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The Kiss That Changed Video Games
June 19, 2014 2:47 PM   Subscribe

On the first day of [the 1999 Electronic Entertainment Expo], the game’s producers, Kana Ryan and Chris Trottier, watched in disbelief as two of the female Sims attending the virtual wedding leaned in and began to passionately kiss. They had, during the live simulation, fallen in love. Moreover, they had chosen this moment to express their affection, in front of a live audience of assorted press.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits (41 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a great story of serendipity.
posted by nubs at 2:53 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


It's great that management had said "no," the boss was on vacation, so the programmer just added it in.

Serendipity, indeed.
posted by CrowGoat at 3:05 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


I really loved that article, and it reminded me of how utterly wonderfully boring it was for me to create a Sims-Mike and have him set-up house with a guy not unlike the guy he was already living with without having to do anything special. Like I just started playing the game and there it was without anything special; it just was.

Sims-Mike, who I attempted to play how I, 1999 Mike, would ideally handle situations, was quite popular. Therefore, this line from the article stood out to me:

If the player was careful, a Sim could even become bisexual.

I don't remember this being difficult at all. Sims-Mike, despite being happily domestically partnered, couldn't stop falling in love with Bella Goth, constantly, and visa versa, much to her husband Mortimer's consternation.

Until, of course, Mortimer also fell under my charms.

I like to imagine this is exactly what would have happened to me if I'd lived in the suburbs in my twenties; lots of torrid complicated love affairs and me burning down the kitchen once a month because I had to hurry to the bathroom because I hadn't pissed in three days.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:06 PM on June 19 [124 favorites]


I wonder what the specific criteria neccesary that were programmed that allowed bisexuality to occur.
posted by mediocre at 3:11 PM on June 19


I've thought about it a lot - both in terms of The Sims and in terms of adding same-sex couples to databases where they couldn't previously be joined -- and it turns out from my (very high-level, business-side-of-the-house) view, it's almost always about removing blocks that were put in place to prevent it from happening, not about needed to add any new logic (unless the blocks were put in place in such a way that it's just easier to do a messy work around)

Which I guess is a remarkably apt metaphor for the whole situation here in real life too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:14 PM on June 19 [36 favorites]


I wonder what the specific criteria neccesary that were programmed that allowed bisexuality to occur.

More likely the programmer removed criteria.

I loved this about the game too. Spend enough time wooing someone - wuv! Humans falling in love with humans! Such elegant, realistic simplicity.
posted by fraula at 3:15 PM on June 19 [8 favorites]


I wonder what the specific criteria neccesary that were programmed that allowed bisexuality to occur.

At the start of any new character, they are essentially bisexual. To maintain that a character would have to balance romantic and friendly interactions with characters of both sexes. I can imagine it would be a pretty difficult, but not impossible, balancing act.

That's what I gleaned from the article and from an early Sims obsession.
posted by muddgirl at 3:20 PM on June 19


Suddenly I remember all those sims in all those rooms without doors, waiting for them to wet themselves and dying ever so slowly as their anguished Atohtehs turned into soft Hurees and whispering Dag Dags.

I wonder, how many kisses did I rob them of?

ಥ_ಥ
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:23 PM on June 19 [17 favorites]


The idea that Nintendo thinks that they're remaining neutral by prohibiting homosexual relationships is maddening. By erasing the existence of a group, you're not being neutral, you're taking actions against that group! Especially when you patch a "bug" that allows said relationships to happen.

I played the first Sims game a ton when I was a kid, and recently got the third one. Those games are so addictive. It's great playing a game that lets me be me.
posted by No One Ever Does at 3:30 PM on June 19 [11 favorites]


I was kind of blown away when it was released and the game got just so, so gay for me. I was thrilled, but always wondered how it happened. It seemed like a really unexpected utopia where the only problem was jealousy. I've often wondered if it pushed the gay rights conversation forward among a segment of the population who was younger when it came out. It all seemed so natural in the game and not a big deal.

Anyway, I am super tired today because I stayed up, having recently gotten TS3 like No One Ever Does. Heh.
posted by Lardmitten at 3:52 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I remember commanding my Sim-self to seduce the entrie neighborhood, irrespective of gender. I even created several adult-only families on empty lots, providing each with a side table and telephone so that Sim-self could issue booty-calls. I could only ever manage about 20 concurrent Sim-lovers before everything went sideways, though.
posted by gox3r at 4:00 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]


The idea that Nintendo thinks that they're remaining neutral by prohibiting homosexual relationships is maddening. By erasing the existence of a group, you're not being neutral, you're taking actions against that group! Especially when you patch a "bug" that allows said relationships to happen.

They don't think that anymore. Nintendo has apologized and promised to make the next game (if any) more inclusive.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 4:01 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


I remember telling anyone who would listen about how gender-neutral (and therefore awesome) The Sims 2 was. Same-sex relationships were just part of it--there are so many ways they could have made male and female Sims biologically different, but the only differences are their appearance and pregnancy. (Male sims can even get pregnant, but you have to be abducted by aliens first.) I was always a little annoyed that the sim who got pregnant was automatically the one who got maternity leave, because then the mom had to miss work (unless, again, aliens), but if that's literally the only thing feminist-16-year-old me could find to be irritated by, you've got yourself a pretty damn good video game.

Also, I feel like the "WooHoo with 20 Sims" lifetime wants kinda pushed your sims into being bi because come on, that's already SO MUCH effort and now you gotta limit your options to only half the Sims you know? Maybe I'm just an ineffective Sim seducer though.
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:29 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


The most interesting part to me is how after same sex relationships were back in, it sounds like everyone assumed someone had made an Official Decision.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:39 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


"I like to imagine this is exactly what would have happened to me if I'd lived in the suburbs in my twenties; lots of torrid complicated love affairs and me burning down the kitchen once a month because I had to hurry to the bathroom because I hadn't pissed in three days."

This is both what my Sims game was like in 2001 or so, and not unlike my life in my late teens and early 20s a few years before that. (My very first blogging, April-May 2001, was almost exclusively about the antics of my Sims characters. So many wacky romances & love triangles, quadrangles, whatever.)
posted by epersonae at 4:49 PM on June 19


This same sex relationship didn't take place in a vacuum at Maxis. A few years earlier the SimCopter himbo easter egg got designer Jacques Servin fired from Maxis. The firing was for unauthorized content, not specifically for it being gay content, and anyway the designer didn't exactly mean it as a gay pride thing. But it was still kind of a bummer when it happened. Particularly since Maxis had a reputation of being a pretty good place to work. I don't think the company was explicitly anti-gay.

Actually reading about that now I was surprised to learn the whole thing was an RTMark-funded prank, the same group behind the political pranksters the Yes Men.
posted by Nelson at 4:50 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]


They don't think that anymore. Nintendo has apologized and promised to make the next game (if any) more inclusive.

Great news! Thanks for telling me.
posted by No One Ever Does at 5:18 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Honestly, even moreso than this, i think the best thing about this game was how many girls of my generation it introduced to gaming in general. Young women who were lets say, 8-14 when it came out.

Everyone played this freaking game. But it's the first game i have any memory of that i heard large numbers of girls mention or discuss. It was as if gaming had just passed some kind of bechedel test. I mean sure, plenty of girls and women played super mario bros or arcade games, but i feel like that was a subset. The sims is as universally well known and remembered as pokemon if you're under 30, and especially if you were in that age bracket when it came out.

I think an underrated factor of this was that it was a PC game too. PCs at the time were both still wild-westy and sort of a zone free of association. The entire family used it, it was like the TV. Not that it isn't still the case, but my point is in comparison to consoles. And in addition to that, back then very few families had more than one computer. That shit was expensive, and you basically didn't get in the door for less than a grand in 1999.*

Where i'm going with this, is that since everyone was sharing the machine if anyone in the family bought this game, which i remember occupying a unique space of universal parental approval even among strict parents, then it was around for everyone.

A lot of girls got this game because their friends had it, but to me where it seemed like it started was someone else in the family buying it and then they would get obsessed with it and tell all their friends.

I'd love to see a blog post written by a woman about what a phenomenon the sims was among young women. Because i remember at the time being like "oh weird lots of girls play games too ?!?!" and it simultaneously broke, and didn't really surprise my adolescent mind. I think i may have even gotten introspective enough to stop and think "why does that seem weird? games are fun".

Maybe there really isn't anything to my theory here, but it really seems like there is to me. At the very least, it's the first game i remember having a fairly even, or possibly even skewed female gender split of players. There were girls who got pokemon red and blue, but they were usually the nerdy ones who hung out with my friends. In contrast, even some of the most "eww games are for nerds" types were obsessed with the sims.

*in 2000 i think, my parents bought me a laptop. My dad had to save up for months, and it cost $1300... on sale... and it was the cheapest one available at the time that wasn't garbage. Desktops weren't much less unless they were outdated or terrible. They were just faster.
posted by emptythought at 5:45 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]


Me on the Sims.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:00 PM on June 19


emptythought, that's pretty much what happened with us. I got the game, wasn't very good at it, and my younger sister thought she could do a better job (it turned out she definitely could). She then introduced it to a load of her friends. This was helped by her getting all the expansion packs, since, once everything was installed, she only needed the disc for the most recently installed expansion, and could lend out the others to friends.

Our computer was getting a bit old by the time the sims 2 came out but she still played it like crazy, often at what looked like 2 frames a second.
posted by manbagofmanifestdestiny at 8:07 PM on June 19


In my family and among my circle The Sims was entirely gender neutral. In fact, the summer of 2000 was probably the last time my brothers and I fought over whose turn it was with the computer, now that I think about it. All because of The Sims.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on June 19


I lived on the Sims when it came out, and I definitely remember it being a very girl-heavy game. Very few of my friends IRL played it, though. But the game was pretty important in linking me up with forums and the internet in general, and the overwhelming contingent of those people were young girls/women who were all over the game. We were probably... 12-early 20s?

I'd honestly be super-interested in some history or sociology research into how the Sims affected that age group. Between the (seemingly) blase inclusion of gay/bisexual relationships, the girl/woman-heavy appeal, and the explosion of websites and forums I imagine the Sims had a surprisingly large cultural reach.
posted by lilac girl at 9:05 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


The Sims was the first game that I can remember a certain subset of gamers bending over backwards to explain why it wasn't a 'real' game, so there's also that. I mean, I'm sure it happened before then, but that was the first time I saw that phenomenon.

I didn't buy it until the Sims 2 and in college, but we'd hand over our disks to trusted friends whenever we had an important paper to write. Also, I learned really early on not to create sims based off people you know because it gets awkward really quickly.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:12 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


Sims-Mike, despite being happily domestically partnered, couldn't stop falling in love with Bella Goth, constantly, and visa versa, much to her husband Mortimer's consternation.

The names you used confirm everything I already know about you.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 PM on June 19


Also, I learned really early on not to create sims based off people you know because it gets awkward really quickly.

Yeeeah, while drinking in college, a bunch of us made an inescapable and perilous Sims house with a resident based on each member of our group. One of our friends found it seriously not funny once her Sim died and then we all felt bad.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:25 PM on June 19


Shakespherian, Bella and Mortimer Goth were sort of the Sims equivalent of NPCs who came packaged with the game. IIRC you could not play as Bella or Mortimer, they were just the ubiquitous neighbors, perfect for seducing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:29 PM on June 19


In that case I am now fairly convinced that Mike wrote The Sims.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


I always found the most "gamey" part of the Sims (progressing your Sim in their career and financially) really rather difficult, and it would usually end with pee all over the floor and them weeping. Perhaps that was a metaphor for life....

Instead I got obsessed with the more toy like aspects of the game. One of the fun things was trying to persuade mutually incompatable sims to get together. If I remember correctly, the available actions for each sim were dependent on their current relationship, so it was hard work to get two enemies to love each other. But I'd be damned if I didn't try!

I also seem to remember that same sex partners didn't have the same set of kissing animations as opposite sex partners, but my memory may be playing tricks on me.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:13 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure someone was pointing out same-sex pairings in Sims 2 here in the blue at least 10 years ago.
posted by lodurr at 5:31 AM on June 20


Oh, sure, kiss whoever you want in the game, but god forbid you should ever want to design furniture, after the first Sims! THAT is the part I miss the most.
posted by mittens at 6:04 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


I'm really in awe of how the game follows the player's cues of how they think their Sims should behave. It doesn't so much break a barrier as materialize on the other side of it.

Oh, sure, kiss whoever you want in the game, but god forbid you should ever want to design furniture, after the first Sims! THAT is the part I miss the most.

Really? People can't make their own furniture anymore? I haven't played any of the versions after the original, but my favorite thing was browsing around the websites people made where you could download themed characters and furniture. In particular, I remember a site with an amazing assortment of historically accurate Roman stuff.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:23 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


rtr, you can make re-colors of furniture in Sims 3 but not create whole new items. People still do make lots of cool clothes and furniture in cool patterns but it's not as free-style as it used to be. The modding community is great, though. Players have fixed all the annoyances that EA puts in.
posted by bijou243 at 9:09 AM on June 20


I loved the Sims for I dunno, about a year or two, before all the actual gamey career shit got really annoying.

What I loved best was in the manual. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially it said "Sims will fall in love with whoever they want to, and who are to judge who that is?"

Mostly I just had fun building ridiculous houses for Sim-me and Sim-boyfriend to live in. Occasionally when we were having arguments one of us would leave the game running on one of our computers, with the opposite Sim locked in a room surrounded by pee. Was also an amusing (to us) way of registering displeasure at something the other had done--and was very often successful, on both sides, at being that nudge that goes "Hey that thing you did that you probably already knew was sucky, it really was sucky. Stop being sucky!"

Then came too many million expansion packs and just too much and no. Unfortunately.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:09 AM on June 20


And of course, it was totally okay when two girls did it.

Two guys, when it was totally just an option and not in any way required? Was still getting ridiculous pushback from regressive gamers within the past two years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:14 AM on June 20


You totally could plays Bella and Mortimer Goth in the Sims 1, because you could play as any family in the neighborhood in the first version. They had a daughter (Google informs me her name was Cassandra) who had the glasses and the dark braided hair.

I distinctly remember a moment in my first playthrough of the game (at... 11?) when I was playing as Bella and she'd recently had a new baby and I'd mis-queued the options and Bella ended up so exhausted she fell asleep besides the crib. I complained to my mother about how hard it was to have a kid, and she proceeded to laugh in my face.

Life lessons, courtesy of the Sims.

Bella also had a bizarre tendency among all the Sims to clog up any toilet she used, so... you know. Life lessons and potty humor in equal amounts.
posted by lilac girl at 9:52 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]


I remember that the various appearances of the Goth family, as well as all of their home furnishings, were available as options for designing your Sim and their environment, and I suppose you could just name your Sim Bella Goth or whatever and "play as" that character. But I don't recall being able to select "play as Goth family" as an option.

That said, it's been close to 15 years since I've played, and I don't think I got any further in the Sims universe than Sims 2.

Nowadays I have Sims Medieval on my phone. It's the perfect blend of sandbox world and RPG, in my opinion, and makes me miss my old Sims obsession a little bit.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 PM on June 20


That might've been the case for Sims 2, where I think you played a single family in a neighborhood? (Or was that a Sims 3 invention?) In the first version of the Sims I think you only had one neighborhood, and your different save files were the lots within the neighborhood, so the Goths were a playable family. I remember you could play as the Newbies, and as a bachelor family, and maybe as roommates?
posted by lilac girl at 11:08 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


"Roommates" IYKWIMAITYD
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:26 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


The Sims was the first game that I can remember a certain subset of gamers bending over backwards to explain why it wasn't a 'real' game, so there's also that. I mean, I'm sure it happened before then, but that was the first time I saw that phenomenon.

Ohhh YEA.

The weird thing was, it wasn't the kids saying this, except for the bro-iest jockiest ones who only played turok and WWE raw anyways. The majority of the group saying this online seemed to be the 2000/early 2000s version of what is now the primary reddit demographic of early 20s hardcore nerdy dudes. So basically the same people who whine about Anita Sarkeesian with such fervor. Good times. This is also the same group of people who whined endlessly about wind waker being "kiddie"(along with the gamecube itself), and battened down the hatches on the bunker to start trying to define what was a "casual" game and therefor feminine and not real gaming. Basically as soon as cellphones started having games, that "wasn't real gaming", along with the sims and neopets. And it just grew from there.

If it happened before then, i either didn't see it or i was too young. But i had never even heard that concept in the 90s right up until that happened. My friends moms playing solitaire on the computer was considered just as game-y as us playing starcraft or mario 64.(both by them, and by us which i mean me and my friends). There were no "tiers" of game i can remember until The Sims.

It was sort of a weird schadenfreudey combination of funny and sad watching the huge backlash against pintrest when guys like that realized it was mostly women... because it was pretty much the exact same thing again. like, "Anything that i can't perceive as a majority male space is somehow dumb, lesser, silly, and should be dismissed offhand" which always had the huge implication of "if you disagree you're not a REAL nerd and probably a f*****" ready to lob at you.
posted by emptythought at 12:11 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


I fucking LOVED THE SHIT AND HELL out of Wind Waker.

What 'hardcore' gamers don't like is change, I think, even when that change is profoundly interesting--as in Wind Waker.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:48 PM on June 21


I've never encountered a person who played the game and didn't like it(besides maybe that one guy linked in the E3 thread who hated ocarina of time too, which as far as i'm concerned makes him basically an infidel and is the equivalent, and comes with the same implications as saying "2001 is a shitty movie").

Every person i ever encountered, online or off who hated on wind waker had never played it and just thought it "looked dumb and kiddie".

It's sort of like green smoothie drinks, like that one by naked called green machine or whatever. It looks "gross" or "weird", but anyone whose tasted it thinks its bomb.

As i remember, it got a nearly perfect score from basically everyone who ever reviewed it too.

It definitely wasn't a change thing though, it came from the same place of performed masculinity as not wanting to touch anything "girly" does. There's definitely room here for someone to write something interesting along the lines of the piece that "girly drinks" FPP was anchored on. They created something a very vocal specific type of manbrodude thought associating themselves with would go against their "personal brand" of man-ness.

The sims hate really demonstrated this too, because it was not there at first. The sims, before and around launch got a lot of people excited in a similar way spore did while it was being developed and shown off as a super open ended and interesting sort of mostly-limitless game. And people were still excited about it and it was considered a real, deep game until it became openly associated with girls and women playing it a lot.

Exact same tiresome manbrodude bullshit, but this time with a side dish of misogyny and fragile male ego garbage.
posted by emptythought at 6:34 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


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