How A Sims 4 Modder Helped the Game Reach its Queer Potential

Lumpinou's LGBTQIA+ mod offers a variety of romantic, sexual, and gender identities and orientations — all with gameplay impact.

For much of its 22-year existence, The Sims has been ahead of its time with queer inclusivity. The life simulation franchise allowed for same-sex marriage long before it was legal in the United States, and for many, the series was their first exposure to queer identities at a young age. Recently, customizable pronouns were added to the Create-a-Sim mode, further expanding gender expression. And yet, despite all these milestones, the Electronic Arts-published series has had its fair share of stumbles with queer representation.

For a game boasting ultimate freedom, much of that freedom exists within a restricted framework. Every Sim is essentially “default” bisexual — in which they can romantically or sexually pursue or be pursued by Sims of any gender — but there’s no way to explicitly identify somewhere on the queer spectrum and have that reflected in gameplay actions. Sims can’t be out, or questioning, or express their queer selves. A recent mod, however, aims to change that.

Thanks to a an incredibly in-depth LGBTQIA+ mod available on both PC and Mac, Sims can identify with numerous gender, sexual, and romantic identities that actively change attractions and restrict or modify advances from other Sims. Some of these include, but are not limited to, gender (non-binary, genderfluid, cisgender, transgender, agender, and more); sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, demisexual, greysexual, and more); and romantic orientation (biromantic, panromantic, greyromantic, and so on). Depending on your Sim’s orientation, they will only be attracted to specific genders or types of Sims, and others can recognize them as such.

“I used to always love The Sims when I was little,” says Lumpinou (a screen name she uses across various online communities), the modder behind the LGBTQIA+ mod. “So I bought the game, and played for a month and then for whatever reason, started modding it.”

Lumpinou has been modding The Sims 4 for two years, and found herself enthralled by the modding scene particularly because The Sims was an accessible game. Following an injury, her arm and hand movements became more restricted. Using a mouse with The Sims turned out to be less strenuous than other games, so it became an excuse to try programming for the first time. She’s become a prolific modder after building massive overhauls to systems like pregnancy, expanding social interactions, and implementing relationship tweaks such as non-monogamy.

Her LGBTQIA+ mod took two months to complete, but it wasn’t something she did alone. Back in April, she shared her plans to make an LGBTQIA+ mod and asked for community feedback on her Patreon. Then she began to research, reading as much as she could about different gender and sexual identities, and brainstorming how each should be implemented into the game as thoughtfully as possible. Once she began work on the mod, she wrote consistent progress updates and asked community members to vote on different ideas and suggestions. It became a back-and-forth process where the community — a pool of hundreds — informed almost every tweak.

“The [initial] draft looks nothing like the final text, and that’s good,” she says. “By the end of it, I felt like I was pretty removed from the process. I let the community do the selections. And I think that that’s exactly how it should have been.”

Throughout my interview with her, Lumpinou stated several times how “daunting” it was to create the mod, particularly because of her fears of improperly representing the queer community and its many identities and spectrums, or receiving backlash for certain features. It’s why she included the community so much in its creation — she wanted to get as close to a “consensus” as possible with the people involved regarding what wording and gameplay elements worked best.

“You have to get it right,” she says. “If you don’t get it right, you might be misrepresenting someone.”

Lumpinou recognized both an interest and a need for a better LGBTQIA+ mod for The Sims 4. She isn’t the first to modify the in-game relationships to be more queer, and she almost didn’t when she discovered a popular mod by a creator called PimpMySims that adds several queer identities — the same plan she had. The difference, however, is that the mod is relatively surface level; as of this writing, you can attribute different identities to different Sims, but there are no associated gameplay interactions.

“If you set a certain orientation, and [Sims] don’t behave like it, it’s really hard to feel like it means anything,” she says.

With Lumpinou’s mod, there are so many possibilities that she wrote a lengthy FAQ and description for it on her website. Some examples include options such as “WooHoo averse” (meaning a Sim will always reject sexual advances); demiromantics who refuse romantic interactions unless friendship points are high enough; and queerplatonic relationships, a system which introduces an entirely new relationship metric. You can even use a feature that auto-assigns both pronouns and identities to all the NPCs living within your Sims’ world, or use a percentage system to decide how identities are divided between individuals.

Because Lumpinou was adamant to represent the queer community as correctly as possible, there were a few challenges and tough decisions to make. She had to be careful not lean into fetishization when combining different attractions to different identities.

For example, after several discussions with the community, she decided to keep bisexual and pansexual identities the same aside from phrasing differences. But she was particularly worried about anything coming across as transphobic, particularly because of the game’s binary distinction between masculine and feminine body types even after the gender customization overhaul in 2016.

“Do you determine attraction based on gender identity, or based on gender presentation?” she says. “The game needs an answer to that question, like, what do I look at? Do I look at the Sim’s body? Or do I look at what they identify as? Because if I do it one way, people are going to be obviously and justifiably disappointed. If I do it another way, same thing. So [I decided] the default is attraction is based on what you identify as.”

But she wants to leave a lot of freedom up to players, so she “also put the option that if you wanted it to look at physical aspects, [the mod] will do that.”

As for pronouns, Lumpinou was lucky to have been developing her mod right around when EA/Maxis made a surprise update and added customizable pronouns to the Create-a-Sim mode in late May. As she scrolled through Twitter the day pronouns were added, she saw someone in the community expressing frustration that there was no way for Sims to ask or tell pronouns to others. In essence, pronouns in The Sims 4 feel more like player-facing text rather than having proper gameplay impact between Sims.

Lumpinou was planning to leave the country to travel overseas that same day, but she left her suitcase in “disarray,” ran to her computer, and in the span of two hours finagled with the new pronouns’ code to release a mini mod that allows for pronouns to be brought up in conversations. That alteration was then added to her larger LGBTQIA+ mod.

“Thankfully, it’s not very hard because it’s just a couple of interactions,” she says. “It doesn’t take a long time. The [LGBTQIA+] mod takes a lot more time to make; it’s a lot more complex. But that was just a tiny thing. I could do it that day, and I had to leave.”

Lumpinou, like many others in the community, is frustrated and “doesn’t know what EA was thinking” when adding pronouns that barely have any actual gameplay function. Particularly as a modder, she recognizes how quickly she was able to modify them herself and is unsure why the developer and publisher have dragged their feet.

“I don’t have all the fancy tools that they have to make code for the game, and it takes one person just like an hour or two to make it,” she says. “This is why it’s frustrating.”

Lumpinou’s LGBTQIA+ mod was released in full on June 17, and she considers this first version a “base” that she will continue to build upon in the coming months. She is already thinking of expanding some features, like the “unexpected crush” option, which is meant to be a turning point for Sims as they discover their queer identity for the first time, and more gameplay specific additions for Sims that are out and proud versus closeted Sims.

“Some players like to control everything very precisely,” she says. “So they may always want [the unexpected crush feature] to be strictly manual. And you know, I’m never going to make it so that this would happen to just any Sim. It would always be within a frame that the player allows it for this or that Sim. So yeah, it’s tricky stuff.”

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Some traits affect how your Sims behave: Closeted Sims, for example, won’t tell other Sims about their queer identity, and another trait like Doesn’t Want Physical Contact will have Sims react negatively to others who attempt to touch them. Other traits like Queer and Out and Proud are cosmetic only, meaning they have no gameplay tie-in, at least for now.

“There could be a lot more gameplay,” she says. “Like, the out and proud Sims could try and encourage the closeted Sims to [come out].”

Lumpinou hopes that her mod can help expose people to queer identities they have never heard of, help educate and aid people in discovering more about themselves, and create what she calls an “environment of empathy.” She compares the process to previous experiences she’s had with mod creation and the reception it’s received.

“I believe in the power of fiction, I believe in the power of stories,” she says. “And sometimes people send me messages. I have this polyamory mod. And [while] that’s something I don’t relate to at all, personally, I made the mod and I learned a lot doing it. And some people said to me, ‘Oh, I played with this mod, and I just came to realize that this is who I am.’ That’s great. That’s exactly what stories can do.”