The Sims 4 has long been promoted as a life simulation game. However, the game’s developers often receive criticism from its players for its lack of realism and cultural diversity. The argument is that the game is inherently an American/European simulation game and other cultures are excluded. This exclusion effects everything from properly textured skin tones, clothing, objects, architectural structures, to actual worlds the Sims can live in.
The game currently features worlds that are made up of small dusty towns, beaches, urban/suburban cities, alien landscapes and a jungle, potentially the current game’s most culturally diverse location to date. The jungle, from the game pack The Sims 4: Jungle Adventures, is a pack that features a unique world called Selvadorada and is possibly based on El Salvador in Central America, due to the available clothing, objects and architectural structures indicating an Aztec or Mayan influence, according to The Sims 4 Wiki. While the game pack even gives your Sims the unique Selvadoradian culture skill (which you can build up as you learn about the world’s food, people and history), the world is not a livable one — Sims can only visit as tourists.
A Snowy Escape
The Sims 4 team recently announced that a new expansion pack was on the way, making it the game’s fifth release of the year, the 10th expansion pack and 36th DLC to date. EA Games frequently releases stuff packs, game packs and expansion packs throughout the year, as well as patches to optimize the game for even more additions. The game also features frequent updates that add culturally diverse architectural items, furniture sets and clothing to the game, but they never amount to an actual game expansion or full pack.
The upcoming expansion pack called The Sims 4: A Snowy Escape released a trailer on October 20. The new world is perfect for sledding, snowboarding and other adventures, including visiting and even living in the new world. What makes this world culturally diverse is that it includes the Japanese culture, not yet explored in the current Sims franchise.
Even though the game has only just announced a pack promising to allow Sims to explore and live in this world, players have been downloading mods and custom content to include these culturally diverse settings for years. Mods, or modifications, are changes to a game’s code that allow for different or “modified” gameplay, whereas custom content gives players new objects to download such as furniture, structural items, clothing, skintones and makeup not actually available in-game or from EA. Mods and custom content can be downloaded from third-party websites such as The Sims Resource, ModtheSims and various Patreons that are dedicated to the game and the items players create.
Addressing Cultural Diversity
A modder (or someone who creates mods) of note, Fernando, named NandoandStitch on Twitter and Twitch, created the game’s most notable mods that overlay new worlds on top of existing ones, changing the landscape and look of the game’s current worlds. His recent mods even include furniture, objects, wallpapers and floors that are culturally relevant to each new world. He creates these mods so that he can expand the universe to include more cultures instead of the worlds EA currently has produced. In March 2020, he introduced his mod called Asian Adventures, which replaces The Sims’ vampire world (Forgotten Hollow) with his Asian-themed world.
While he is glad that the game developers are introducing Asian themes into the game as an expansion, he says that “it’s long overdue and in [his] opinion too late.” The base Sims 4 game, which came out in September 2014, has never fully explored an Asian world until now. Nando also notes that this new world, which features shrines and objects with the picture of a rising sun on it, may be an issue for Korean players since it is a reminder of the horrific events they endured during World War II:
“The shrines that come with the new EP [(or expansion pack)] also bring a new problematic topic with it …[shrines] seem to have negative connotations [for Koreans] regarding Japan’s colonialism in Korea. Many Koreans feel offended to see this object in game. I [wish] they did more profound and not superficial investigations on additions for a pack like this.”
However, he also states that:
“Creating a world that isn’t American deserves their appreciation [because] it shows that it’s hard to nail it. Especially if [they] don’t know much about it or have not enough insight on it. That being said, the shrine issue was probably an oversight and should be addressed as soon as possible.”
Shortly after interviewing Nando, SimGuruGraham, one of the game’s developers, addressed the issue on Twitter. He announced that not only did they change the trailer to remove the depictions of a rising sun on objects and clothing, but that they also removed the ability for Sims to bow in front of a shrine in the game pack.
Nando’s hope is that the game developers will continue to provide culturally diverse expansions such as the one most recently announced. While there are glaring issues with the pack’s new content, it seems as if this will satiate players’ needs for a more diverse reality if the trailer’s reception is any indication. The trailer of the pack before A Snowy Escape called Journey to Batuu, a Star Wars-themed vacation game pack, received over 25,000 likes and over 51,000 dislikes on YouTube. A Snowy Escape received over 81,000 likes and only around 4,200 dislikes.
The Sims isn’t going away anytime soon, even with its current flaws. Modders and custom content creators, who have been filling in the game’s most obvious gaps and fixing the most obvious issues for years, may see some relief headed their way with the new pack. Many players hope that this pack will be a snowy escape into a diverse reality and a trend that The Sims and EA Games will continue in order to redeem The Sims 4 franchise.
The Sims 4: Snowy Escape DLC will be released on November 13, 2020.