by Zoe Harding
TW: Homophobia, transphobia.
On June 2nd, the latest in the life-simulating retail behemoth Sims franchise, The Sims 4, was patched to allow players to create non-binary and transgender characters. As IBTimes reported, the free update ‘unlocks over 700 items of clothing’ for either of the game’s binary genders, allowing ‘Female sims [to] wear suits like Ellen [DeGeneres], and male Sims [to] wear heels like Prince.’ This update has apparently been a year in the making in conjunction with GLAAD, but it was launched with little fanfare (most major gaming sites haven’t picked up the story, and there’s been comparatively little buzz online) and provided completely free of charge.
That last part was the most surprising for those versed in the gaming zeitgeist. EA, which owns The Sims’ publisher Maxis, is famous for its brutally exploitative commercial tactics and complete lack of corporate ethics, but they do have a surprisingly positive reputation for LGBT equality, at least amongst their workers. While it’s depressing that it took four massive games, sixteen years, 114 (and counting) editions and expansions and billions of gamer-hours of deleting the ladders leading into swimming pools to finally realise the dream of letting people put boy clothes on their girl Sims, it is encouraging that even a product like The Sims is finally starting to include people who aren’t just cisgender and straight.