Saturday, August 15, 2015

We need a better Sims game

Munchkin weasel convinced me to install The Sims 4 on my computer, and even before that she has encouraged me to play it.  Of course after I made my character she immediately wanted to set me up in a relationship with one of the opposite gender, and she had no patience for me making my house how I wanted it to be (which takes time.)

But now that it is on my computer I've had a chance to play unsupervised by munchkin weasel.

I made a new character. Being more than a Simulacrum was in my head so the name Place wouldn't get out, but using that name would be dangerous: using the same name for two characters can lead to conflating them.

So I went with Location.  For a last name I thought Zelinsky sounded like a last name, looking it up shows that it is indeed a good solid American last name.  Not that it originates here.  It's a Russianized form of a Polish name.  (I didn't know that "Russianized" was a word till I looked up the name.)

So my adventures as Location Zelinsky have been interesting.  First off, I had time to build my house my way.  I put in an atrium (even though the Sims does not take place in Ancient Rome and thus there is no call for one) complete with impluvium.  I put in a peristyle hall.  I made labyrinthine basements.

I made irregular shapes and, apart from the ground floor, shunned right angles.  I put in two playgrounds even though Location doesn't have kids.  (I also put in kid's rooms because the set up I decided to use was kitchen dining room, bathroom, study on one side and bedrooms on the other, thus I needed some extra bedrooms.)

I bought every type of instrument (piano, guitar, and violin are it, not the best representation), I had a pool, and then a basement pool.  Not a pool table because that wasn't an option.

Terracotta roof.

But what I want to talk about isn't that stuff.

In some way the Sims is pretty damn good.  It seems to have no looking down on same sex relationships, even though you'll only see them if you initiate them (which isn't the best) and marriage equality is totally a thing.

But.  But, but, but, there are so many other places where it could be so great and ... nope.

When creating a character you have to choose male or female.  No other options.  No third position.

Even if we accept the polarity of male and female (which we shouldn't) there would still be lines of latitude between those poles.

Then it gets worse.  Males can't wear female styles.  Females can't wear male styles.

Before that everyone had to be male or female, gender matches body type.  So you knew it was totally gender-binary gender-assigned-at-birth normative, but even given that, there's still a huge amount of room to be accepting males and females who don't conform to gender roles.  You don't have to be genderqueer to be gender non-conforming.

Terminology can get confusing here.  One is tempted to call a [gender] identifying assigned [same gender] at birth person a "cis" person but, in fact crossdressers (as an example) fall under the trans* umbrella.  A boy who wants to wear female coded clothing is still a boy, but is not staying within the bounds of what society says a boy should be thus

At least those people could have been allowed to make a character like themselves.

Can't do that.  Boo.

I don't think anyone in the game is asexual (though to check I'd need to try to flirt with literally everyone.)

So then we come to relationships.

It seemed like everyone my Location Zelinsky hit it off with turned out to be married to some dude.  Eventually there was an exception or two.  (The definite exception was someone who didn't commit to relationships, the possible exception was insane.)

I was actually going to try to pursue the possibility of a relationship with an insane redhead (please tell me that it was just a coincidence and not red hair being connected to insanity in the code) when I a married woman asked me out on a date.  This was actually the second married woman I went on a date with.

And things went well, and ... I put off asking for any kind of romantic relationship for quite a while, but I think it was when this creative, playful, flirty, secret agent (it's a job) made use of an empty moment during a visit to my house to play with dolls in the dollhouse of one of the unnecessary extra rooms that I finally gave in and asked her to be my girlfriend.

She said yes.  Pretty soon the romance meter (yes, that is a thing) was maxed out, and it kept suggesting that I ask her to break up with her husband.  Because ... um ... apparently that's what you want to do if you're into someone.

Can't ask if she wants to break up with him.  Can't ask if her relationship with him is good for her.  Can't ask if maybe husband would be ok with her being in another relationship too.

Polyamory definitely isn't an option, things that might loosely be described as open relationships have reduced jealousy when one member sees the other being romantically with someone else which is better than nothing, but no real option for a serious relationship.  That means no real option for a serious relationship with a person unless you intend to keep them to yourself (or, alternatively, unless you intend to avoid seeing them in the relationship they were already in when you started yours, and even then it repeatedly suggests asking them to break that relationship up.)

So, woo for representation for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people (though it seems like it might be the case that everyone's bisexual in this version, I'm not sure) but any other letter of the alphabet soup of people needing representation and nothing.  If you're such a person, people like you literally don't exist in the game.

Ditto for those who want serious non-monogamous relationships.

We can do better.


As for the game itself, it's surprisingly good at drawing you in.


  1. We can do better. There are challenges, both of prudishness and of implementation, but it can be done. :/

  2. I haven't played a Sims game since 2. The way they did it there was presumably calculated to allow homosexuality while avoiding Gay Recruiting Panic: when you control an adolescent, you can initiate a First Kiss with someone you get on with well enough, and that sets that character's sexual preference for the rest of their lives. As far as I remember, and it's been a little while, you can step outside that, but the NPCs never will - if you have a male character coded as heterosexual, no man will ever come on to him. And if you never First Kiss, nobody will ever attempt romantic interactions with you at all, so that's an effective way of playing asexual.

    I can't remember what happens to characters you start as adults, but I think it works roughly the same way.

    Seems like a workable compromise if you are trying to sell to people who would prefer that non-cis-straight-het-etc. didn't exist at all, as well as everyone else. Which as a part of EA they probably are.

    But there's a definite authoritarian streak in there - it was only in Sims 4 that outfits weren't locked to specific settings (e.g. you couldn't designate something from the "swimwear" group as "sleepwear", etc.).