publisher Electronic Arts continues to update the game’s gender and sexuality options with its High School Years expansion coming later in July. During a press preview Wednesday, 4 developers detailed new options for sexual orientation in the Create-A-Sim menu — players can choose who their Sim is romantically or sexually interested in.
The limitation there is that the options are limited to a binary: Men or Women. The Sims 4 lead designer Jessica Croft explained that the High School Years free update is a first version of the intended feature — the team recognizes that the language here does not reflect the addition of nonbinary pronouns for Sims that came in May. The system was built to be expandable to include nonbinary Sims in the future.
Croft explained further in a developer blog published Friday:
I’ll try to be very transparent with this one. This is due to technical limitations. 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. 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.
The new options in the Sexual Orientation tab are “This Sim is romantically attracted to: Men, Women,” “This Sim is exploring romantically: Yes, No,” and “This Sim is interested in Mess Around with: Men, Women.”
All of these are independent of each other, which allows for a lot of variation. For instance, alongside choosing options that let Sims identify as asexual or aromantic, the “exploring romantically” option will make Sims open to different genders romantically — something that Croft said is representative of the high school experience, when people trying to figure themselves out. For a Sim to be asexual, you forgo adding an answer to the “Mess Around” option, or for an aromantic Sim, leave an answer off the “romantically attracted option.”
Like with past gender and sexuality-related updates, Electronic Arts worked with LGBTQ+ organizations to help advise on the changes.
The Sims has long been a game franchise that’s been important to gender-diverse players, allowing for a wider gender spectrum. An update in 2016 loosened gender restrictions by removing gender-specific clothing, speech, and hair options. Electronic Arts also added custom options that allow a player to choose whether a Sim prefers masculine or feminine clothes, can get pregnant or get someone pregnant, and whether they sit or stand to pee.
Electronic Arts has also made changes to bring more diversity to skin tones and hairstyles, an initiative largely led by Black Simmers creating their own custom content to expand the game themselves.