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.