Breaking The Binary: 'The Sims 4' Expands Customization

Breaking The Binary: 'The Sims 4' Expands Customization

Players now have more freedom of expression than ever before.
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"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.

Cover Image Credit: http://simsvip.com/2016/06/02/ea-blog-sims-4-expanded-gender-customization-options/

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A Thank You Letter To My Best Friend

All the things I should thank you for more often than I do.
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To My Best Friend,

This thank you is long overdue. There are so many things I want to thank you for, and I’m sure I’m going to still be missing some by the end of this letter. But here is a small token of my gratitude for just being by my side in this life and making it all worthwhile.

Thank you first of all for accepting me and loving me for exactly who I am. This isn’t easy. I can be stubborn, difficult and confusing, but you love and accept me for me. There are days I wonder when you’ll finally come to your senses and move on and find a new BFF, one who isn’t so complicated, but to my amazement, you never do. You tell me you’ll take the good with the bad, and when I question whether I have any good left, you’re always there to reassure me and show me that I do. Thank you for loving me in my dorky and difficult moments, moments where if the rest of the world saw them, they’d probably walk away. Thank you for understanding me like no one else does; if we didn’t have the connection we did, I can’t imagine how lonely and big this world would feel. Because of you, this world seems like a little friendlier place, one I can see myself being a part of.

Thank you for being my biggest fan. Besides my family, you are my biggest supporter, and I know that when I win, you win, and when you win, I win. In this battle we call life, it doesn’t matter who’s in my opponents corner, because I know I am always going to have you in mine, and that’s the best asset I could ever ask for. You encourage me to chase my dreams like no one else does, and I can tell that you sincerely hurt when I hurt — not many people care about me in such a deep way. Whatever crazy dream I tell you I’m going to chase after next, you believe I can do it, even when the rest of the world thinks I’m crazy for even suggesting it. When something good happens, you’re the first person I want to tell, and when something bad happens, you’re the first one I go to for support.

Thank you for being you. You are incredible my dear, and I can’t wait to constantly remind your husband that he got crazy lucky and out kicked his coverage big time. You are beautiful inside and out. On the outside, you are so gorgeous; you’re very own unique and incredible definition of beauty, and I know I’m one of many who see it. You’re intimidating to stand next to in pictures because I know your light shines so bright, but I’ll gladly stand next to you and take a picture, because I’m so excited to show the world how breathtakingly beautiful my best friend is. On the inside you are even prettier, with a warm heart, a sharp mind and an unbelievable personality. You are hands down the funniest person I know, and I still can’t believe that someone as funny and hilarious as you chooses to spend her time with someone as dweeby and awkward as me. I mean, half the time we’re laughing at some fail I had or something stupid I did, so I guess I contribute a little bit to our constant laughing. You are so kind and so sweet, and have the biggest heart of anyone I know. God spent a little extra time when he made you, because you’re the total package: you’re beautiful, awesome and amazing, all wrapped in one, and I’m so lucky he put you in my life—he knows I’d be lost without you.

Thank you for being there for me whenever I need it. It was once said that “all that relationships are are being there for someone when they need you,” and you’re a pro at this. Whether it be because another boy is being stupid or I’m feeling alone, I know all I need to do is call you, and I’ll instantly feel better. You help my through the countless problems Lord knows I have trouble solving, and you reassure me that no matter what, you’re always going to be there for me. This is huge, and something very few people have been able to do for me, but you always have, and I know you always will be. And that is the most reassuring thing I know, knowing that if all hell breaks loose, the world falls apart and I have no one, I’ll have you. And that is all I need.

Thank you for being a spark, a light in my life that no matter how dark the world around us gets, is always there to light my way and show me the way home. Thank you for laughing with me when God blesses us with a funny moment, and crying with me when God is trying to tell me something. Thank you for standing beside me in the greatest of moments and the darkest of hours. Thank you for being the one I share my fondest memories with: all the nights we stayed up really late, all the exciting adventures we went on and all the inside jokes we still laugh about today. Thank you for growing up with me; for being there every step of the way and creating some of my happiest moments with me. Thank you for all the memories I've shared with you, and I can't wait for what crazy adventure we're going to go on next.

So thank you for accepting me, loving me, and supporting me. Thank you for being your wonderful self, and thank you for being there for me, through thick and thin, even when I'm at my lowest. Thank you for shining your brilliant light into my life and illuminating my world.

Oh, and thank you for being my maid of honor. I know I won’t need to ask you for a while, but you had to know it was coming, right?

Thank you for being the godmother to my future children, the sister to my family, and another daughter to my parents.

And finally, thank you for being the best to my friend.

Cover Image Credit: EnkiVillage

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Fiction On Odyssey: 1943

All was lost in 1943.
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I give Evelyn a small wave when she opens her door. Her eyes widen, and she then gives me a thin-lined smile. In the light of recent events, her wrinkles are more prominent, and her eyebags sag like weights — the light does not quite meet her eyes the way it used to. Tears brim in my eyes as she opens her arms. I take a step forward, falling into her embrace. I have completely forgotten how it feels to be around her: warm and comforting. For a moment, it was just me, her, and the faint scent of peppermint. Us against the world.

I pull away, but she stops and grips me hard with her fragile hands. Evelyn looks me straight in the eyes and comforts me, "It's okay. It's okay."

She was trying to convince herself too. I hear the strain in her voice.

I have prepared myself a speech for this exact situation, but the words all fall right off my tongue. No sentences are formed, and I am left stuttering my train wreck of thoughts. Giving up, I point at the stairs. Something tells me that she knows why I had come. The sides of her eyebrows sink a little bit more, and she gives me a concerned look, as if she feared this day would come. "You sure?"

I know that I am not prepared for the fall, but I nod.

"Here," she says, widening the door. She steps sideways and motions me in.

The smell of peppermint becomes overwhelming, making me a bit lightheaded. The familiarity of this house catches me off guard, as I have expected everything to be different. But it is exactly how I remember it a year ago: the faint voices of the radio anchor, the dainty vases displayed in the cabinets, and the piles of books that will never be read. But all that has become unimportant as my eyes settle on a photo frame on the wall — it was the ultimate quartet. My mouth quirks up, reminiscing the previous years. Like a film, the memories replay in my mind over and over. I chuckle at the thought of playing hide-and-seek here in this house; that seems like a lifetime ago.

My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a dropping porcelain. The fall is sharp, and the sound is piercing. Next, there is nothing but the dull ringing in my ears. My fist clenches together as I brace myself for the next moment. A voice speaks up, breaking the thin silence, "Lilly? Is that you?"

I glance up and search for the source of the voice. When my eyes land on her, my heart plummets. Her hands cover her open mouth, and her eyebrows scrunch together, incredulous at the sight of me. I force a smile. "Yeah, Ruth, it's me."

For the second time that day, I find myself in the arms of somebody else. I do not mind; it is much needed.

"A whole year, Lilly. You can't keep avoiding us." Behind those her eyes, I see that she is hurt by my lack of presence. Guilt rises in me, as I cannot justify my actions and truly do not know what to say.

"I was scared." Tears fall from my eyes, and I immediately feel my cheeks burn from the salty fluid. "I'm still scared."

Ruth does not shift one bit, but I feel her trail of tears on my blouse as well. She whispers, "We all are."

I have never realized this before, but that's when I know it. Though time may have split us apart, we are all still connected by the aching pain.

▂▂▂

According to Ruth, nobody has touched the room since last year. His room was a part of him, from the books stacked on his desk to his clothing hung in the closet. Nobody wants to do anything to disturb this order, so it is left for the dust to settle on.

I open one of his books up, and the thirteen colonies are laid out in front of me. As I flip through more and more pages, history moves forward. As more and more territories and states form, so do all the innovations during this time. And as I saw more and more notes in the margins, I know that I was approaching the 1860's.

There was a point in time when we were all fascinated by the Civil War. The Union vs. the Confederates, the controversies that started the war, the strategic tactics used to defeat the South. We spent many hours discussing it too. However, there was one thing I couldn't understand:

Wars are supposed to unite. We are supposed to grieve and mourn together, stand and hope together. The United States of America. We can't be united if we all refuse to work out our different opinions. And despite the fact that the Unions won, the once-Confederates were in a state of economic struggle: land destroyed, labor forces lost, and families torn apart. In the end, the South learned to despise the North even more.

But, we had shrugged it off, oblivious to the fact that it could happen to any one of us, and we used to dress up and play roles as these historical figures. I had pretended to be Lincoln with his hat, and he had made the sides of his hair stick out and played Davis. Yes, we had made fun of the Southern accents and had tried our best to impersonate these people. It was all very cringe-worthy, but nothing had mattered then. One way or another, we'd end up with the Union crying out in victory.

If I could go back in time and tell our younger selves to rethink everything, I would. War is no game. It's more than a story to tell. It's heartbreak, it's death, and it's the loss of innocence.

About a month ago, our troops marched up the beaches of Normandy with the goal to take over German control in France. Operation Overload, otherwise known as D-Day.

I personally have not heard much about it. The news consists of nothing but warfare and politics, so I've stopped listening long ago. The thought of war brings nothing but a sense of impending doom and uncertainty. And these informants bring more than just news or a story — they instill fear.

I couldn't fathom what it must be like for all those soldiers. Miles away from home, with nothing but fading memories of their families and loved ones. I can't imagine spending the last few years of your life with strangers with one common goal: to stay alive.

From the civilian standpoint, we wish for nothing but their safe arrival back home.

As I move from one part of his room to another, I feel more and more helpless. My eyes land on a picture on the wall. The two of us looking at the camera with big smiles. My fingers trace the outline of his lips, and I choke back even more tears. In that captured moment, we couldn't be more than thirteen years old.

Often times I ask myself, why is the world this cruel? We wake up in the mornings while troops fight on the battlefields, watching their comrades fall. We go to work while they fall into restless sleep, unsure of what the next day holds. We live peacefully while they struggle for us.

No, wars separate. As fathers, husbands, sons — heck, even grandfathers — stumble into the chaos of tanks and aircrafts, they walk away from the comfort of their homes, into the unknown future, if they have one that is. Who knows what time has in store?

And if our soldiers ever come back alive, they'll never be fully well. I've seen the veterans of the Great War; they're restless. They're constantly on high alert, always mapping out potential consequences for everyday tasks.

None of them ever fully recovered. We can't pretend to know the challenges they had faced. Because, in reality, we can't imagine the horrors of their external and internal conflicts, their present, their story.

No matter how many times I beg, cry, or yell, the past is the past. As much as I hate to admit it, nothing could change the fact that William Andrew Thompson was dead.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash / Greg Kantra

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