The Japan-themed Sims 4 Snowy Escape expansion pack lets folks enjoy a hot springs mountain resort. The debut trailer shows a Japanese-themed world to be enjoyed, but two parts in particular caused enough of a backlash to be removed before the November 13th release.
A revamped trailer can be seen below.
Why was the trailer changed? As Sims Community points out, a number of South Korean players complained about the imagery they found offensive in the trailer, namely that a Sim was shown bowing in front of a small shrine.
You can see the original footage on YouTuber EnglishSimmer’s trailer reaction that was posted last week (check out her channel here). One Sim bows in front of a small shrine, while another snaps a photo. The original clip is also still in reaction videos on other Sims Youtuber channels.
Elsewhere in the original trailer, another Sim wore a yukata sporting what could be confused with a sun-like pattern.
This image can still be seen in YouTuber James Turner’s reactions clip (check out his YouTube channel right here). The design does look vaguely sun-like, yes, but it’s not the red and white Rising Sun flag motif, which is controversial throughout Asia. The design could be a Japanese folding fan, which is called a suehiro—which can symbolize prosperity. It’s hard to tell.
“This is the result of Orientalism,” wrote one Korean commenter on YouTube (via Sims Community). “I know that EA likes Japanese culture. But this is too much. Korea had been forced by Japan. They forced Koreans to greet their religious buildings. Koreans had to be tortured or killed if they didn’t do what Japan wanted. Surprisingly, the religious building appears in the game.”
Other YouTube comments written in Korean called for a boycott, telling EA to study history.
Sims producer Graham Nardone issued a series of tweets, writing, “We modified the reveal trailer for The Sims 4 Snowy Escape and have made changes to the pack to respect our Korean players. I want you to know that those changes will be in-game when Snowy Escape launches.”
“Specifically,” he continued, “we will not have Sims bow in front of shrines in the world of Mt. Komorebi. Further, we’ve adjusted some patterns on clothing and objects within Snowy Escape that unintentionally evoked imagery with painful historic meaning.”
“We aim to be inclusive,” he concluded. “We involve others both within and outside of our team, and we listen to them as representatives of the cultures that we draw inspiration from. We’re unwavering in our commitment to representing more of our player’s lives in an authentic and respectful way.”
Being inclusive is good! And not all the changes are bad, mind you.
The clothing fix is actually an improvement, I think. The Sim is wearing a nice kimono. It works.
But let’s think exactly what EA is doing. The company—an American company, at that—is appropriating Japanese culture and Japanese motifs to sell in its expansion pack.
Bowing is an intricate part of Japanese culture. It’s a sign of respect. While the trailer never fully explained how the shrine visits and bowing would work (I guess it would be optional?), bowing has been removed. The shrine, however, remains. So now, the new footage shows a Sim standing in front of the small shrine, puzzled. The shrine is now seen as something baffling. It’s weird. It’s different.
This seems disrespectful, no? (Let’s take a photo while you figure out what the hell is going on!) One shouldn’t have to bow at the shrine, just as one doesn’t have to in Japan. But it certainly should be an option.
Aside from how EA seems to confuse Shintoism with State Shinto, the religion goes back before written history in Japan—before there was even a word for it. Shintoism predates the advent of using actual human-built shrines, something that started in the centuries that followed after Korea introduced Buddhism to Japan in the mid-6th century. Shintoism is the country’s indigenous religion. There is no main text like the Bible, and yet, Shintoism continues to course through Japanese society. The vast majority of babies are taken to Shinto shrines as a rite of passage. Children and adults alike carry Shinto talisman for good luck. People get their cars blessed by Shinto priests to protect the driver. At new construction sites, Shinto rituals are also performed. Sake, Japan’s national drink, is intimately connected to the religion, as is sumo. This is Japanese culture.
The shrine represents something people believe. The beliefs have a long history and a collective memory within Japan. Shrines are places people go to pray and reflect. Shrines are places that protect. This isn’t just something to be included in a game because it looks “neat” or “cool.” This is a country’s culture that is being borrowed for financial gain and then tossed aside in the name of inclusivity.
“EA is trash.”
“If you are going to twist Japanese culture, then don’t put Japanese culture [in your game] in the first place.”
“This makes me really uncomfortable.”
“They put out Japanese content with no consideration for Japan.”
“Not gonna buy The Sims.”
“I’m never going to buy The Sims again.”
“If you cannot pay homage at a shrine, they what’s the purpose of making a shrine?”
“Not many Japanese people play The Sims, so this is unavoidable.”
“I’ll never play The Sims.”
“The plan is the erase Japanese culture after a complaint about Japanese culture.”
“EA is anti-Japanese.”
“If you are going to discriminate against Japanese people, then don’t release this DLC.”
“I thought tourists who come to Japan do visit real shrines, right?”
“What a letdown. I’m never buying an EA game again.”
“If lots of Japanese people don’t play The Sims, then why did they take Japanese culture?”
“EA is a shit game maker.”
“Visiting a shrine is now a problem? Bit by bit, their target is getting larger.”
“Does this mean EA doesn’t respect Japanese players?”
“EA is so stupid.”
“If you’re not going to respect Japanese culture and if you don’t feel like learning about it, then don’t release Japan-themed content.”
“This can’t be helped. Wanna play Ghost of Tsushima?”
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)