On Jan. 31, 2023, the Sims team announced that “The Sims 4” was getting an update to include something for trans Simmers to enjoy, including binders and top surgery scars for transmasculine people, and shapewear specific for transfeminine people. “The Sims 4” is known for its increasingly inclusive gameplay. Recently, Simmers have been able to enjoy a breadth of new skin tones, hairstyles, romantic preferences, and new traits that make gameplay feel a bit more realistic.
These changes may seem relatively small, but they feel monumental to players like myself who identify as nonbinary or trans. This change comes at a time where anti-trans legislation is being passed at alarming rates, and many feel the need to detransition out of safety. It’s wonderful seeing the Sims team embrace their trans players with open arms. Last year, they introduced the (albeit buggy) pronoun system to the game, where Simmers could update their Sim’s pronouns to other options besides he or she.
Trans players were never really considered in video game character creation until recently. Games like “Dream Daddy” and “Cyberpunk 2077” are some examples of trans representation in their character creation systems. In “Cyberpunk 2077,” there is a trans woman character named Claire, a bartender in the game, and players themselves could change their body however they wished (e.g. creating a character that has breasts and a penis). Similarly, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” allowed players to switch between clothes and express their gender however they wished; they also removed gendered dialogue in the game.
Many older games lack breadth of gender identity and only included male/female options in their gameplay, such as “Skyrim” and the “Dark Souls” series. Hypothetically, if you were into more of the role-play aspect, you could headcanon your character as trans, but you couldn’t actually make them trans in the gameplay itself.
However, gender did not affect the player’s gameplay in those games. On a recent episode of OutWrite’s podcast, “Speak Out,” I talked about how “Skyrim” was accidentally queer. Bethesda in 2011 was not really interested in creating a game that included queer politics, but rather wanted to create a more pragmatic romance system where all players get the option to date any romantic interests, who are NPCs in the game, because it was easier to code. Although the fluidity in romantic partners in the game mechanics is a nice accidental inclusion, this still didn’t include trans representation for trans players.
“The Sims” games themselves were no better. Simmers who wanted a diverse cast of Sims in their games were left to rot up until 2022. For the first three games, and arguably even the inception of the fourth game, Simmers could only choose two genders for their Sims, male or female. Even clothing in the game was pointlessly gendered, men’s clothes looking awkward on “feminine” body types and vice versa. It wasn’t until last year that the Sims team introduced pronouns; before then, trans players who used they/them or neopronouns were isolated. Similarly, they added more inclusive options to the game, such as “pee standing up/pee sitting down,” as well as an option for “feminine/masculine” body types rather than two encompassing gender options.
In Maxis’ defense, they did release a pride patch in June of 2019 that included a variety of pride flags and rainbow-colored items that Simmers could use when decorating their builds in the game. When the pronoun patch in January of 2022 launched, many Simmers, such as myself, were excited to see some inkling that the Sims universe was moving beyond the gender binary.
We’re happy to see that this year, the Sims team finally went full steam ahead and created options for trans Simmers to represent themselves in their gameplay. Here are the official patch notes if you are interested in looking at what else the Sims team included in this update (i.e. hearing aids and glucose monitors). Although these changes feel minor, I really think we all deserve some type of joy finally seeing ourselves in a mainstream game such as “The Sims 4.” It will be exciting to see what the Sims team does next in regards to inclusivity!
Author: Judah C (They/Them)
Artists: Judah C (They/Them), Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He), Sims 4 Character Creator
Copy Editors: Charis (She/Her), Bella (She/They)