Wired: Makin' Woohoo

Monday, October 4, 2004 - 23:10

Wired has an article about The Sims 2; Makin' Woohoo!

Makin' Woohoo

by Regina Lynn

By all accounts, The Sims is the most successful computer game on Earth. It's a game even non-gamers have heard of, and it's as addictive in its own way as cybersex and Doritos. I even spent a couple of months playing The Sims long-distance. Who needs phone sex when you can have phone Sims?

The Sims 2 improves on the original with a more detailed representation of what happens between the sheets -- the game calls it "woohoo" -- and a gene-transfer element that creates children who resemble their parents in looks and temperament. You can nurture or torment your Sims from infancy to old age and play for generations if you have the attention span to do so.

The game is about life, so you would expect it to include sex. What you might not expect is the matter-of-fact way in which this mainstream game accepts the full spectrum of human sexuality.

You can make your Sims straight or gay, bi or transgender. Sims of any sex can live together and make woohoo and become parents -- through DNA transmission for hetero couples and through adoption for same-sex couples. Gay Sims are not confined to expansion packs and add-ons. They're simply part of the game.

If you're wondering why that's news, good for you. It did not occur to me that this was anything to write about until I read this Gamespot article in which editor Avery Score searches out U.S.-based games that have homosexual characters. While The Temple of Elemental Evil can reward your male swashbuckler with a gay pirate's hand in marriage and Fable permits multiple spouses of any sex, you have to turn to Japan to find a plethora of games with a wide range of sexual orientations.

You could argue that American game developers are mostly straight males creating games for mostly straight 14- to 34-year-old males (hence the availability of nude skins just weeks after the new game hit the shelves). And you could argue that while sex has always been a popular aspect of gaming, it's generally not the ultimate goal of the game plot, and therefore the characters' sexual orientation is of little importance.

But The Sims is specifically a relationship game (which probably accounts for its popularity beyond the young male demographic). How your Sim interacts with other Sims pretty much decides his or her fate.

Even if your Sim's primary aspiration is wealth, he or she can still only get rich through building the right relationships within the game. The other four aspirations depend on interSim relationships as well: romance, family, popularity and knowledge.

On my first foray into The Sims 2, I created an exotic female Sim with an aspiration for romance, bought her a house in Strangetown, furnished her with a refrigerator and a double bed, and sent her out to lure another woman home.

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry, unwilling to spend the time necessary to let my Sim develop relationships naturally. After about 10 minutes of Sim chat and my increasing frustration as I waited for Flirt to become an option, the other woman strode away and would not return. Perhaps she was offended by the way my Sim told all of the male visitors to leave, or perhaps my Sim was too eager.

Or maybe my Sim told one too many jokes. What can I say? I didn't have many actions to choose from.

Either way, my Sim was rejected, a common event in the real-life relationship game as well. Whether that rejection came from the opposite sex or the same sex makes no difference -- it still brought my romance meter down. Romance is romance, regardless of sexual orientation.

The inclusion of gay relationships in The Sims and other games reflects the Will & Grace effect. For the majority of the gamer generation, there's nothing provocative, political or puerile about homosexuality in The Sims -- it's simply no big deal.

And I like that.

As we continue to redefine human communication through technology, I can imagine a future in which a person's sexual orientation truly makes no difference beyond helping determine who we want to sleep with. Whether we're gay or straight or somewhere in between will cease to be of concern to anyone but ourselves and our lovers, and future generations will roll their eyes at their elders and wonder what all the fuss was about.

And I like that too.

See you next Friday,

Regina Lynn


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