I wouldn’t call myself a gamer. I don’t play World of Warcraft or Call of Duty or Halo. I don’t really know what Destiny is. I never got into Farmville even though everyone on Facebook really wanted me to buy a cow or give them a cow or find a lost cow or milk a cow or slaughter a cow (I still don’t know how Farmville works, but it involves randomly asking your friends to do stuff with cows, I know that). When smartphones became affordable circa 2006, I immediately gravitated towards the not-super-fun Blackberry because it had a better email client for Outlook.
Sure, games are fun. In fact about half of all gamers are now women. That’s pretty rad! I have gone through Angry Birds and Candy Crush and Mario Kart phases, but I only got into those games for a short period of time. Playing games doesn’t define me enough to call myself a “gamer.”
There is one major exception to this. Since it came out in 2000, I have been completely obsessed with The Sims. The Sims is a simulation game where you create and play one or more characters as they go about their daily life. You tell them to eat and go to the bathroom. You also can direct their lives at work, in love, and so on. You can design the way they look from their skin color to the shape of their nose. In the fourth edition of the Sims, which came out on September 2nd for Windows, you can create a character with precision down to the shape of their cheekbones or the size of their beer gut. Woah.
The Sims 4 release came with a few bugs and issues, as the game is notorious for. One of the issues with the game is that it doesn’t allow players to enter words like “gay” and “queer” and “transgender” into the name or description of Sim characters. EA, the maker of the Sims, responded quickly to the issue, promising it was unintentional and caused by the automated filtering program and they would have it resolved ASAP. Sims fans are optimistic they will follow through because the Sims has a long history of being queer-friendly. In fact, the Sims 4 is so gay that it was slapped with an “adults only” rating in Russia because of Russia’s anti-gay laws. Since the very first version of the game, Sims all have the potential to be bisexual — they are equally attracted to women and men — and same-gender relationships are allowed.
It was an unintentional kiss between two female sims during a public preview that propelled The Sims into infamy back in 1999, when it was released at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. In the Sims 2, same-gender sims were able to be married, which was ahead of the times and very cool. The Sims 4 actually has a preloaded gay couple in the game for the first time, though individual preloaded characters have been inferred to be gay or lesbian in previous games. A well known Sims fan, sims3loser…theawkwardsimmer, has even made a tutorial series for gay simming.
It should come as no surprise that many Autostraddlers explored our sexual orientation through the Sims. When this news about the Sims 4 first came up in the weekly chat, a whole bunch of us jumped in to wax nostalgic about our respective Sims-related queer epiphanies.
My Sims Story
The person who introduced me to the Sims was one of my closest friends in high school. We were both nerds and spent a lot of time at coffee shops being nerdy, saw our first live screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show together and played the Sims on her desktop computer. I came out to my friend around this time and immediately after, she awkwardly pushed me away. It was pretty rough and pushed me back into the closet until I got to college. I found out years later, when she contacted me out of the blue, that she was super super super gay and my coming out made her feelings more confusing. If I had any gaydar at all at the time, I would have known. My friend was always super super super gay in a really stereotypical way. Like, looking back, it is SO obvious. I regret that we weren’t more open with each other in high school. We could have been the first lez couple at our school. I could have been the Gabrielle to her Xena. She was really into Xena. Just saying.
Before I came out to everyone, playing the Sims was a way for me to safely explore queerness. I could make two male or two female sims makeout or even “woohoo” (the Sims term for sex) with no repercussions. I could make a sim fall in love with both a woman and a man at the same time. Not only could I watch this on my screen, I could actively make it all happen. This is important. I wasn’t just watching a movie about kissing girls. I wasn’t reading about kissing girls. I could make the decision, through my sim, to romance and kiss a girl, to take a girl to my tacky vibrating bed.
I need to emphasize that this was in 2000-2001. Will and Grace was still “controversial.” Ellen didn’t have a talk show yet. The Millenium March had just happened. The Sims was way ahead of its time. It was one of the first — and definitely the first widely distributed — games to allow same-gender couplings.
I could also explore my identity in other ways through my sims. In every Sims game I’ve had, and I’ve played all the versions except Sims 4 (which isn’t available for Mac yet), I have created a Sim for myself and my real-life partner. I have also always created a fantasy character for myself — typically named Magenta Curry and sometimes married to Tim Curry. (What?! Don’t judge me.) I tend to try to align my real sim with my real life in terms of vocation and hobbies and life choices. Magenta, on the other hand, has been everything from a wild party girl to a ruthless CEO to a bohemian artist with multiple sex and relationship partners along the way. Before I was ready or able to kiss a girl in real life or to reinvent myself as the wild party girl or fierce leader or boho artist — all identities that eventually became a part of my real identity — I could play them out on my computer screen.
Queer Sexytime Sim Play
On the Sims FreePlay, the version for your smartphone or tablet, I was finally able to create a poly family. In the computer version of the Sims, you have always been able to make sims fall for multiple people, but if they get caught, they get jealous and mad. I tried creating a triad on the Sims 3 once, but they wouldn’t stay together even though I had them all in relationships with each other. On the Sims Freeplay, you can create poly relationships without jealousy, as long as all the sims are at least friends with each other. I have a group of four living together right now, all bisexual and all woohooing on the regular.
I like that on Sims FreePlay, none of the sims have any sense of modesty, either. They are all up in each others business, woohooing in public and in front of their friends, washing their hands while someone else uses the toilet. They just don’t give a damn. I’m sure this is because FreePlay is a much less advanced program than the computer version and not because of intentionally celebrating sexual liberation, but I’m still down.
I have also been successful in the Sims 3 in getting my lesbian sims pregnant through an unofficial sperm donor. Right now, only different-gender sims can make a baby the ol’ fashioned way. Same-gender sim couples can adopt. However, I wanted a pregnant lesbian sim. I don’t know. I’m working through some stuff and I felt like I needed this. So I got both of my lesbian sims to woohoo with the same guy sim and then dump him. It was not the best situation for the poor dude (and I would obviously not advocate for this IRL), but it worked for my ladysims (who are pixels and therefore have no moral compass)! They got to be preggers together and it was real cute.
QTSOC — Queer Trans Sims of Color
Through the Sims, you can create community that may not exist in real life. The queer community where I live is pretty lacking in people of color and it is just lacking, in general. On my current Sims FreePlay game, I’m really into overpopulating the town with queer folks and queer people of color.
When I began dating my current spouse (almost 10 years ago) I created a sim for him. My spouse is openly trans and identifies as a boi, specifically. There are no right words to describe his gender identity — like he identifies with lesbian culture and politics, but he is definitely masculine presenting and definitely doesn’t identify as a woman. You dig? One limitation of the sims is that there are only two possible gender identities. I would love to see the Sims expand to be more inclusive of gender nonconforming people or even to put gender on a spectrum. That would be so cool. That said, you can make sims with badass alternative lifestyle haircuts and dress them in clothes that are more stereotypically masculine or feminine regardless of gender. It’s super doable to make a queer-looking sim, any way you might define that. For my partner, it was actually very cool that I could create him as I saw him, as a puppy-eyed dude that likes to wear hoodies and flip flops.
Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts Sim Style Profile
These are all from Sims 3 because I don’t have Sims 4 yet because it’s not available for Mac yet and I’m really sad about it.
Did I mention that the Sims 4 isn’t out for Mac yet? Yeah, life is hard. Do any of you have the Sims 4 for PC yet? You can totally buy it right now, if you want! Do you have your own queer sim stories? TAKE A SCREENSHOT AND SHOW ME YOUR SIMS!!! Let me live vicariously through you. I will just be over here creepily watching my Sims 3 characters make out for now.
This has been the ninety-sixth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.
You could always install Windows in VM software(or bootcamp) to run SIMS 4 instead of waiting.
For me, my queer life was on SecondLife, where I discovered I could be a queer lady. The difference there is I am interacting with actual people, and in the L Word universe all I got was perverted women trying to woohoo, instead of talk about Jenny. Lol I had to keep it a secrete from my friends and roommates, because I didn’t wanted them to know I wanted to be female and queer. Plus, it got weird when these women in the L Word world wanted to voice cyber.
Now you really have me wanting to try Sims 4(and SecondLife). :-}
OMG That VM thing sounds above my pay grade. I’ll google it and see if I can figure it out, though!
I do have an old PC laptop, gaming laptop that I bought specifically for the Sims 2 because it kept crashing my older PC laptop that was not optimized for gaming. I could see if it’ll work on there.
I tried Second Life once and could not figure out how to do it. I kept running into the walls and couldn’t get off the main world. And then it crashed my computer (the older PC) and I game up. That L Word universe sounds pervy and fun.
I really hope they bring out the Sims 4 for Mac soon, I’m also curious to play it.
I used to make my female sims get up to all sorts of stuff :D It was lots of fun! In fact, I’m sad that right now I don’t have any Sims games (the sims 2 won’t work on my current mac, and my Sims 3 disk is scratched) because I soooo want to make an adorable lesbian couple and try and have them both be pregnant at once. hehe
I know it’s not free, but the sims 3 is only $19.99 now because the newer version is out. Just saying–it’s not too late.
The mac version of Sim City came out months after the PC version, so I’m hoping they are just delaying release of the mac version. There is an ugly rumor that they aren’t working on a Sims 4 for mac at all, though… :(
KaeLyn this article is so great!
I don’t remember playing out any queer fantasies via the Sims in the early 2000s, but I do remember building a lot of tiny houses with no doors and lots of bear rugs that would mysteriously catch fire.
Your stuff sounds a lot healthier.
I neglected to mention that my high-school-bestie-who-did-not-become-my-Xena and I spent a lot of time making those houses w/o doors. Or bathrooms. Because we were horrible people.
I’m glad you those homicidal and arsonist tendencies out…or did you? ;)
When I came out to my sister, her reaction was (no joke) “…Is that why all your sims were gay?”
Yes, that’s precisely why ALL of my sims were gay. Even if I’d give them a husband, they’d always end up leaving him within the first couple hours of gameplay for the cute mail girl. Ohhhh how art imitates life.
Thanks EA for giving me the opportunity to be virtually queer before I worked up the courage to me queer irl too.
Hahahaha. Those sexy mail lady uniforms. The handywomen were and still are my achilles heel.
I love this
Married to Tim Curry?! KaeLyn, you are so perfect.
Tim Curry was my first queer crush. I say queer crush because I specifically had a crush on Dr. Frank-n-Furter.
I’m kinda annoyed that Sims 3 on Steam is Windows-only, for some stupid reason. Come on, Steam.
Boo. It’s only $19.99 now from Origin because Sims 4 is out.
BTW, this is me in Sims 3. I had a slightly better me, but I had to reinstall the game and deleted myself and I was too lazy to make it super precise the 2nd time around.
I got Sims 4!! ALL MY SIMS ARE GAY OR BI and it’s by accident for half of them. :P But Sims 4 does have a few problems for me. You can’t choose ANY color you want for hair or makeup or skin or clothes or whatever. You can only pick from some preselected ones. :/ So basically for hair, you can have brown/black/blonde/red and then green and blue and I think purple? And that’s it.
Course, that’s me nitpicking. There are a bunch of things that I don’t like as much that will surely be changed in expansions (THANKS EA, for a million unneeded expansions) like having very few personality traits… buuuut I do like the game, even if Sims 2 is my baby. :P
Wait, so you can’t create custom colors and patterns? :( I don’t know how I feel about that.
Yeah… :/ It seems weird to have such a step backwards like that. I guess people will make mods that will help, but still!
Growing up, almost all of my characters on The Sims were in same sex relationships and it didn’t occur to me why this might be until I was much older, hahaha.
Cheers, Sims, for letting me project my lil queer brain onto you!
Oh my god yes, Sims was so my queer place before I even knew I needed one. I was just a kid who thought it was rather scandalous and HILARIOUS that my sims could woohoo with sims of the same gender! I didn’t even think of it as gay, just really really funny. Oh my god, little me. Also I spent SO MUCH TIME killing off my sims and torturing them in new and inventive ways. Everyone did this, though, right? Right????
In fact, my brother recently made a mansion in which almost all of his people died because he made the ENTIRE FLOORPLAN a ridiculous maze. So no one could get to anything in time and they were constantly starving and peeing themselves and passing out on the floors. It was unbelievably and painfully hilarious on high-speed. Also there were no doors so no one could take showers or use the toilet anyway. But when everyone had died but one, FINALLY THIS ONE GUY COULD USE THE BATHROOM IN PRIVACY. He was so happy. So happy, guys.
That maze sounds HILARIOUSLY perfect. I think everyone likes to have at least one Sim family that they do dreadful, dreadful things to. Or it’s just proof that I should never be allowed the title of god of some sort.
Oh my god best comment. Damn it, now I want to buy the Sims so I can make a weird maze-house!
Holy moly. That is hilarious. Now I want to make a labyrinth house.
I’ve been playing The Sims since 2000 when I was in third grade. Mostly my friends and I tried to come up with creative ways to make our Sims suffer before we inevitably put them in a pool with no ladders.
I definitely had a time before I was out where I had several queer couples because I wanted my communities to be diverse and representative of the real world. It was just a coincidence that they also happened to be my favorite ones to play.
What I am learning from these comments is that we are all possibly sociopaths who took great joy in torturing our sims.
I should note that in the Sims 3, the sims learned how to get out of the pool without a ladder. Don’t ask me how I know that but I do.
The Sims has long been inflammatory because it contains a “gay conversion mechanic” where users have to force same-sex behavior a lot before a Sim will be “converted” to liking members of the same sex. The right-wing propaganda machine has been lying about gay conversion for decades.
And, this new “game” is really a failed online-always experiment, similar to SimCity, that EA cravenly tried to pass off as a suitable replacement for The Sims 3 (which people have dumped $500 into). Unless things have really changed and Sims autonomously are attracted to members of the same sex, not forced into it, nothing has improved on that front either.
Also, by making everyone “bisexual” but requiring same-sex actions to be forced, it suggests again that sexual orientation doesn’t exist and gay people just blithely choose to be with members of the same sex.
Again, the right-wingers have been lying about choice for decades, too. Real bisexuals may exist, but I am 100% gay and always have been.
Hmmm that’s an interesting point that I never considered before! I *think* one of my girl sims, who has a “romance” aspiration, had a goal to flirt with a girl sim before I made her do so? I can’t quite remember if that was the case, though.
Though “real bisexuals MAY exist”? Pretty sure they definitely do. :P Real bisexual, right here.
Interesting. I’ve never had to force interactions. My sims always seem equally likely to get down with a male or female sim, exactly 50-50. The interactions are the same and equally effective regardless of which gender they are courting. But I don’t know about how the game is coded, so you could be right that they are predisposed to gravitate towards the opposite sex. That said, when allowed free will, my sims have formed romantic relationships with other sims of the same gender on their own–often cheating on their spouses and making my life difficult to get their life back in order.
You’re right that there is no way to make a sim 100% straight or 100% gay other than possible making them (in Sim3) family oriented and not flirtatious or any of the other flirty traits. I’m OK with that, though. Sexuality is fluid and I like that my sims can go either way, depending on who I pair them with. But then again, I’m one of those definitely existing bi/pan people.
I think the player has to initiate a same-sex relationship once. And then the free will drive in the sims 3 will make more throughout the world.
This is hilarious. I should have guessed that I wasn’t the only one who used sims to explore orientation.
At first I only had heterosexual sims because, while I had decided I was okay with other people getting gay-married, I was still pretty uncomfortable with the idea since I had been raised to believe it was a sin. I had one lesbian couple back in those days because I just couldn’t resist the girl next door, but I felt really guilty about it so I moved them out and kept playing with the heterosexual brother.
One night though I was home for the weekend and ended up getting in a fight with my dad about gay issues, where, among other things, he said it was disgusting and offensive and immoral to show a lesbian couple on tv. I got so, so upset and I had no idea why. I remember sobbing in my room, completely bewildered as to why I was taking it so personally. Once I settled down, I got the impulse to do the most (passively) defiant things I could think of, which at that point was watching the L Word and creating a lesbian couple on the Sims. I was really showing him with my wild rebellious lesbian lifestyle.
Once I calmed down I laughed at myself for having such a silly reaction when I wasn’t even gay, but I think it was just later that same night that I finally put everything together and realized what was going on. From then on almost all my sim couples were both women, and when I think about when I realized I was gay I always think about the Sims (and The L Word).
I have mods on Sims 3 (the only one I’ve ever played) that lets my gay couples have biological children together. I think the Into the Future expansion lets you do that without mods when you’re in the future, too.
OMG. Your story is great.
So funny. Thanks the the deets on the Into the Future pack, too. I might have to get that since I can’t play Sims 4 yet.
I am the only person I know who hasn’t mercilessly tortured and killed their sims. Am I alone in the world? I just form a strange and overly emotional bond with characters in games. So many ALH’s and sports outfits on original Sims. I never intentionally create or play straight characters in games,it just doesn’t feel true for me. The rage I felt when I couldn’t get the Paramour achievement on ME2 because my femshep was gay (still bitter). Deity, or not, of your choice bless Sims. Even if I can’t play it on my mac yet… :(
Not the only one… though I think there are only two of us out there that have never tortured or murdered their Sims. I get emotionally attached to my Sims characters too. I tend to lean towards adorable lesbian couples, though one of my past favourites was an alien/human hetero pairing I was far too emotionally invested in. I am so glad that Sims is as queer-friendly as it is.
Hooray for non murdering of Sims! My lesbian human sims had an alien baby it was all super adorable. Loved the aliens!
Nope. I feel way too guilty to torture sims I create. I can torture those I don’t create though. After I got some carnivorous plants from the store I had one of my sims get married just so I could move some sims into my house and then let them get eaten by the plants.
I never had the Sims, but have any of ya’ll played Creatures? There was MASSIVE brouhaha about a couple of people who put up sites about torturing their virtual pets, and then the people who would “adopt” and rehabilitate them. It was pretty wild.
(I couldn’t even discipline mine–I felt too bad! Even if they were pixels.)
There are 2 ways for lesbian couple to have biological kids in the Sims 3. The grim reaper door from the store content allow s you you to combine genes and make a cryptic pregnancy and the future hospital allows you to engineer a baby.
You can also use the wishing well and grow a plantsim with the science machine. However, these ways only allow one lesbian to be biologically related to the child.
I managed to get my lesbian Sims couple (*cough* okay so me and my girlfriend as Sims) pregnant with a hack that allowed me to change the gender of her character, and then WooHooed as a different-sexed couple, before changing her back to normal.
My sim cities always turn into this lesbian/queer wonderland where there aren’t any men….
I downloaded the Sims to the Future for my gay and lesbian characters. They have this thing where they take the DNA of the sims and make children for them.
Yesss. Sim’s was/is perfect for exploring yourself. I used to sneak lesbian couples in Sims 2. And agreed, I wish there was a slider spectrum for gender, or presentation.