As detailed in their “Sexual Orientation in The Sims 4” news post, a future update will include ways to alter your Sims’ sexual orientation and more. The update’s design lead, Jessica Croft a.k.a. SimGuruJessica, elaborated further.
“As a team, we hold creativity, discovery, inclusivity and play as core values and strive every day to celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion for our people and community,” Croft opened. “With that in mind, we’re delighted to bring the Sexual Orientation feature to all Simmers.
She continued, “Between this update and the recent pronouns update we’re taking several strides forward into being a game that respects and celebrates the nuance and color of everyday life.”
“It is important to acknowledge that these are steps in a journey that we are still mapping out,” the game’s design lead prefaced, adding, “There is much further to go, and while I can’t get into the details of where exactly we go next, please know that we are committed to continuing to improve our representation of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Croft further explained, “Authenticity is a point that often comes up in regards to features like this, and rightly so. As such I’ll try to peel the curtain back a bit and speak to our efforts in making sure we got this right.”
“Many members of the team, myself included, are part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” she revealed. “That said, each one of us on the team represents only a narrow slice of lived experiences.”
Before delving into the update’s new mechanics, Croft asserted, “As such we’ve worked extensively with GLAAD and the It Gets Better Project to ensure that we’ve captured the widest possible range of viewpoints on how to approach this feature in a manner that respects and elevates the community.”
In short players can “assign a series of attraction parameters” to their Sims. These three variables include “This Sim is romantically attracted to,” “This Sim is exploring romantically,” and “This Sim is interested in Mess Around with,” with the former and latter parameters featuring options for Men and Women with the options ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ under the ‘exploring romantically’ category.
Regarding whom the player’s Sim is attracted to, Croft declares that “This is a simple, affirmative statement,” elaborating, “If a Sim whose gender doesn’t match your Sim’s attraction settings attempts a romantic interaction with your Sim, they will be rejected.”
“You can check any combination of attraction boxes (including all or none) to reflect your sim’s romantic orientation. Further down the line, we’ll be able to expand this to include additional gender identities that we don’t have at this time,” the EA designer clarified.
“I understand that there will be concerns here around the initial options being gender binary,” Croft admitted. “Mechanically, non binary Sims don’t yet exist in TS4.”
She then asserted, “While we made great progress in representing non binary Sims with the pronouns update, we acknowledge that pronouns are not the same thing as gender identities. We recognize that we still have a ways to go in this regard. I’ll cover that more in the F.A.Q.”
Moving onto the ‘exploring romantically’ category, Croft states, “This setting controls whether or not your Sim’s Sexual Orientation can shift through gameplay. There are two major stories we wanted to capture with this setting.”
“The first is the story of a person who has figured out who they are and has a firm and immutable sense of who they’re attracted to,” she detailed. “This is reflected by a Sim who is not exploring romantically. Sims set to ‘No’ for exploring, will not shift orientation through gameplay and firmly reject advances from genders they aren’t interested in.”
The game’s design lead then hinted, “The second story is about a person who’s still figuring things out. Sims with exploring set to ‘Yes’, will still have an initial Sexual Orientation setting per the previous step, but it can change through gameplay. As your Sim experiences romantic interactions, they may find themselves in a very different place than where they started.”
Finally, under the ‘messing around’ classification, or ‘WooHoo’ as The Sims alludes to, Croft suggested that this particular setting “determines who your Sim can WooHoo with. If you’re trying to tell the story of an Asexual Sim, you could leave all options unchecked.”
“On the flipside, you could tell the story of an Aromantic Sim by selecting WooHoo interests, but leaving all romantic attraction boxes unchecked,” Croft explained. “You can also tell even more specific stories, such as a Sim who might be attracted to multiple genders but only interested in physical intimacy with one.”
Preempting potential inquiries from players, Croft proceeded to share a more detailed FAQ. While the update would be released alongside the High School Years expansion on July 28th — with Croft also taking on the role of design lead of — it will not be required to access the new Sexual Orientation features.
The game’s design lead then attempted to explain why there were only two options being showcased, declaring, “This is a natural question to ask given that we just recently released the pronouns update.”
“I’ll try to be very transparent with this one. This is due to technical limitations,” she went on to justify. “As stated above, mechanically, non binary Sims don’t yet exist in TS4. You still have to make a binary gender selection for your Sim at creation, regardless of pronoun settings.”
Croft then pleaded, “We hope that we’ve shown our commitment to improving representation of gender identities with features such as Gender Customization, which allows you to modify physical frame, clothing preferences, pregnancy and toilet use options.”
“We look at the pronouns update as another important step toward better representation of non binary genders, but we also acknowledge that pronouns are not the same thing as gender identities,” Croft reiterated.
“TS4 is 8 years old at this point, and reliant on systems that were originally architected with a gender binary in mind. In the intervening years, we’ve taken important steps such as Gender Customization, Pronouns and now Sexual Orientation,” she acknowledged.
Croft then concluded, “It’s a journey still in progress, with many more steps to go. Proper mechanical systems to fully support non binary Sims is another step in that journey.”
While Croft had addressed gender identity, she seemingly opted to overlook bisexuality, pansexuality, and other non-binary sexualities.
One of the questions in the FAQ rhetorically asked the design lead, “How do I WooHoo on a Sim that isn’t interested in romance with anyone?” to which Croft responded, “Super important question since WooHoo is typically gated behind romance. To better reflect Aromantic Sims and a greater variety of lifestyles, we’ve added the ability for young adult Sims and older, to ask close friends to be WooHoo Partners.”
“If they accept, you can now perform WooHoo without the romance prerequisites. Stress on the ‘If they accept’ part, as with many socials of this nature, it can fail and lead to an awkward conversation afterward,” she emphasized.
Croft reassured, “I want to again acknowledge that these topics are complex and full of nuance. We consider this a version 1.0, and are absolutely looking forward to seeing what further tools we might add to allow players to tell a broader range of stories.”
A Sim’s Sexual Orientation was also revealed to be changeable after creation, via a mirror or dresser. Otherwise, the Sim would continue to act as the player previously set. “Sims, prior to Sexual Orientation essentially use the above setting,” Croft detailed.
“They have no inherent attraction to a specific gender, they can have their attraction shift through gameplay, and they will WooHoo with any gender,” she declared. “This is still the default state for a new Sim.”
The FAQ also points to players not being unable to turn this new feature off. Though players could hypothetically edit their characters to only have the unwavering sexuality they desire, this may not apply to non-playable Sims.
Croft explained, “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 switched on and off.”
“We’re thrilled to let you all experience this feature for yourselves. Please share your thoughts with us on socials as we continue building toward a more inclusive future together!” the game’s design lead concluded.
EA had previously stated they wouldn’t sell The Sims 4’s wedding expansion in Russia, as the country’s strict laws against content that promotes homosexuality or undermines traditional family values, would render the update inappropriate for children.
While the developer eventually backpedaled on their initial decision not to release the expansion in the Eurasian country, EA’s efforts would ultimately become moot as the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine prompted them to halt operations, going as far as removing Russian teams from sports titles such as FIFA 22 and NHL 22.
What do you think? Let us know on social media and in the comments below.