Sexuality has been a part of The Sims since its inception, but it may surprise you to learn that LGBTQ relationships were part of the plan from the very beginning of the game. A series of design documents from the first game in the franchise were recently highlighted on Twitter, showing developer Dan Hopkins vociferously defending LGBTQ relationships in the game. It’s especially appropriate considering that EA has just put the first same-sex couple on the game’s cover.
Dan Hopkins is a programmer who worked on games like The Sims and SimCity. He was certainly fairly talented, porting both of these games to somewhat esoteric platforms like UNIX and making the code more efficient overall. He also happened to be a champion for LGBTQ rights way back in 1998, fighting against what he called a “heterosexist and monosexist” game design.
Here is the relevant passage straight from Mr. Hopkins’ website:
The whole relationship design and implementation (I’ve looked at the tree code) is Heterosexist and Monosexist. We are going to be expected to do better than that after the SimCopter fiasco and the lip service that Maxis publically gave in response about not being anti-gay. The code tests to see if the sex of the people trying to romantically interact is the same, and if so, the result is a somewhat violent negative interaction, clearly homophobic. We are definitely going to get flack for that. It would be much more realistic to model it by two numbers from 0 to100 for each person, which was the likelihood of that person being interested in a romantic interaction with each sex. So you can simply model monosexual heterosexual (which is all we have now), monosexual homosexual (like the guys in SimCopter), bisexual, nonsexual (mother theresa, presumably), and all shades in between (most of the rest of the world’s population). It would make for a much more interesting and realistic game, partially influenced by random factors, and anyone offended by that needs to grow up and get a life, and hopefully our game will help them in that quest. Anyone who is afraid that it might offend the sensibilities of other people (but of course not themselves) is clearly homophobic by proxy but doesn’t realize it since they’re projecting their homophobia onto other people.
The Sims has grown increasingly progressive with sexuality in each successive version. The first game did indeed allow for homosexual relationships despite the lack of them in the initial prototypes. The Sims 4 added options for players to customize the voice, walk, and clothing of their Sims with no restrictions on sex. These forward steps were recently supplemented with the first same-sex couple being shown on the game’s cover.
There is a lot of interesting history buried in the design documents that you can read on Don Hopkin’s website. The Sims is a game that’s all about virtual humans, and it’s nice to see that one man fought so hard to make sure everyone was represented.