Increasing Representation & Diversity in Games

I’ve had the honor of art directing some of the exciting new content available in The Sims 4 *Free* Base Game package. These updates focus primarily on serving underrepresented communities and cultures.

One such update ( added assets for people with Disabilities and Transgender and Non-Binary people. The update included two new CAS Categories; Medical Wearables and Body Scars, as well as glucose monitor patches, hearing aids, a chest binder, shape-wear and gender affirming top surgery scar.

During development we received really meaningful guidance and feedback from our consultants. It is essential that we involve people from the communities we seek to represent in the development of new content, not only to ensure authenticity but also to elevate their voices. We want players to not only see themselves represented, but to empower Simmers to tell meaningful stories, their stories, and I think that this content will open that up for so many more people. 

One moment that stands out was seeing the finished hearing aids on a child sim for the first time. We go through a fairly technical process of selecting color swatches, and creating and testing the model and then finally getting to see it on a Sim that is animated and laughing and playing while wearing the hearing aids was really special. 

One of the challenges we faced was deciding on functionality for the chest binder. We had to choose between two less than ideal options; Option A meant that the binders would constrict the bust of Sims when applied, but the moment they changed into a different top, the changes would be removed. Option B meant that there would be no change to the Sims appearance when a player places the binder on them, but players would be able to modify the Sims body to the desired appearance, and those changes would remain when the Sims outfit was changed.

We consulted representatives from GLAAD and after careful consideration, decided that the experience of seeing the changed body suddenly revert to its previous appearance would be jarring and potentially harmful to players, and so we went with Option B. The ideal scenario would be to have a layering system, where binders are worn below clothing, however, that change requires revisiting base code and reworking 10 years of existing assets. It is the goal, and I do hope it happens, but we felt that it was still important to include this update, even if less than perfect.

This challenge has been a powerful lesson; the basis of any game needs to include people with diverse lived experiences, to help us build a system that not only makes room for these types of upgrades and additions, but includes them from the start. I hope to see more of this from Maxis and from other game studios as well!

The binder and shape-wear are available for Teen and Adult Sims. They’re available in a wide variety of skin tones, vibrant colors and patterns.

The top surgery scar is available for Teen and Adult Male Sims, as a gender affirming asset for Trans Masculine players.
We made the scars slightly colloidal and ensured that it reads clearly on all skin colors.

Hearing aids are available for Toddlers, Children, Teen and Adult Sims. They can be placed on either ear, or both and come in a variety of swatches, including a selection of vibrant colors and skin tones.

Glucose monitor patches are available for Children, Teens and Adult Sims. They are available in wide selection of color swatches, including a variety of vibrant colors and skin tones.

The Sims 4: Art Direction

As Art Director on the Sims Delivery Express team, I focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives within The Sims franchise. The Sims Delivery Express team provides free TS4 Base Game content to create a more robust and inclusive player experience. Some of the new items created for SDX drops have included: meals, clothing and accessories, furniture, decorative items, and “Create A Sim” features such as hairstyles, facial features and more.

As part of the DEI initiative, I have worked with consultants and concept artists to create new assets, establish a back log of assets for future development, and have helped to create guides and training initiatives for developers across Maxis, with the goal of making the player experience more authentic and representative of our player community.

Here are some of the SDX releases that I have been a part of!