Ava Mac ‘21, Editor-in-Chief
Turning 20 years old this Feb. 4, The Sims is the world’s most popular life simulation game franchise. Its premise is as simple as this: the player can do virtually anything they want with their characters known as “Sims” and live out their lives, creating a gameplay experience completely of their own. In a year like this, escaping from the current stresses of reality with these kinds of distractions is often a necessity.
The Sims is currently at its fourth installment of the main series owned by 20 million people worldwide. While the graphics and gameplay of The Sims have certainly come a long way since the first edition, it must be noted that Sims 4 is far from perfect—in fact, very, very far from perfect.
From its initial release on Sept. 2, 2014, the game was already lacking many of the past game editions’ established components. Basic features of the previous games like pools and the toddler life stage would not be added to Sims 4 for months to come. And players were also disappointed to find that the open world feature of Sims 3 was replaced in Sims 4 by tedious loading screens anytime you left the house.
The line up of downloadable content has also been quite hit-or-miss with great expansion packs like Seasons or City Living, or incredibly boring ones like the Star Wars game pack or the “Nifty Knitting” stuff pack.
But maybe the most criminal shortcoming of the Sims 4 is the blatant disregard for people of color. For six years now, black Sims players—also known as Simmers—have criticized the blotchy and ashy appearance of the darker skin tones, the weird bluish hue to the black hair color, and general lack of any good natural hairstyles at all. As a comparison, the lighter skin tones in the game are much less patchy and much more smooth, along with a wide variety of straight and wavy hairstyles with clean and accurate textures.
These criticisms may seem trivial, but the fact that so much attention to detail was put into the lighter skin tones and hairstyles as opposed to that of the black Sims characters implies that the game developers, to a certain extent, neglected the importance of proper representation. In a game that is supposed to be about living out a story of your own, whatever that might be, it is upsetting that so many players cannot even see themselves as a part of the game.
“If this is a life simulator game, why is it that the skin tones… [are so] unrealistic?” Anthonia, a black YouTuber under the username of tonitalks, said. “You can make your Sims green, blue, whatever, but in terms of wanting to make a Sim that looks like me or looks like my family members, I shouldn’t have to compromise with having these [terrible] skins.”
Another prominent YouTuber, Amanda Elimian, said, “The game has been out for six years. You made vampires, mermaids, witches… green people before someone who looks like me.”
But the Sims team has recently promised to change this issue. After six years of ignoring consumer demands, the team finally released a statement on Sept. 3 guaranteeing an update to be made in regards to the quality of black skin tones and hairstyles. The first part of this update was launched Oct. 6, only fixing minor details in preparation for a larger update scheduled to release on Dec. 8.
What is so frustrating about this, though, is that the Sims team waited years until nationwide racial unrest hit America to finally give black Simmers the proper representation they deserve. This representation should have been a part of the game from the very get-go, and the fact that black Simmers remained unheard for so many years speaks volumes about the priorities of the Sims team.
The Sims, for many of us, is a form of escapism. But for black game players, even in a fictional world, they cannot escape the constant reminder that our predominantly white society views them as an afterthought.