Sims 4 developers plan to add choice of pronouns in a future update

The Sims 4 developers, Maxis, have discussed their plans to add more choices for pronouns, and the challenges this update faces.

Split screen: pronouns feature of Sims 4 (left), diverse group of Sims (right)
Image: YouTube @Fantayzia | Twitter @TheSims

As the video game world becomes more aware of inclusivity and the necessity for more diverse pronouns, The Sims 4 has become the latest game to expand its gender identity features.

The Sims franchise, developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts, is one of the longest-running gaming franchises. Beginning in 1989 with the city building game SimCity, the franchise released the first The Sims game in 2000, the gameplay style of which has become the main format for the series.

Released in 2014 The Sims 4, like previous games, is a sandbox game with no set goal or objective; rather the players are expected to set their own. Players create their character, usually themselves, and lead them through their life, having a job, falling in love and starting a family, but unfortunately until now have not had the option to choose their own pronouns.

In a recent livestream The Sims 4 producer John Faciane (He/Him) and designers Alister Lee (He/Him) and Rachel Gilbert (They/Them), we’re joined by Veronica Morales (She/Her) lead for EA’s localisation team and Rae Sweet (They/Them), an LGBTQ+ educator and activist, who works as an Education Coordinator at the It Gets Better Project. During this stream, they discussed their plans for a new feature that would allow players to choose their own pronouns in the upcoming Sims 4, the importance of this feature and the challenges it faces.

It Gets Better is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2010 to prevent suicide among the LGBTQ+ youth community, by having LGBTQ+ adults share the message that their lives would improve. Sweet and her team are working alongside Maxis’ development team to ensure that the choice of pronouns is properly implemented in The Sims 4.

Sweet mentioned that “our society needs to be built in a way that can adapt to this ever-evolving realm of identities and the experience that come with that”. They pointed out that The Sims 4 can work in a “beautiful way” that reflects this evolution, and that the game is in such a unique position by allowing players to be who they want to be.

During the stream, the development team confirmed that players could assign their chosen pronouns during the “Create-A-Sim” portion of the game. Players will be able to choose from He/Him, She/Her and They/Them, along with allowing players to input the pronouns that they more identified with. During the stream, a prototype version of this feature was shown off by the developers, where they used the Ze/Zir/Zirs pronouns as a custom choice.

Lee, who was showing off the prototype character creator, confirmed that there would be systems in place to avoid players abusing this system, stating that they wanted the game to be safe and fun, “more inclusive than exclusive”.

The developers said that they wanted to expand the pronoun choices in The Sims 4 since May 2021, after a petition on change.org requesting pronoun choices for Transgender and non-binary Sims reached over 22,000 signatures.

Faciane stated that the main aim of this move for The Sims 4 is to have greater representation for their Trans and non-binary gamers, greater freedom of expression for their players and to have a welcoming and kinder experience.

Several challenges have arisen for The Sims 4 team with the implementation of pronoun choices. A surprising challenge has come up for EA’s localisation team when it comes to translating these choices into the 18 languages The Sims 4 supports. Morales brought up that the translation process has been complicated by cultural and regulatory considerations throughout different regions, both the culture and language can affect how the topic of pronouns is handled.

Some languages, like Swedish, have their own officially recognised pronouns for people who identify as non-binary, Sweden uses Hen as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. LGBTQ+ communities in other countries like Germany and Brazil have started using non-binary grammar that they are comfortable with, so while not officially recognised it is helpful for the localisation team.

 

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Unfortunately, at the other end of the scale, there are other territories with stricter regulations and laws around the use of non-binary pronouns. Morales brought up that as a way around this challenge the localisation team can use the passive voice as a way to not reference the subject, or instead of using a character’s pronoun they could use the character’s name. These are only a few workarounds that Morales and her team are looking into. Regardless of the approach Morales and her team take, she is committed that it “has to sound natural in context and it has to feel real to the players and, at the same time, respectful”.

Faciane stated that The Sims 4 team still had a lot of work ahead for them when finding grammatical solutions for the supported 18 languages and that they would be focusing on English first but that support for pronoun choices in other languages would be added at a later date and the feature would be updated over time.

While there was no set date for the release of this update, Faciane confirmed that the design would continue until the team felt that the feature was ready to be launched and The Sims 4 community can expect updates on the development of this feature.

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