The Sims series has a reputation for being inclusive and always striving to let players create Sims that represent themselves. For years though, Black players have been pointing out that The Sims 4 could really stand to do better with its dark skin tones that look desaturated compared to the skin of actual people. Thanks in part to a Twitter hashtag and a petition, Maxis have agreed to fix the current options available for dark skin tones and add more this year.
Executive producer Lyndsay Pearson has posted a video promising players that Maxis will take a closer look at their current skin tones and add more this autumn. "While we have made additions and improvements and fixes in the past, there is much more for us to do," Pearson says. "We are making it a priority to release more options this year as well as to address the visual issues with current skin tones, specifically to improve the blotchy artifacts and ashy tones."
Pearson mentions the Sims 4 modding community as well, saying that although their work makes The Sims better, that doesn't excuse Maxis from continuing to improve it as well. Up until now, fixing and adding to skin tones and hair styles for Black characters has fallen largely on the talented modding community. The Melanin pack by custom content maker "Xxmiramira" adds 54 skin tones to the game and is just one of the options available thanks to Sims 4 modders.
"The major issue with the skin tones in the game is a lack of depth and vibrancy," custom content creator Shelly tells Vice. "The skins have little to no undertones, and the black and brown swatches are very dull. They almost look sickly. Black people all around the world come in so many different shades and colors and undertones. And specifically for myself and other dark skinned individuals, it is near impossible to make us accurately without custom content."
Some folks are understandably disappointed that the change seems to have been inspired by a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement and support from non-Black content creators rather than the years of Black simmers asking for a change and creating their own content.
The commitment is a positive one, though it remains to be seen how Maxis actually execute on new skin tones and fix the current visual artifacts in the ones they've got. Beyond just skin tones, Sims players are also hoping that Maxis will look to improve how makeup looks on dark skin and textured hair style choices. Hopefully we'll hear about improvements planned in those areas for the future.
"We realize there isn't one single fix for representation and we're dedicating people to ongoing commitments to continue improvement over the long term," Pearson says at the end of the announcement.