The Sims 4 Finally Adds Custom Pronouns

Over the years, The Sims series has been praised for including a diverse character representation far beyond what most other AAA game franchises had available.

The Sims has allowed same-sex relationships since its debut in 2000, and has actively worked to improve options around same-sex marriage, cultural and racial diversity, gender representation, and more ever since. And today, a free update will add custom pronouns and further improve the ability for players to see themselves in The Sims.

Currently, the way The Sims 4 works is that Sims are assigned a pronoun based on a binary gender system. During Create-A-Sim, players must refer to a Sim as male (he/him pronouns) or female (she/her). They can further customize from there, with factors such as whether a Sim can get pregnant, their body type and physical appearance, and clothing choices independent of the initial male/female selection. But players have nonetheless been locked into a binary gender system for all storytelling in The Sims 4 so far.

With the help of GLAAD and the It Gets Better Project, Maxis has implemented a new feature allowing players to determine a Sim’s pronouns within Create-A-Sim from the start when they enter the name of their Sim.

Players will be able to either select her/her, they/them, he/him, or create a custom set that will populate all of that Sim’s narrative. The custom option has fields for entering pronouns for subjective, objective, dependent possessive, independent possessive, and reflexive forms, and includes sample sentences in case grammatical terminology isn’t your strong point.

The addition of customizable pronouns should come as no surprise to The Sims 4 community, as Maxis has been transparent for months now that it was reviewing the feature after hearing community feedback that the binary gender limitation was a concern. But why is it so important to them?

Stephanie DeBiase, Games and Future Technology Coordinator for The It Gets Better Project, explains that The Sims 4 has always been seen as a safe fictional space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to explore same-sex lives and relationships. By adding customizable pronouns, Maxis effectively removes an unintended limitation of this fantasy, allowing its players even more creative freedom.

“If you created a sim and imagined it using certain pronouns, and then you see characters in the game use different pronouns to refer to it, it can be shocking, even dysphoric, and take you out of the world. that you were trying to build,” says DeBiase. “So creating a simulation and defining their pronouns and then using them seamlessly in gameplay is liberating, especially for trans and non-binary gamers who often encounter resistance and discrimination in their daily lives.This kind of virtual affirmation, especially from a major mainstream video game like The Sims, can go a long way in reminding LGBTQIA+ gamers that they are seen, valued, and understood.

This type of virtual affirmation… can go a long way in reminding LGBTQIA+ gamers that they are seen, valued, and understood.

While most people are likely familiar with them, her and him, some may be less familiar with the idea behind Sims custom pronouns, which allow players to enter any combination of pronouns they choose. for an individual Sim. , including sets of pronouns less common to them or unique to them. And that freedom is especially valuable for members of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) communities, who may not feel like any of the more common sets of pronouns accurately express who they are.

“A lot of us think of gender as a galaxy, as opposed to a spectrum or a binary,” says Rae Sweet, It Gets Better Education Coordinator. “And with something as complex as a galaxy, it can be difficult to find a language (and pronouns) that feel right. That’s why many TGNC people use multiple sets of pronouns, like he/they , she/they, he/she, etc. But many TGNC people also use neopronouns like ey/em/eirs, zey/zem/zers, per/per/pers, and more. endless options is crucial to fully and accurately connecting with the TGNC community.”

Speaking to IGN, Associate Producer John Faciane and Executive Producer Phill Ring said the biggest feedback they received from It Gets Better was being open and transparent with their community while working on functionality. They recognize that custom pronouns in The Sims 4 won’t be perfect from the start, nor is it the ultimate solution to making representation in The Sims perfect forever. For example, Faciane suggests that The Sims 4 still contains other gendered terms like “mother” and “father” that they might want to look into someday to see if there are ways to be more inclusive.

Many of us see gender as a galaxy, as opposed to a spectrum or binary.

But for now, Maxis wants to encourage players to let his team know via social media or existing Sims communities if anything goes wrong, whether it’s as small as a grammatical typo somewhere, or as big as something that still doesn’t feel inclusive enough.

“The Sims 4 is eight years old at this point, and we’ve built this system on top of a system architecture that’s been around for a while, so there are some challenges there,” Faciane explains. “And while this has been fully tested and we’re releasing it, we wanted to get it out to players as soon as possible, there will be instances where the tool we’ve created may need to be manually tweaked. And we’re looking for players to give us feedback, or see “That’s great, but what about that?” Provide that feedback to help us make it more inclusive.”

The feature is currently only available in the English version of The Sims 4 and is still under development as Maxis works to update things like Verbal Agreement and other tweaks. But the studio intends to update and expand custom pronouns to other languages ​​over time.

Faciane points out that English alone presented quite a few challenges to the team simply because of the verb conjugation. For example, the word “likes” in the sentence “He likes” becomes “like” if you use “They like” and can change depending on what other pronouns you try to use. It becomes even more complex when you move on to other languages, which may have names with different forms based on gender or other complexities.

Despite these challenges, Faciane and Ring say they hope Maxis’ work on the feature will encourage other game companies to consider similar options in their own games. For their part, they say Maxis is committed to not only updating custom pronouns until they meet their community’s existing expectations for representation, but also to continuing to focus on representation. in the long-term franchise, even as ideas for what good representation looks like may keep changing.

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“Language is always changing, it’s always evolving,” says Ring. “So we will also focus, if things develop. Maybe there are some languages ​​that have a gender-neutral set of pronouns, but actually that changes, it evolves with the language, and we’ll be looking to update. This is something that we will continually review and see the best ways to evolve as we move forward.

While custom pronouns are largely a feature for people who want to see themselves represented, Ring notes that he hopes players who already feel represented with just him and her/his pronouns also gain something from this update. day, especially if they haven’t gotten the opportunity to meet many people who use pronouns outside of binary in their real life. He hopes it will give them some exposure to more diverse identities and allow them to tell stories that involve personalized pronouns, learn a bit more about their importance and maybe learn something about themselves. in the process.

Faciane echoes his sentiment: “I didn’t come out until a bit later in life and one of the things that helped me feel comfortable with it, even though I had a loving family , supportive and open, was… to see more representation in media and games. Movies and TV have had it for a while now, but really when I started seeing it in more games, as a player myself, I was like, ‘Yeah, I can do this, I can be who I was meant to be.'”

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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