This week The Sims 4 community finally feels heard as Lyndsay Pearson, General Manager of The Sims 4 franchise, has addressed the issue of skin tones in the game. A statement released on social media and the Sims forum states that the team "recognize that we have not done enough to address the variety of skin tones and hairstyles that you expect to find in The Sims 4" and has promised to address the issue this fall. However, getting to this point has taken Simmers of all races coming together, something which in itself is problematic.
Xmiramira And The Black Simmer
Over the lifetime of The Sims 4, many black players have long complained about the lack of realistic dark skin tones available. Arguably, one of the most prominent of these is The Sims Spark'd winner Xmiramira, who was so frustrated by it that she created the Melanin Pack, custom content adding a wide range of new skin tones to the game. She also founded The Black Simmer, a forum for those frustrated with the lack of diversity in the game to come together.
While the Melanin Pack has become a staple for players of all races, including those who rarely use custom content, most have simply installed it and carried on playing. Few white players have really given much thought to how having to use extra content to create yourself makes black players feel, since they've never faced that issue. They see dark skin tone swatches but often never use them, meaning they don't notice the unnatural red or grey undertones, patchy textures and ashy vampire look many of them create.
Recently that's all changed. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, white people have been forced to confront their privilege and it's made many think about issues of race.
White Voices Speak Out
As white players were thinking more about matters related to racism, many began to speak out about the skin tone issue including Plumbella and Lilsimsie. Both of them are part of EA's Game Changers program and are often seen at Sims events. Plumbella was also a Spark'd contestant, while Lilsimsie was unexpectedly put in the spotlight recently when the Eco Lifestyle update allowed players to name cowplants, something she jokingly campaigned for.
While black voices in the community, including Xmiramira and EbonixSims, have been speaking out about the lack of skin tone diversity and makeup options for dark skin tones for years, waiting until a host of white voices joined them isn't a good look for a team that prides itself on diversity and inclusivity. However, it may be that Xmiramira's voice was more influential than we first thought.
The Sims Spark'd Highlights The Issue
The recent new reality show, The Sims Spark'd, only served to highlight the skin tone issue. Xmiramira was a contestant on the show, going on to win with her teammates Dr Gluon and Simlicy. During one of the cutaways in the final episode, she was shown talking about her Melanin pack.
It was also obvious when the team's final video was shown, which told Xmiramira's story, that the darker skin tones are way off base. Her simself's skin is very red and the color used for her mother's sim is patchy and looks like a glitch, especially on the cheeks.
Many fans were surprised to see the show acknowledge the issue by including Xmiramira's story but it's likely that this video and her speaking on such a public platform have given the team the push they needed to address the issue, we just didn't know it yet.
Changes Are Coming
Now the team has finally spoken out and players can expect changes to appear in the fall. Lyndsay Pearson has given an official statement that acknowledges the issues, apologizes for them, and promises to do better.
The statement is very positive and while it's come much later than many would have liked, it's very much welcomed. Pearson states that the team "are making it a priority to release more options this year, as well as to address the visual issues with current skin tones- specifically, to improve the blotchy artifacts and ashy tones."
Most importantly for many she also acknowledges and praises modders like Xmiramira when she says "We are blown away by the incredible craftsmanship of our mod community and what they bring to the game, and the ways in which they have expanded on the Sims 4 experience. There is no question that their contributions make the world of The Sims better. However, we know that this does not absolve us from continuing to grow and improve as well." You can watch the full statement above, or read the transcript over on the forums.
A Diverse Future
While we welcome the announcement, players are hoping that the team will use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. The Sims franchise has always been at the forefront of diversity in many ways and this huge oversight has damaged that reputation. Our hope is that in the future the voices of minorities speaking about representation won't need to be amplified by others in order to be heard.
Today’s stories feature updates on titles including Halo Infinite, Pokemon Go, and Stalker 2.