The Sims 4’s newest update added ten new, darker skin tones, as well as a new curly hair, to a game that had had not previously reflected the range of skin tones that black people and other people of color have.
The new skin and hair options are welcome, but they’ve arrived very late in the game’s life-cycle and still have some cosmetic problems.
The Sims 4 was released in late 2014 and its original options for dark skin tones were disappointing. There weren’t many of them, and they weren’t very dark. It was hard to make Sims that looked like people of color, and I had no good option to make a Sim that looked like me. Trying to do so felt like trying to buy foundation from brands other than Fenty Beauty: hopeless.
This wasn’t just a phenomenon that bothered me. During a recent interview, the Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams asked me about a mod I used that gives the game fifty more dark skin tones. Thanks to the update, The Sims 4 has 10 more, all deeper than the skin tones previously in the game, and they have both warm and cool undertones.
Players aren’t wholly satisfied, and I understand why. On the four darkest shades, there is a strange orange patch around the nose. It’s distracting once you notice it.
Similarly, trying to put the make-up that comes with the game on these new skin tones is awkward. Almost every shade gives sims a weird outline around their mouths.
The new curly hair is one of the few hairs in the game that attempt to reflect kinky or coily hair, rather than wavy hair. The other three also came with either an update or a expansion, although the game did ship with two afros. It’s clear a lot of work went into the new curly hair texture, but it’s also not quite right. Curls are very dense and heavy. Unless there’s a ton of product in that hair it would be affected by gravity and not so perfectly spherical.
Given how underserved players of color have been by The Sims 4, this update has the feeling of too little, too late. This is a game about any kind of person you want. Players should at least have the ability to make themselves.