Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Inside the World of Young Black Sims Content Creators

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.

The benefit of alpha content, at least for me, is that this style of custom content removes the cartoonish appearance and makes everything feel real. It brings you closer to the Sims you create and helps define your world. You can get a slightly uncanny valley feeling when you create your Sims with alpha content because there is a bit of an emotional response to seeing your Sims go through life and die (though, if you want, you can keep them alive forever or revive them). But such is life.

The Sims Diversity Void

 “I didn't really like what was out there. Like I really wanted to make my own stuff,” Jadin said. Jadin isn’t alone. Jeremy is choosing to, as he said, “cater to the Black community in The Sims,” because he felt that was a void. “There was nothing really there for us,” Jeremy explained. Amira “Xmiramira” Virgil and Danielle “EbonixSims” Udo both aim to fill that void, and create content that centers Blackness as a core part of the game’s look and feel. Their work inspires people to take ownership of their creations.

“Representation is important. Especially when it involves improving the quality of life for the children that come after us. It’s important for our youth to see people who look like them doing things different from their norm and pushing the limits. It’s important because it ties into media and how the world sees us and treats us, and in this current state of the world, Black people and POC are fighting for proper representation and to not be placed in a box,” Amira said. “It’s important for different types of Black gamers to have visibility and not just one type of Black gamer. We belong here too, and I’m going to encourage people to create the spaces they want to see while pushing for the decisionmakers to make their spaces more inclusive.” 

Most PopularSecurityHackers Found a Way to Open Any of 3 Million Hotel Keycard Locks in Seconds

Andy Greenberg

Backchannel8 Google Employees Invented Modern AI. Here’s the Inside Story

Steven Levy

ScienceThe Keys to a Long Life Are Sleep and a Better Diet—and Money

Matt Reynolds

GearThe Omega x Swatch Snoopy MoonSwatch Has Landed

Jeremy White

It’s been 21 years since the debut of the original Sims game and six years since Sims 4 launched. Since then, the game has seen over 30 content releases in the form of expansions and add-ons that improve gameplay little by little. 

Even so, until recently, if a new gamer wanted to make a character that reflected themselves using only the base game tools, they wouldn't see many options without the use of custom content. And it wasn’t until 2016 that Simmers saw the removal of gender restrictions that gave the LGBTQIA community (including other identities that intersect with them) the visibility needed to see themselves in-game.

Small Business Owners and Content Creators

It’s not just family and friends these creators are connecting with. They are also connecting with potential clients and fans through Tumblr, where many Sims creators post their work to promote their skills or offer their work to other players. The site, now owned by Verizon Media, has over 509.7 million blogs, and its Simmer community promotes themselves there the same way they promote themselves in the official Sims gallery. Simply doing a quick Google search for “Sims custom content by Black creators” will take you to well-known people, but also Tumblr pages to get you started.

While these three create incredible content that allows people to feel visible in-game, they’re also business owners. Krissten posts on her Patreon several times a month to keep her subscribers entertained and updated on her work. And while it’s paid off, she’s found there are some downsides to being a creator— namely, colorism and thievery. 

“If I upload a promo picture of my CC, and it's a light-skinned Sim, I'm 100 percent going to get 200, 300, 400 likes. If I use a Black or dark skin of Sim on my promo picture, even in my thumbnails, this is where I really see it. It's not getting as much traction,” Krissten said. “It's really crazy how everything, all of that systemic stuff, is even down here in a video game. That's one of the things that I hate so much, because I'm like, I'm gonna use models that look like me, I'm dark. And then, you'll see it doesn't get as many comments, ‘Yes, oh, my God, the model is so beautiful.’ But when I upload somebody who favors were lighter-skinned, it's ‘Oh, my God, like, can I download this Sim?’ It's so sad.”

Considering that colorism is deeply rooted in white supremacy, it’s no surprise that it’s found its way into the Sims community. While creating characters is all a part of the fantasy, just like any industry, colorism and light-skinned preference yields positive results in a way that it shouldn’t. The erasure of dark-skinned Black women Sims, specifically, mirrors the issues with representation that can affect any content creator.

Creators often question who “owns” their content once it’s released. Even when content is monetized, some players assume that custom content is free and belongs to everyone, without the need to credit the people who created it. For example, while Jeremy is all about building a positive community, there are people who try to take advantage of his work by leaking it elsewhere. “Because I’m a very young age it is very hard to sue someone for stealing your work,” Jeremy said. This is a huge problem for a lot of creators who want to have control over the content they make for their patrons. But it is hard to make money through Patreon subscribers when your content is leaked online for free. 

Krissten explained that it’s difficult to fight to have stolen content taken down from sites where it’s reposted for free. Often the pirates don’t understand the issue, “Because they're like, Oh, well, this is a community thing. You really should support your Black creators,” she said.  

And there are people who do show their support. Sometimes that comes from patrons and commenters, and other times it’s from someone famous, which can be just as important and rewarding. Skai Jackson, for example, followed Jadin on Twitter to let him know how much she loved his work. “She messaged me, and she was like, um, I like your CC. So I sent her some stuff. And, you know, she did a YouTube video on that,” Jadin said. 

Popular Articles