In The Sims 4, players whisk themselves away to predetermined, idyllic towns full of simulations where you can be whoever you want, whenever you want. You cook, clean, sleep, and interact. It’s life in a virtual new world. And while The Sims 4 has been successful in delivering those fictional worlds to play in, it hasn’t done so well in representation. A simulation game like Sims 4 should be able to deliver an image of a player—one that makes them feel whole. But in truth, it’s not that simple to get it right.
Whenever Sims publisher Electronic Arts releases new content, where Black people are concerned, there are issues with the content. The hair, skin, and makeup are better suited for their lighter and whiter Sims. To EA’s credit, they’ve listened and updated content, but there is still a huge gap between what they produce and what Simmers feel EA lacks—Blackness. Black skin, Black hair, Black body types, Black clothing, and Black trends move the needle in so many spaces in the real world, so why not in The Sims? But with this content void comes a beautiful opportunity to give the people what they want, and it’s coming from some of the game’s most dedicated players.
My introduction to The Sims was right after my father’s death from cancer, way back when I was still a preteen. Sims 2 became the ultimate escape for me at a time when therapy wasn’t available, but early forms of technology were. I didn’t have anything fancy, just a desktop computer that could barely handle the game. However, this generation of Simmers has grown up with the tech they’ve needed to influence the game, which they’ve played their whole lives. They have the technological fluency needed to make content on the fly. Their creative spaces aren’t in game studios, they’re right inside of their homes.
A New Generation of Sims Creators
It isn’t surprising that The Sims has the power to transform someone’s life. All three creators I spoke with had their own reasons for playing the game, but all of them also found themselves walking down a path of custom content creation for Sims 4 they never thought would happen.
Playing The Sims started as a response to bullying and grew into “the only way I could express myself, the only way I could feel comfortable. The only way I felt happy,” said London-based Jeremy, 18, also known as DiversedKing. His love of the game became the safe space he needed to be creative.
Back in the United States, Philadelphia-based 24-year-old Krissten Faggins, who plays as CoCo Games, started her Sims journey with The Sims 3 and calls herself a storyteller and a creative. She used The Sims early on to convey her emotions and harness the power of the 3D form. Whether in her room or elsewhere in her home, Krissten would find herself playing to “escape from the outside world and sort of channel yourself into something different,” she said. But make no mistake, her escape wasn’t a negative one. It was one for a creative, a self-proclaimed daydreamer.
While most people start The Sims franchise as players, others, like 17-year-old Jadin, started the franchise with The Sims 4 as a creator. The Brooklyn-based creator, also known as BrandySims, started creating content in 2017 for the fun of it. He became friends with Jeremy and hit the ground running making content that people love, like hair designs.
Their aesthetics are urban drip. It’s creative, stylistic, and edgy, and fueled by popular Black culture. As for getting it, the game already offers a wealth of add-on content for people looking to customize their characters, homes, and environments. There’s vanilla base-game content from developer Maxis, which is necessary for Simmers who choose to play Sims 4 without custom content and console players who cannot use it because of system limitations. There’s also “Maxis Match” custom content, custom designs that still fit the game’s overall default aesthetic. And then there is “alpha” custom content, which aims for hyperrealism. That’s the type of content these three are known for in the Sims community.