After two months with Tomodachi Life, I still don’t know what it is.
This is a follow-up to a discussion on a recent episode of Connectivity. Go check it out!
Like most people, I didn't really understand Tomodachi Life until I actually played it for myself. It's a weird, peculiar experience that can be somewhat reductively boiled down to Nintendo's version of The Sims. It's also something I've slowly put a ton of time into over the past two months.
There's something relaxing about checking in on my island filled with Miis, ranging from friends to video game characters to Snoop Dogg. It’s a joy seeing each character develop over time and oddly mimic their real life counterparts, or even seeing where they deviate. My Mii is married to my real life wife's Mii in the game. When we had our first child, every time I checked in, her Mii would be out hanging with friends while mine was stuck at home taking care of the baby. I hope that doesn’t mirror real life.
Then there are the fictional character interactions. My version of Toon Link has been hanging out with Ganondorf lately. The two are buddies now, and there isn't really much I can do other than watch them hang out. I can't direct their interaction. I can only watch it. Tomodachi Life is a very passive experience, but it is, in turn, reliant on your interactions with each Mii character. You spend most of your time setting up dominos for all of your Mii characters by feeding them, giving them items and clothes, and making them sing songs, but you don't have any direct control. The closest you get is the RPG Tomodachi Quest, but even that is overly simplified to the point that it feels almost random.
Games are usually empowering. You play Mario games to take control, defeat Bowser, and save the day. Link's quests are about accumulating powerful items to defeat bosses. Tomodachi Life is about watching your Miis engage in a rap battle. Or see what characters become friends and maybe lovers. Tomodachi Life is kind of like watching a soap opera where every character has a weird robot voice. It’s something kind of dumb, but it’s also something that’s really unique. Tomodachi Life is weird.