Why pronouns are important in video games like The Sims 4
For many LGBTQ+ gamers (myself included), discovering the character they just spent hours creating in The Sims could have a same-sex relationship was the first time they encountered queerness, not just in a video game, but in any form of entertainment.
The story goes that this was the result of a happy accident involving a mix-up with an old design document, and that same-sex relationships weren’t originally intended to be featured in The Sims at all – let alone included in the original game’s 1999 E3 showcase.
Regardless of why it happened, it made history, and so began an inclusive franchise that remains beloved by queer gamers across the world to this day, thanks in no small part to the ability to create characters that reflect who you are – or who you wish to be – with almost endless possibilities.
But one feature remains missing, and that’s the ability to choose the pronouns of your Sims.
For cis gamers who have never questioned their gender identity, this might not seem like a huge deal. But for trans and non-binary people who may use pronouns as a way to express or confirm their identity, a change as simple as this can mean the world.
“In a game like The Sims, which is literally a life simulator, it makes sense that players want to express themselves or create worlds that are more authentic to the world they live in, or the world they want to see,” explains Sierra Myst, a queer drag artist who streams on Twitch.
“Pronoun options, which might seem like something small, open up doors for non-binary and other queer players to create characters, stories, and worlds that they can actually see themselves in.”
The Sims community has been campaigning for pronoun options for years in an effort to make the franchise as inclusive as possible. A Change.org petition calling on devs to introduce the feature currently has over 20,000 signatures.
Momo Misfortune, the creator of the petition, has praised The Sims franchise for being “ahead of its time” with queer romance and the ability to customize gender options like body types and features, but feels that pronoun options are still needed.
“Being able to change their identity in a game can have such a big impact on someone’s life. Personally, I’ve been playing The Sims since The Sims 2, and it helped me in discovering my sexuality,” they tell Dexerto.
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“For a game like The Sims that prides itself on ‘playing with life’, being able to select pronouns or include more gender-neutral language for our Sims is the next step towards inclusivity.”
Whenever a discussion of inclusivity or diversity is raised in gaming communities, there’s almost always a backlash from those who don’t understand the need for change or argue that ‘politics’ need to stay out of their games.
For Sierra, it’s understandable that there may be some confusion around the topic of pronouns, but they encourage gamers who have traditionally always been able to see themselves represented in video games to think outside of their own experience.
“It is always hard to understand something that you have no personal stake in, but I would urge these people to empathize with those who cannot as easily see themselves in most games because of options like this,” they say.
“As for the tired argument of politics, I wonder why they have no objections to games with themes of war, government policies, or corporate greed? These are all political topics but never seem to gain the same critique that they are ‘too political’ for games.”
Fortunately, it seems as though Maxis are listening; During a recent livestream, it was revealed that The Sims 4 development team has been researching “global language characteristics”, with an update on pronoun options expected in January 2022.
And while Momo isn’t convinced that introducing more inclusive language and features like this will actually help eradicate toxicity and bigoted views from gaming, it’s enough simply to let LGBTQ+ gamers know that they’re welcome.
“Knowing that developers care enough to listen to queer gamers to be more inclusive proves to us that our voices and lives matter,” they add, “despite what others may say.”