Sims 4 trans-inclusive update faces culture war backlash in record time

John Roberts and Dave Rubin on Fox News as talking heads next to screenshot of The Sims 4
(Image credit: Fox News)

One day after EA revealed a free Sims 4 update 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.

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"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, 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), 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. Whether you know what that means or not, Adams went on 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, 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 that they viewed as responsible for child delinquency.

Like the manufactured controversy around Xbox's new power saving feature, 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 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.

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.