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A huge Sims 4 update removes gender restrictions from character customization

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An old game gets some new tricks

The robust character creation tool in The Sims 4 is getting even more flexible. Today developer Maxis announced that it's expanding the gender customization options in the game's "create-a-sim" mode, opening up a range of new choices for players. If you want your male character to wear high heels and jewelry, or to dress your new female sim in a slick three-piece suit with close-cropped hair, now you can do that. "For the first time, you'll be able to customize your sims without the gender boundaries previously set in place," the developer says.

The update has been a year in the making, and involved reworking hundreds of pieces of previously gender-specific content, from clothing and hairstyles to tone of voice and walking animations. “The update gives players more ways to reflect the world around them, or in their imaginations, creating the sims and the stories they want,” says lead producer Lyndsay Pearson.

The changes impact content not just from the base game, but also the plethora of expansions and add-ons, as well. Since The Sims 4 first launched in September 2014, the life sim has seen two major expansion packs, plus more than half a dozen add-on packs that introduced new items and features. In total the new update makes more than 700 pieces of in-game content available to both genders.

“Our players are constantly engaged in a conversation with us about The Sims, and they’re always requesting more of everything,” says Pearson. “We always have an incredibly long list of things we want to add to the game, and so much of that list comes directly from player feedback. In this case, players have been asking why certain hairstyles, clothing, and other options were limited to one gender or the other… We also saw it as an awesome chance to continue to nurture what’s always been an inclusive environment for all our players.” Pearson says that in addition to taking feedback from fans, the development team also consulted with GLAAD on the update to ensure the changes were respectful.

The Sims 4 isn’t the first game with a tool like this — titles like Sunset Overdrive have similarly featured very gender fluid creation options — but characters have always held a very personal place in the long-running Sims series. Many players attempt to recreate themselves in the game, living a virtual life insides its world, and the new update to The Sims 4 means that even more people will be able to do this. It's not clear exactly how flexible the tool is — if it's possible to make a sim who's neither explicitly male nor female, for instance, or exactly what characteristics (like pregnancy) will still define being male or female in the game — but it's definitely a step in the right direction. “It has been a lot of work," says Pearson, "but it opens up so many new options for players."

It’s a big update for a game that’s nearly two years old, and the new options are available in The Sims 4 starting today, for free. And Pearson says that there’s likely more on the way as well. “We’re always looking for new ways to push creative boundaries for our players,” she says, “and these tools grow over time, just like the game itself.”