Sexual Orientation Feature
Life-simulator video game “The Sims 4” took another step toward properly representing LGBTQ identities with its new feature for Sims Sexual Orientation. Players will be able to customize their Sims’ sexual orientation, including sexual and romantic attraction.
Developer Maxis announced the new feature will be part of a larger base game update when the game’s latest expansion, “High School Years,” launches later this month. The change comes as the team behind “The Sims 4” has continued its work to make the game more authentic in its representation of LGBTQ individuals. The team launched an update earlier this year that lets players choose gender-diverse pronouns for their Sims.
The game has many LGBTQ fans and modders have built tools that forwarded LGBTQ representation in the game for years, and now Maxis is working to make those changes in the official game.
“As a team, we hold creativity, discovery, inclusivity and play as core values and strive every day to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion for our people and community,” Jessica Croft, design lead on the new expansion, said in a blog post Friday. “Between this update and the recent pronouns update, we’re taking several strides forward into being a game that respects and celebrates the nuance and color of everyday life.”
Romantic Exploration And “WooHoo Partners”
The Sexual Orientation update introduces a new menu that players can use to tweak the sexual and romantic interests of their Sims. Players can choose whether their Sims are romantic and/or sexually attracted to men, women, both or neither, meaning aromantic and asexual Sims are now creatable.
This development also introduces a new romance option called WooHoo Partners (Simlish for friends with benefits) that allows aromantic Sims to experience relationships without being forced into inauthentic romantic relationships. The game previously only let Sims have sex after establishing a romantic attraction with one another.
The menu also includes an “exploring romantically” section which allows the sexual orientation of Sims to change throughout the course of the game. Croft said this option was included because “there are two major stories” Maxis wanted to include: “a person who has figured out who they are and has a firm and immutable sense of who they’re attracted to” and “a person who’s still figuring things out.”
Players will be able to edit these settings when creating new Sims and can manually change these settings for previously created Sims. The update also changes the default sexual orientation of Sims to be sexually attracted to both men and women and have “exploring romantically” set to yes. Maxis was quick to point out that players will not be able to turn the feature off, stating that “LGBTQIA+ identities are a fact of life and not a toggle to be switched on and off.”
Nonbinary Sims, Limitations And The Future
The feature delivers a lot, but its adherence to the gender binary may leave some nonbinary players at a loss. This isn’t lost on Croft, who stated that those concerns are known but that “technical limitations” of the game currently limit its ability to fully represent nonbinary and gender-diverse identities despite the pronouns update.
“Mechanically, nonbinary Sims don’t yet exist in ‘The Sims 4.'” Croft said. “‘The Sims 4’ is eight years old at this point, and reliant on systems that were originally architected with a gender binary in mind. In the intervening years, we’ve taken important steps … It’s a journey still in progress, with many more steps to go. Proper mechanical systems to fully support nonbinary Sims is another step in that journey.”
“We hope that we’ve shown our commitment to improving representation of gender identities with features such as Gender Customization,” Croft continued. “We look at the pronouns update as another important step toward better representation of nonbinary genders, but we also acknowledge that pronouns are not the same thing as gender identities.”
The Sexual Orientation feature will launch on July 28.
Sims Sexual Orientation: Previously on Towleroad
Image via Electronic Arts