The Latest Sims 4 Update Tries To Reckon With Its History Of Whitewashing

The Latest Sims 4 Update Tries To Reckon With Its History Of Whitewashing
Image: EA / Maxis / Kotaku

A popular Sims 4 NPC family is at the centre of a minor fan debate after getting an unexpected makeover, raising questions about The Sims’ complicated history of Eurocentric character design.

The NPC Goth family has haunted The Sims for as long as the simulation game has lived. Over the years, slowly accumulated lore established the Goths as old money, their air of mysticism only matched by their public influence. Players loved the visibly mixed-race family from their very first appearance, and became particularly attached to mother Bella Goth — a G-rated Morticia Addams — for her red dress and outsized bazongas in The Sims 4.

The Sims 4, if you wanna get technical, takes place in an alternate universe to other Sims games, has no allegiance to established character history or timelines, and will not be swayed by even one million Simoleons. But the May 25 update giving the Goth fam a remodel still came as a surprise, especially because no other NPC family saw updates and, well, Bella’s cup no longer runneth quite so over. Some players are displeased with the changes, which also made tweaks to the Goth family’s faces and significantly altered their outfits, but I don’t know. Personally, I like the makeover.

Like, it’s fine. Bella lost her impressive boobage, a developer decision some players are rebuking as “de-yassification,” but I’ll be ok. The entire family is now more tan, and has been graced with luscious curls of dark hair, which is nice. They kind of look like my cousins. My cousins are perfectly fine people, but none of them have a fantastically slim mustache like father Mortimer Goth, so that is another great thing the improved Goth family has going for them. It can’t be easy to cultivate a mustache that is so fine and wispy, like a willow sapling growing on your face.

Any alleged de-yassification will cause a stir in the Sims community, however, and some players are calling the change “ugly,” while others reply that thinking the redesign is “ugly” means you reject non-white features. This latter opinion comes from an old frustration with The Sims 4, which people think intentionally made its racially ambiguous or darker-skinned NPCs look more white. This idea is objectively true when you compare the skin tones of old Sims characters with their newer versions, and in 2020, The Sims Vice President of Franchise Creative, Lyndsay Pearson, recognised the community’s frustration in a Twitter video.

“We realise there isn’t one single fix for representation,” she said, “and we are dedicating people to ongoing commitments to continue improvement over the long term.”

The new, darker-skinned Goths seem like one of those improvements, though if we are all honest with ourselves, their features are generally the same. Bella’s jaw isn’t as snatched and, of course, there is the issue of the bazongas, but other than that, they all still have tiny button noses, straight hair, and light eyes, which doesn’t make their redesign as much of a representation win as some players are positioning it as.

The May 25 update also included two new story quests or scenarios, a song by hyperpop star Alice Longyu Gao — if no one else, at least The Sims proved it cares about gay teenagers on Instagram (me four years ago) — and some new furniture, like a mood lamp perfect for gay teenagers on Instagram.

But the Goths’ new look suggests The Sims still isn’t sure what positive, accurate representation looks like, and I feel the community is too easily pleased. In the meantime, maybe maybe we can meet in the middle and make everyone biracial and bisexual.

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