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.
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But Barrett arrived after this decision was made and, armed with an outdated design document, went ahead and implemented same-sex relationships anyway.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.