"The Sims," a wildly popular life simulation game series, has always taken a progressive stance on diversity and identity, so it was excited to share the good news: Sims will now have access to all hairstyles, clothing and makeup, regardless of the Sim's gender.
Maxis, "The Sims'" developer, announced the update for "The Sims 4" on June 2, along with a short video showing off the new customization choices available to players. Clothing and accessories are still sorted by "Masculine" and "Feminine" tags in the customization library, but the availability of these items is no longer restricted by gender. The update is definitely a step toward allowing players more freedom and authenticity, showing support for the fluidity of gender expression.
"The Sims" has a long history of player freedom for sexuality and gender identity. Same-sex relationships have been implemented since the first game released in 2000. In 2004, "The Sims 2" introduced "Joined Unions" for same-sex couples. "The Sims 3," released 2009, recognized gay marriage and added the ability for same-sex couples to form autonomously between non-player characters, six years before gay marriage was legalized nationwide in the U.S. The move away from gendered character customization is "The Sims'" next step in expanding player freedom to reflect the diversity in an ever-growing community of players.
Other well-known game companies have been following suit with support for freedom of identity in their games. For example, Nintendo's newest installment in the "Fire Emblem" series is the first to support same-sex relationships, after Nintendo's "Tomodachi Life"came under fire for not including same-sex relationships. However, Nintendo's personal avatar series of Miis have never had gender-restricted customization options, giving players access to hairstyles, makeup and facial hair, regardless of a Mii's gender.
Although the game industry is still far away from getting rid of the transphobia, homophobia and sexism that characterizes many of today's most popular games, "The Sims" has always been a leading series in showing support for freedom of expression in the storm of controversy surrounding the evolving concept of gender. This update is a welcome change, challenging the gender binary in one of the most popular games in gaming history.