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Actually, The Sims was not intended to include same-sex relationships

Friday, 20th June 2014 05:27 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Sims has been held up as a shining example of long-term support of equal representation of same-sex relationships, but according to one of the original programmers, the inclusion was something of an accident.

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Programmer Patrick J. Barrett III arrived at Maxis part way through development of The Sims. At the time, The Sims looked like a very risky prospect for EA, which apparently had concerns that the sandbox’s failure would reflect badly on other Sim titles such as SimCity.

According to a feature in The New Yorker, since management was already a little hostile to the project, the team eventually elected not to include same-sex relationships in the game, apparently in an attempt not to rock the boat and maintain support for the game they believed in.

But Barrett arrived after this decision was made and, armed with an outdated design document, went ahead and implemented same-sex relationships anyway. Nobody else on the team question the return of the feature, and even if they had, Maxis was too busy worrying about the game being shelved to chase it up.

It’s entirely possible that the feature would have been coded out again at a later date, except for a series of events that led to a very public outing at E3 1999. Barrett was asked to put together the demo, which would show a wedding scene attended by a large crowd of Sims. Pressed for time, Barrett didn’t script behaviour for every member of the crowd.

On the very first day of the show, the demo had an unexpected scene – two female Sims, overcome by the romance of the wedding, wildly making out. The Sims instantly became a major talking point of the show, and the feature’s position in the game was assured. So was The Sims itself, which went on to spawn multiple sequels and prove pretty profitable for EA.

That it was accidental is pretty amusing, although Maxis and EA’s continued support is still laudable, and it’s no wonder that organisations like GLAAD have compared The Sims favourably with Nintendo’s handling of the Tomodachi Life scandal.

The full feature, available through the link above, contains some interesting discussion of the social mechanic at the heart of The Sims and the franchise’s history at EA.

The next Sims game is The Sims 4, due in early September. One of its new features is a more diverse character creator.

Thanks, Polygon.

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13 Comments

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  1. Game Hunter

    You know Brenna,sometimes I get the feeling that you’re not even into games and you constantly search them for a clue of racism,sexism etc. The game journalism should be about gameplay opinions,not the bloody miscellaneous features the designers have decided to put into their game.the games are about to get immersed in their world.I remember you wrote an article about the buttshot cover of Remember Me one year ago.I’m a heterosexual man and I’ve seen that cover many times but I didn’t notice the buttshot even once.when I play the game,I absolutely forget who I am and just notice the world and the enemies around me.when I play Tomb Raider,I don’t spend my time checking the curves of Lara’s body even though I have a crush on her.I really doubt that these days game journalists use their entire free time to get immersed in the games and they’re only after writing clickbait articles like”why the X game is racist etc.”(except for Dave and Pat,they do a bloody good job playing the games and posting their gameplay experiences.)I don’t get why there is even the need to write this article when this matter has been in the game for many years and suddenly for the sake of clickbait you publish this article.It’s like telling your wife:”I didn’t want to marry you but I did that anyway”effectively ruining your relationship. And now imagine a company saying this and the haters get a good excuse to complain about the game.seriously, they’re better ways to earn clicks,you know?I prefer having Steph write the opinion pieces.she’s much more mature in that part.

    #1 1 month ago
  2. Ekona

    Must admit, I got all the way through the article then checked who wrote it, to see if my hunch was correct.

    It was.

    The original article in the New Yorker (as linked to), is a wonderful piece of journalism, that keeps a balanced tone. Brenna’s take on it comes across as hostile, and is actually quite uneasy to read. That’s a shame, and it’s more of a shame that it’s the same person every single time that’s coming across like this.

    Next time, perhaps we can let someone else have a go with the subject matter of -isms in gaming?

    #2 1 month ago
  3. salarta

    Whenever I come into an article written by Brenna, the comments people decide to leave on them have much to be desired. As is typical, the complaints are a thin veneer of justification for going after someone people don’t like because she’s strongly progressive on social issues.

    Because of that, I’m left thinking Brenna more than deserves to remain on staff if for no other reason than to not reward asshats for behavior that amounts to bullying. Even if we assume any of the complaints are fair and legitimate, it would be a mistake to give any of these people what they want. They don’t deserve it.

    #3 1 month ago
  4. Hunam

    I’d love to give VG247 credit for being progressive on social issues, but deep down I know they just want to click bait people.

    #4 1 month ago
  5. Ekona

    @salarta Strongly progressive does not have to mean overly aggressive. You can make a point without making the reader feel like the bad guy, or trying to pick holes in everything. Read Brenna’s version with the original, and then tell me you don’t think one takes a far more negative approach.

    I can’t say I like or dislike Brenna as I don’t know her, so to imply I’m an asshat is a tad unfair. I find her articles on -isms to be far from my taste, and too far down the road of cliched angry journo to provoke any real thought on the issue, but that’s just when she writes on these subjects. On other topics, I quite enjoy reading her pieces. My comment wasn’t made as an anti-Brenna piece, but as an anti-Brenna-on-isms one.

    I don’t want Brenna to leave, you’re twisting words. I just prefer my news stories to be be slightly less aggressive and sarcastic in their tone when dealing with something like this.

    #5 1 month ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @Ekona

    “Any anger and abuse is justified in the pursuit of equality and justice!”

    That’s the problem with the SJW crowd. They try to make a point about sensitive topics in the most hostile way possible. Eventually leading to grown up people not siding with them, even though they agree on the topic.

    #6 1 month ago
  7. monkeygourmet

    muh clicks

    #7 1 month ago
  8. salarta

    @Ekona At this point, I’m just sick of seeing streams of mean-spirited stupidity out of people so hateful and spiteful toward progress in the video game industry that I’m pretty much done wading through their bullshit to get to anything that might actually be one of those rare, one in a million fair and legitimate complaints.

    We have jackasses that spout about how they’re such “adults” for flimsy excuses they hastily slap together, excuses they can’t defend under real scrutiny without resorting to such “mature” arguments as “lolol Social Justice Warrior,” as if having to use idiotic labels isn’t an instant sign of how immature they actually are.

    Is it fair for me to blow off what could be fair criticism? No, but it’s not fair to Brenna or anyone else that these morons always come along acting like they’re somehow perfectly logical gods of debate just because they’re able to string words together to make sentences that half-assedly allow them to pretend they didn’t see anything any time one of their statements is thoroughly debunked.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve seen enough of the dumbasses mouth off incessantly out of their desperation to keep things exactly the way they are, that I’m sick of remaining open-minded. If my attitude is a problem and you feel I’m not giving you a fair deal, blame them. They ruined it for anyone that might actually have an argument that’s worth a damn to hear. I’d rather not dig through mountains upon mountains of trash and bile in the off chance I find one tiny kernel of gold.

    #8 1 month ago
  9. Legendaryboss

    @Hunam Deep Down? Pun intended?

    #9 1 month ago
  10. Gheritt White

    Brenna’s a great journo who posts entertaining and informative articles.

    Don’t like her writing? Fuck off elsewhere. It’s not like the internet is in short supply of videogames websites.

    Also, she’s a woman so you need to take that into account as well. She’s probably confused she;s not in the kitchen or something.

    #10 1 month ago
  11. DarkElfa

    @Ekona You read the article first? I called it off the article title alone.

    That said, if a social issue is valid and needs addressing, its no crime that it be addressed and I’m happy Brenna is willing to do that. However, it would be nice if she didn’t have to to bare that burden nearly by herself.

    #11 1 month ago
  12. TheWulf

    I believe in coincidences, I just don’t trust them, and this coincidence seemed to have a bit of a guiding hand. There’s just too much there stacked up in its favour for it to all have been random chance. It’s nice to know that someone at Maxis was looking out for equal representation, even if the execs were against it (because of course they were, considering how many managerial positions are headed up by sociopathic extroverts).

    This is a thing that happens quite often, though. Management will say one thing, and particularly clever and creative types will slip the opposite in, under the radar. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case with Tomodachi Life, too. But unfortunately, that went the opposite direction in 2014, whereas same sex relationships weren’t patched out of the Sims back in the ’90s.

    But yeah. I can believe this is a coincidence, but a very guided coincidence. :P Seems like Barrett was a chess piece in someone’s efforts to make things a little bit better for everyone. That’s the kind of manipulation I can respect.

    I’m as glad as you though Brenna that it remained. It’s nice to have gay, interracial relationships in anything, in general, even if I’m the one directing it.

    @1

    Brenna’s shown her love for games countless times in the past. But you, being a bigoted, sexist extrovert wouldn’t ever care to research that. You could just do a Google search for her past articles on VG24/7 just to see how much of a gamer she actually is.

    But OH NO, SHE HAS AN OPINION THAT DISAGREES WITH THE HERD’S STATUS QUO, that must mean she’s not a gamer.

    And the rest of your verbal diarrhoea I don’t even want to comment on. You disgust me. Just… in general, you disgust me. As a person, you disgust me. I feel that units such as yourself are more stupidity and hatred given form rather than true humans. This is why I find extroverts so deeply unpleasant.

    The status quo isn’t a fucking religion. Stop treating it as such. Stop believing that the views of the herd are facts for life. Stop it. Stop that now. Just stop it.

    @2

    And now… the pseudo-intellectual extrovert who tries to use ten dollar words, ultimately signifying nothing, to offer some kind of proof that Brenna is a poor writer because she holds an opinion that exists outside of the herd’s status quo!

    * How is it hostile? Explain the assumed source and presence of the hostility.
    * In what way is the tone unbalanced? Cite examples versus the source article.
    * What is she ‘coming across like?’ Please do explain your bias against her.

    The most telling part is that you claim it makes you feel ‘uneasy.’ Uneasy that someone has a vocal opinion that leans towards equality.

    Sigh. Extroverts. Ever the dimwits, even when they’re trying to be pseudo-intellectual.

    @3

    Yes! Absolutely! I do indeed concur wholeheartedly.” — Riker

    And I say that with no irony. I’m tired of the negative portrayal of women, too. And I’m sick of the same* anti-intellectual thugs going after anyone who speaks out in favour of equality.

    (* Those being extroverted, healthy, straight, white, cis-gendered men who have as much bigotry as privilege floating around in their nasty, sick little heads. Believe me, I find them as distasteful as you do.)

    @4

    Horseshit. Utter horseshit. This is very important to Brenna, even before the site change, she’d hinted that these were things she wanted to talk about. In her support of Gone Home, for example, it was always there. It’s just that now she feels like she’s permitted to speak about the things which are important to her.

    @5

    Oh, the pseudo-intellectual again.

    Strongly progressive does not have to mean overly aggressive.

    In what way is she being unjustifiably aggressive? Sometimes you have to be blunt to get a point across, because people are being marginalised and treated unfairly. Do you think that the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. were unjustifiably aggressive? Sometimes, the bluntness is equal to the amount of oppression felt.

    But you’re an overly privileged extrovert, so you lack the insight to understand that.

    You can make a point without making the reader feel like the bad guy [...]

    If the reader is bigoted, the reader IS the bad guy. If you support the oppression of anyone, for any reason, you ARE the bad guy. If you don’t want to feel bad about being the bad guy, stop being the bad guy. Then you won’t feel bad! I mean, fuck, this isn’t advanced anthropology, this is basic humanities 101.

    Read Brenna’s version with the original, and then tell me you don’t think one takes a far more negative approach.

    Why is Brenna’s version unfairly negative versus the original? You haven’t explained that. And if you did, I think we’d get at the crux of the matter. You just want it sugar-coated so that you can be a bigoted arseface without having to feel bad about being a bigoted arseface.

    Well, you bigoted arseface, some of us aren’t going to sugar-coat it for you. Nor should we have to, frankly. You’ve exercised your privilege enough, don’t you think? Again, if you don’t want to be treated like a bigoted arseface, stop being a bigoted arseface, then you won’t feel bad about it.

    Your own shame is speaking more volumes than any criticisms of Brenna’s article.

    [...] so to imply I’m an asshat is a tad unfair.

    She hasn’t called you one. Where, in the article, does she call you one by name? You’re feeling shame for being an arse. If you want to stop feeling the shame, stop being an arse. You can’t blame Brenna for your shame. No amount of pseudo-intellectuality is going to hide that you’re projecting your shame onto a target (Brenna, in this instance).

    And that’s what’s not fair, here.

    I find her articles on -isms to be far from my taste, and too far down the road of cliched angry journo to provoke any real thought on the issue, [...]

    In what way is she cliched? All you’ve told us so far is that you’re sitting in the corner, having a little cry because she didn’t sugar-coat it for you. Your idea of intellectualism is sugar-coating and a pat on the back, and if someone doesn’t do that, then they’re a thug. I’ll give you this one for free: Your privilege is showing.

    The legend of persecuted white guy is bullshit. You’re not the victim, here. Stop playing the role. No one’s buying it (other than similarly extroverted idiots) or your pseudo-intellectuality.

    I don’t want Brenna to leave, you’re twisting words. [...]

    It sure sounded like it. You were throwing a wobbly and wanted her exiled for not acknowledging your white male privilege.

    I just prefer my news stories to be be slightly less aggressive and sarcastic in their tone when dealing with something like this.

    Exactly! You want her to sugar-coat it for you, so you can be a bigot and be made to feel good about being a bigot. You even just said it, right there. You’re incredibly transparent.

    I’m good at reading people. In literature, humans are believed to be inherently good, they are noble creatures. In reality, most humans are extroverts who listen to their survival instincts and look out for number one. I can see scum from a mile away. You’re just scum that has the capacity for shame. If you don’t want to feel shame, then you should try treating people better and not oppressing them.

    @6

    And you’re what #5 is, but without the pseudo-intellectuality. Instead of the ten dollar words, you just throw memes like ‘social justice warrior’ around, because you’re so scared of women stealing your ice cream.

    You’re one of the most vocally sexist and misogynistic (with a real hatred for women, not just the usual regressive views) people on VG24/7. So of course you’re going to hate Brenna. You hate her because she’s smarter than you, and she scares you, and you think she’s going to take all of your white male privilege away.

    But that’s not what us social equality activists want. We want equality. We want the same share. Oh no, you’d have to share with us, and lose your privilege of being at the top of the pile. Oh, the horror, the horror. Poor, poor, poor you.

    @8

    Don’t try and reason with him, it’s not worth it. Look at his post. Read it carefully. He’s projecting his own shame onto Brenna and blaming her for it. He wants her to sugar-coat her words and make him feel good about being a bigot.

    If he’s able to stop being a bigot, he’ll feel less bad about himself.

    @11

    It hurts her the most, so she feels the need to talk about it. Why shouldn’t she?

    #12 1 month ago
  13. DarkElfa

    @TheWulf

    Use of words in single comment:

    “Extrovert” – 9 times
    “Bigot: – 12 times
    “Pseudo-intellectuality” – 6 times

    I suggest a good mental health counselor and a thesaurus.

    #13 1 month ago