The Sims Helped Me Realise I’m Queer
Growing up in ’90s China and Korea meant that when I learned about queerness, it was something that I knew existed, but wasn’t possible for me to be. As an expat student going to an international school, I began associating queerness with the West. All representations of queerness (with the exception of trans popstar Harisu) I saw were from Western media and primarily white. Then, came video games — specifically The Sims.
From my earliest memories, this game has been a part of my life. I remember being eight years old, sitting in front of my computer with my sister, creating Sims and making up all sorts of imaginary storylines for those plumbob-wearing avatars. It’s also the most diverse game I remember playing. It was rare to see people of different races in a game. The original game, which came out in 2000, did have its limitations — you had to choose to be either male or female, and your personality was dictated by a set number of points you can assign that gave your sim a Western astrological sign. But one thing the game allowed, even from the beginning, was that your Sim could fall in love and have a relationship with any other Sim, regardless of their gender.
Many of us grew up with memories of setting off fireworks indoors and burning their entire Sims family to smithereens, or sadistically trapping an unsuspecting Sim in the swimming pool to watch them drown. While I do remember exploring what was possible in the Sims and testing its limits, one of the biggest revelations, for me, was the ability for your Sim to be in a same-sex relationship.
At first, it felt scandalous for me to create queer Sims. Actually, there was a lot about the game that felt scandalous to me! Some newer players of the Sims may be used to the more sanitised version we see in its latest renditions, but the original game was quite wild. You could hire strippers to jump out of giant birthday cakes. There was a vibrating bed with a heart-shaped headboard reminiscent of Japan’s love hotels. All these things sometimes made me feel embarrassed and shy. The thought of my parents walking in while I had my Sim WooHoo-ing another Sim in the vibrating bed was mortifying. In the beginning, it felt like queerness belonged in this realm of “things I should not know as a child.” Korean people (even people in video games) weren’t gay, and they certainly would not be caught doing such improper things.
As I got older and I continued to play the franchise, it slowly dawned on me — it may have been right for me to feel as though certain aspects of this game were inappropriate for my age, but seeing queer relationships should not make me feel more embarrassed than if my parents caught me playing with straight Sims. The Sims also made me realise that people like me can be queer, and it eventually helped me understand that I was so affected by this because I’m queer.
Nowadays, playing The Sims helps me create a safe space wherein I can reaffirm my queerness. As someone in a hetero-passing relationship, who often finds themselves pigeonholed into heteronormativity, it can be satisfying, safe and reaffirming to play with the gayest Henford-on-Bagley Sim ever created.