The computer game allows characters of different sexual orientations and allows players to live “out of the closet” in an online environment
| September 18, 2022
The Sims 4 is consolidating as a space for LGBT+ representation. (Photo: Reproduction)
In The Sims, it’s possible to be a mad scientist, an alien, a corrupt politician, a rich celebrity or a waiter with bills to pay – the variety of characters has always been an attraction of the game, whose fun is to simulate lives in an electronic environment. With endless possibilities, the franchise launched in 2000 has become a breeding ground for diversity, featuring LGBT+ people.
Aware of being at odds with the gaming industry, a space historically hostile to minorities, Electronic Arts (EA), the distributor of The Sims, has stepped up its representational tools. One of the features of the game is the ability to create a character from scratch – and it’s clear how different types of people can feel accepted. Released in 2014, The Sims 4 features different hair, genderless clothing, low and high voices, use of neutral pronouns, male pregnancy, and the ability for women to pee standing up.
In July, EA took a new step and allowed players to define the sexual orientation of their characters, something important for building relationships in the story. For the manufacturer, the more options, the better.
“We want our system to capture as many stories as possible,” explains Jessica Croft, the game developer responsible for coordinating the sexual orientation tool. “There’s been a breakthrough in terms of representation and we’re trying to stay ahead of these demands,” she says. “And that’s the spirit of the times.”
It is a very welcome position. “The Sims move is significant for a game of this size,” says Carolina Caravana, vice president of the Brazilian Games Association (Abragames) and member of the organization’s diversity council. “The franchise is one of the exponents in positioning for diversity and in a way to bring greater representation and scale,” he adds.
A preconceived notion
Positioning, of course, also results in difficult situations for the franchise. In February, EA canceled the start of sales of The Sims 4: Wedding Stories expansion pack in Russia. This is because the game featured a cover featuring two women holding hands under an arch of flowers, which violates the country’s legislation against “gay propaganda”. Days later, after the fan community complained about the decision, the distributor decided to release the game there, but with a different cover.
“We know that not everyone is open and receptive. But we don’t want to draw these characteristics out of fear,” says Jessica. The developer guarantees that the studio is working on new news in this sense, but does not give details.
The space for diversity in The Sims is over two decades old. The first sign of support for the LGBT+ population was in 1999, a year before the release of the game.
At that time, during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the main gaming event in the world, a lesbian kiss was shown unplanned at the preview of the game, which caused a huge uproar. During a demonstration, the game’s artificial intelligence allowed a kiss between two characters, without the job manager’s approval. Despite this, EA decided to continue with the idea, without changing the game’s code.
Thus, The Sims opened the door for many players to live the reality “out of the closet” in the virtual world.
According to researcher Beatriz Blanco, a member of the Cultpop lab, there’s another reason for this more diverse audience: the platform.
In the early 2000s, the industry focused on selling consoles (such as the PlayStation and GameBoy) to a male audience, while PC games were aimed at a more childish or female audience. “With The Sims, it formed a community that wasn’t as focused on heterosexual and cisgender masculinity as in other niches,” he explains.
Therefore, Sims fans believe they can be immune to prejudice in the digital environment. “You can’t be a fanatic Sims player. The community is defending itself,” says Couto.
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