The latest Sims 4 expansion pack, “High School Years”, will be released on July 28, but it will also receive a free update with a number of features, most notably a new set of sexual orientation options.
Throughout their history, The Sims has been a haven for many LGBTQIA+ people, and earlier this year, they became the face of their “Marriage Stories” expansion featuring a gay couple featured in marketing. While there was controversy over the – quickly reversed – decision not to sell the expansion in Russia due to the country’s anti-gay laws, the expansion was followed by an update in May that added pronouns.
Each of these steps reaffirms those who have spent countless hours learning about themselves through their Sims’ mirror, something that SimGuruJessica, the high school design lead, seems to achieve. At the the sims 4 design blog (opens in new tab)they spoke in depth about the new Sexual Orientation feature and how the development team arrived at the decisions they made: “Authenticity is a point that often comes up regarding features like this, and rightfully so… , myself included, We are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. That said, each of us on the team represents only a narrow slice of lived experiences. As such, we work extensively with GLAAD and the It Gets Better project to ensure that we ‘capture the widest possible range of points of view. view on how to approach this resource in a way that respects and uplifts the community.”
The Sexual Orientation feature will allow you to adjust your Sim’s romantic and sexual attractions along a few axes. The first is who your Sim is attracted to, which will cause them to automatically reject any romantic interaction with someone they’re not attracted to – and since the system doesn’t require a roll, you can easily represent them as romantic. In the meantime, you can check whether or not your Sim’s sexual orientation can change over the course of the game, which will block their preferences or allow them to evolve over time, as they sometimes do in life.
The last part of the Sexual Orientation feature is the separate setting for sex, or WooHoo as The Sims affectionately refers to it. You can choose which genders your Sim will fall into, and similar to the attraction options, you can easily represent your Sim’s asexuality by leaving both unchecked. The Aro and Ace identities are usually not mentioned or ignored, so the explicit choice to state players who want Sims with those identities is a really nice touch.
While SimGuruJessica acknowledges that attraction and gender in Sims 4 are still binary limited, they also address this in the post’s FAQ: “TS4 is 8 years old at this point and relies on systems that were originally architected with a gender binary in In the years since, we’ve taken important steps such as Personalization of Gender, Pronouns and now Sexual Orientation. It’s a journey that is still in progress, with many more steps to take. Proper mechanical systems to fully support non-binary Sims are another step in this. journey.”
Most important of all, SimGuruJessica left an amazing answer in their FAQ, in response to a question I absolutely know someone would (sadly) ask if they hadn’t addressed this: Can I disable this feature?
“No. While we try to give players the option to toggle certain gameplay features, LGBTQIA+ identities are a fact of life and not a toggle to be turned on and off.”