The Sims Developers Quietly Rename The Game’s ‘Insane’ Trait

The Sims Developers Quietly Rename The Game’s ‘Insane’ Trait

The April 17 Sims 4 patch made a host of changes, among them fixing a bug that caused parents to check toddlers over and over. One change that wasn’t noted involved the “Insane” trait that we recently criticised as discordant with the series’ whimsical tone. It is now called “Erratic”.

This trait allows sims to talk to themselves and gives them wild mood swings. I found it pretty irritating.

Not only did I think that sims with the trait were a chore to play, given that they changed moods without my control, other features of the trait made it feel like a lazy joke about mental illness. Insane sims talk to themselves and are primarily governed by randomness, which is at odds with the experience of being mentally ill, a term that covers a multitude of conditions all with very specific symptoms.

“Insane sims can’t see a therapist or take medication, the way people in the real world might be able to,” I wrote. “They’re just Insane, lashing out at their peers and talking to themselves like an antiquated version of how culture has portrayed how mentally ill people behave.”

Other than changing the name, the Erratic trait is exactly the same as the Insane trait was, right down to the now thematically appropriate icon, which still depicts a body in a straitjacket. I reached out to the Sims 4 team about why they made this change but they did not respond in time for publication.

I’m extremely pleased with this change – it just makes more sense this way. I rolled a quick sim with the new Erratic trait and when the description of the trait popped up, it did seem as though “erratic” was a better adjective to describe what this sim would go through. Her mood swings are described in-game as an “emotional roller coaster”, and she seems more like a sim that’s unpredictable rather than one who has a mental illness.

I still find the trait tedious because it makes it harder for sims to build relationships and hurts their job performance, but the new name made me think of the trait in a whole new light. Maybe playing an Erratic sim is in my future.


      • I’m just commenting on how Gita apparently hated the mechanic but because of an entirely arbitrary name change, with zero gameplay impact, she now likes it. That’s like Fortnite changing gun rarity and people thinking it does more damage…

        • I still find the trait tedious because it makes it harder for sims to build relationships and hurts their job performance, but the new name made me think of the trait in a whole new light. She apparently still dislikes the trait but is now willing to reassess how it fits within the game because its name is no longer a stigmatising piss-take.

          That’s fair enough.

        • You think you are “forced to care” about something, just because a word was changed (for good reason)?

          You didn’t care before. You don’t care now. You can keep on not caring. You’re just mad because someone did a good thing and that makes you uncomfortable, which is actually creepy.

          • Where did I say forced and where am I mad?
            If you really have to get your word in on something try keeping it factual to what was said and try refrain from inventing things that no one said.

            Also niomo was correct, if you look at the linked post from Gita about her original article in the comments no one actually cared, most of the comments are against her idea.

    • “no one cared”, said the person who clearly cares and has a big sarcastic public reaction to a trivial word change.

      If you didnt care then, then you shouldn’t care now. Unless you’re an anxious hypocrite just itching to prove how hypocritical you are.

  • right idea, wrong word. Neuroticism is a better term for someone who is emotionally up an down. Hell, for a game mechanic once that maxes out it could level into bipolar or an anxiety disorder. If a game is about designing people and playing dolls/the block putting using big 5 personality traits would have been a good idea.

    Developers not wanting to offend missed an opportunity to use disorders as a gaming mechanic and educational tool. It’s a game about people going about their business what better way to show mental differences of others. Good way to evolve the series instead of the chopped up cash grap it currently is.

    • I think the point is that people with the same mental illness don’t necessarily act in the same way. A mental illness isn’t a personality trait, there’s no linear “insane” scale that describes mental illness.

      A person with an anxiety disorder can be a neat, erratic loner (to use The Sims own traits) just as much as they could be an ambitious, clumsy, dog lover (Sims again). In fact all these traits could be used to describe one person living with a mental illness. Having “insane” as a personality trait missed this nuance. Changing it to “erratic” removes the mental health connotation and stigmatisation and just makes it another personality trait. A person without mental illness can be erratic after all.

      All that is not to say that mental illness should be off the table for games, not in the slightest. It would be interesting to see a more insightful and multidimensional take on mental illness for sure, but the “insane” trait was not that.

      • You make a good point about traits not equaling a disorder.
        Maybe if you could pick your traits and then actions in the games could have ramifications leading to a possible disorder. Throw in a bit of RNG and there you go.

        I can see why the devs would want to steer claw of the issue, seems like a missed opportunity to me to educate and make interesting game as learning to deal with challenges is a part of good design.

        Also not making light of the situation it’s just something not common in games and I think games are complex enough to convey these issues.

        • Yeah, I can think of a few of games that deal with mental illness in interesting and mature ways, but I can’t think of a game that deals with mental illness in such a dynamic way as you suggest. Like if you selected a Sim with the traits cheerful, ambitious, perfectionist, and then they just didn’t get out of bed or leave the house for days thereby not achieving their goals and perhaps causing trouble with their partner or job because they were experiencing depression, independent of the personality traits you selected for them. Just please no cross-eyed, tongue wagging, maniacal laughing as a blanket representation of mental illness.

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