One day after EA revealed a free Sims 4 update (opens in new tab) adding inclusive character creation options like hearing aids, glucose monitors, binders, and top surgery scars, the game has already been drafted into the culture wars. The Sims 4 came under fire from right wing pundits in the US, a country that has seen an aggressive anti-trans agenda pushed by conservatives in recent years.
Can’t believe the Woke Left™ has stripped the Sims of its primary educational mission pic.twitter.com/6CsbQKJbI9February 1, 2023
“The woke mind virus has infected not only our government institutions but our educational institutions and our entertainment institutions,” claimed conservative commentator Dave Rubin on Fox News. Rubin lamented that The Sims 4 did not have the same “educational value” as games he played in the ’90s like SimCity, claiming he learned a lot about urban planning from the latter game. Rubin concluded that this update to The Sims was “completely consistent with everything we’ve seen of the woke.”
Former real estate agent Chaya Raichik weighed in on the issue from her popular “Libs of TikTok” Twitter account, taking particular issue with visible top surgery scars as a customization option on Sims. As reported by NPR (opens in new tab), Raichik’s fixation on gender-confirming surgery and lurid, fallacious accounts of such operations being performed on minors have inspired threats of violence against children’s hospitals throughout the country.
Nick Adams (Alpha Male) (opens in new tab), a person that Donald Trump once called his “favorite author,” also weighed in. “The Sims has gone woke. You know what that means,” Adams wrote (opens in new tab). Whether you know what that means or not, Adams went on (opens in new tab) to urge readers to “Put down The Sims 4 and pick up a Bible!”
Our hobby has been taken up as a cudgel in a retrograde and largely unpopular political campaign, and if that sounds familiar to you, you probably lived through the moral panic that videogames experienced in the early ’00s. This week’s infantilizing, fearmongering statements by right-wing figures echo the outcry of Jack Thompson, Hilary Clinton, and others who for years used videogames and their place in our culture as a tool in their respective political projects.
You can observe similar parallels in the backlash against obscene music that culminated in a 1990 supreme court case (opens in new tab), or to the moment, just a few years removed from the end of WWII, when Catholic organizations and other groups inspired children in some cities across the United States to ban, round up, and burn comic books (opens in new tab) that they viewed as responsible for child delinquency.
Like the manufactured controversy around Xbox’s new power saving feature (opens in new tab), it’s a bad-faith play for an outrage news cycle, in this case centered on free, optional videogame DLC. The Sims catering to an LGBTQ+ audience (opens in new tab) is nothing new, and actual fans of the game seemed to largely enjoy the new trans-inclusive content pack. Anyway, I guess I’m off to play The Gay Sims on my Wokebox One.