An Old Problem Finally Addressed in New Media
In my life I’ve worked with a number of GLBTIQ organisations in both voluntary and paid capacities. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the many advances made by my community and the pain of seeing the fear and animosity directed at us. Australia is currently in election mode and the prospect of a costly plebiscite to decide if gays and lesbians deserve equal marriage rights is being proposed. So once again the GLBTIQ community is a football in the political minefield. We are just one of many, along with Australia’s treatment of refugees and our country’s financial state.
Creating An Even Playing Field
One issue that has received some attention in Australia but has become a bigger political football in the US is gender diversity and the recognition of transgender people and their rights. Transgender people have been present in many cultures throughout history.
An example from early Australia: Edward de Lacy Evans arrived in Melbourne in 1856, as a female immigrant named Ellen Tremaye. After working as a domestic servant she adopted male attire and married a woman called Mary Delahunty who had come out on the same ship.
Australia’s political leaders ran scared when confronted with The Safe Schools program. The federal government ordered an overhaul of the taxpayer-funded program after a review deemed some parts inappropriate for young students, including providing assistance to students who thought they might be transgender. After all, how horrifying that a government-funded program should support the best mental and physical health of the next generation.
So given this background I was pleasantly surprised to learn of a significant update to a major video game. What, a game? I hear you ask.
Yes, a game. The Sims 4™, to be precise.
The Sims has been around for 16 years, growing out of the Sim City™ games by the same company – Electronic Arts probably makes a game you have played. Their casual games include Bejewled, Plants Vs Zombies and Need for Speed, to name a few.
My point is that they are not a small player. Their games are played by millions.
So what has Electronic Arts done to warrant me writing to you? They have added a new gender customisation option in an update to The Sims 4™ that means you can make your character with the physical traits, costumes, voice, hair and jewellery, and so on of any gender. Previously when you set your character, you were locked out of many options including those of clothing and hair.
Now, while this may not be a huge deal to many or even most players, for those who don’t identify with their birth gender, or even those who don’t identify with any gender, a world of possibility has now been opened.
When I was young, I was starved for representation of my sexuality and way of thinking on television, in games, in the movies and in books. I am aware of how much more readily GLBTIQ people are represented in the media today, although we still have a way to go. But it makes me happy to know that a major company has taken a step in the right direction to represent ALL their customers in their games.
I have reproduced below the press release from Electronic Arts, and I wish to state that I am in no way associated with them or the game. And now, if you don’t mind, I just need to get back to making Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst to play with.
PRESS RELEASE 2/6/2016
For more than 16 years, The Sims franchise has empowered players to express themselves through open gameplay and endless customization. That's why we're so excited that today's free update to The Sims 4 features an expanded Create A Sim mode with new gender customization options, and gives our players even more ways to play with life. For the first time, you'll be able to customize your Sims without the gender boundaries previously set in place. This means you can now create Sims with any type of physique, walk style, and tone of voice you choose – regardless of their gender.
We've also made clothing, hair, jewelry, and other visual options available to all Sims. Over 700 pieces of content previously only available to either male or female Sims, have now been made available to all Sims regardless of initial gender selection. This includes content from The Sims 4 base game and previously launched packs.You can now dress your Sims in any attire, give them short, long or styled hair, or customize them with some personal accessories to top off their look. Through the addition of new filters and sorts in Create A Sim, what you do with these new options is entirely up to you!
The Sims is made by a diverse team for a diverse audience, and it's really important to us that players are able to be creative and express themselves through our games. We want to make sure players can create characters they can identify with or relate to through powerful tools that give them influence over a Sims gender, age, ethnicity, body type and more.So, no matter how you like to play, we hope this update to Create A Sim gives you plenty of new options. Personally, we've had a ton of fun exploring how good many of the short hair male hairstyles look on the female Sims, and vice versa. And we’re just getting started checking out how outfits and styles look on totally different body types.We can't wait to continue to hear from you about all the ways you use the game to play with life.
Ready to Make a Difference?
Be part of the change you want to see in your organisation and help us work towards a future that involves everyone.