to go.

As well as opportunities for same-sex couples, Nintendo also sets out its policies towards opportunities for women, cultivating new talent, and ensuring workplace health and safety, as well as balancing work and personal life. Nintendo points out that it's "proactively expanding systems to support child-rearing", for example, and that it's implementing company-wide fitness programs to help employees stay in shape during work hours. The company also sets out its initiatives for helping employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as reimbursing work-related equipment for employees working from home or providing counseling via employee health plans. It's well worth taking a look at the document in full if you want to know more about Nintendo's corporate social responsibility policies; it's pretty long, so make sure you've got some time, but it's worth a read.

Nintendo's rocky history with LGBTQIA+ issues

Nintendo doesn't have the greatest history with LGBTQIA+ issues. Back in 2014, it was revealed that life sim Tomodachi Life would not allow same-sex relationships; Miis of the same sex would never enter romantic relationships with one another and would remain as friends, no matter what the player wanted. Nintendo said it couldn't patch this situation, but that if it released a sequel, it would be more inclusive towards non-heterosexual folks. Mii-based RPG Miitopia, which delighted the gaming world with players' creative approach to masks back in 2021 when it was ported to Switch, did allow same-sex relationships after a fashion. Players could build relationships with one another regardless of gender or sex, but the relationship would never be physically intimate, with Miis simply regarding one another with hearts in their eyes at max relationship status (along with the word "Soulmates" appearing to describe their relationship). Baby steps, we suppose.

 
 
Two Miis growing closer in Miitopia
Miitopia allowed players to enter same-sex relationships...sort of.

There are several areas in which it might be fair to say that Nintendo has a long way to go when it comes to its new corporate responsibility document. For example, in the employee health and safety section of the new document, they talk about physical health appointments for employees who "worked longer hours", but don't discuss what they're doing to avoid crunch, which is a problem that is currently plaguing certain elements of the industry. On the whole, though, the policy statement seems like a positive step, so let's hope Nintendo can put its money where its mouth is and start including more diverse representation in its games as well. We'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.