Electronic Arts just announced that The Sims 4 is making a major step forward in terms of character creation: they’re loosening gender restrictions. With the newest expansion, released June 2nd, users who enter the Create-a-Sim mode will be able to choose from hundreds of options previously off-limits because of gender constraints. A female Sim couldn’t access hairstyles and clothing delegated as male, and vice versa.
The update isn’t relegated to superficial items like clothes and hairstyles, either. Players have increased options for voice, body style, and walking animation to fully customize their Sims. The expansion will work retroactively, affecting all of the content released for The Sims 4 thus far.
It’s worth noting that user-made mods eradicated the gender boundaries back in 2014, when The Sims 4 was released, necessity being the mother of invention and all that. The official expansion will be available to all users, however, not just those who mod.
When I first heard of the official expansion, my first thought was good, and my second thought was why not do more? Freedom of gender expression isn’t relegated to just allowing ‘female’ Sims to choose from ‘male’ clothing items, or even voices and body types categorized as such. While I’m happy with EA’s decision, and I know the changes will mean a lot to transgender gamers, I would love to see less binary options in the first place.
For non-binary trans people (people who don’t identify with a gender that is strictly masculine or feminine), the opportunity to have an option outside of those two categories would be invaluable. The Sims has always been progressive when it comes to the LGB letters of the acronym, starting with same-sex couple options upon the release of The Sims in 2000. But progressiveness by its very nature is ever-evolving, and having this third option aside from male and female would be an important step toward inclusiveness. Including it would be a simple matter, and it would go a long way.
I also found the statement from Rachel Franklin, executive producer for The Sims 4, a little tone deaf: “Female Sims can wear sharp men’s suits like Ellen, and male Sims can wear heels like Prince.” It’s great to be able to dress your Sims in whatever fashion you’d like, and I’m sure gamers will have a lot of fun with it, but the practical application is that these changes will help kids (and adults) focus less on prescriptive gender roles and increase positive trans representation.
I can’t overlook what a big step this is from such a popular, family-oriented game. It will likely mean a lot for the future of games that such a huge game—and company—lessened the rigidity of gendered items and traits. But in a series where players have been abducted by aliens (and impregnated by them, regardless of gender), I think going an extra step for LGBT representation isn’t asking too much.