EA is often lauded as the best in LGBTQ support in games. The Sims has included gay relationships from the beginning, and Bioware lets you paramour in whatever orientation you like. But this wasn’t always intentional.
In one of my favorite magazines, The New Yorker, a feature interview with one of the game developers, Patrick J. Barrett III, explains that it was actually a bit more complicated than people might expect. In fact, game developers had been ordered to remove the same-sex options, until something rather unexpected happened.
In 1999, The Sims was a new IP from EA. In fact, it was a project that they’d inherited from the purchase of Maxis and the game had been in development for six years. They were on the verge of scrapping it, using E3 as the final chance to generate some interest in the game or it was going to be cut. Due to the uncertain footing of the game, the developers had decided to leave same-sex relationships out of the code to avoid any controversies. However, when Barrett joined the company, he wasn’t aware of this decision, and was given an older design document to work off for coding the social interactions between sims.
In hindsight, I probably should have questioned the design, but the design felt right, so I just implemented it. Later, Will Wright stopped by my desk. He told me that liked the social interactions, and that he was glad to see that same-sex support was back in the game. […] After a while, everyone was just used to the design being there. It was widely expected that E.A. would just kill it, anyway.
During the E3 showing in 1999, they decided to show three scenes of what could happen during The Sims. One of those scenes was a wedding between two Sims characters. However, the people in the crowd hadn’t all been programmed to behave on the rails.
On the first day of the show, the game’s producers, Kana Ryan and Chris Trottier, watched in disbelief as two of the female Sims attending the virtual wedding leaned in and began to passionately kiss. They had, during the live simulation, fallen in love. Moreover, they had chosen this moment to express their affection, in front of a live audience of assorted press. Following the kiss, talk of The Sims dominated E3. “You might say that they stole the show,” Barrett said. “I guess straight guys that make sports games loved the idea of controlling two lesbians.”
By now, same sex relationships are completely normal and accepted in the Sims. We see it as a hallmark of EA’s acceptance and promotion of various races, genders and orientations. It may have started as a mistake, but it’s one we can all be grateful remained. As much hate as EA gets (and deserves), they at least get this part right.
Last Updated: June 20, 2014