In design documents for the very first Sims game, renowned programmer Don Hopkins wrote that anyone offended by the game having same-sex romance needs to “needs to grow up and get a life.”
According to a New York Times article, programmer Patrick J. Barrett III added same-sex romance to the game without much input from anyone else, leading to the shocking E3 demo in 1999 during which two female Sims kissed on stage.
“During The Sims’s protracted development, the team had debated whether to permit same-sex relationships in the game. If this digital petri dish was to accurately model all aspects of human life, from work to play and love, it was natural that it would facilitate gay relationships. But there was also fear about how such a feature might adversely affect the game,” the article reads. “After going back and forth for several months, the team finally decided to leave same-sex relationships out of the game code.” But then, Barrett decided to add the code himself.
Hopkins’s design documents reveal some of that back and forth, which is amusing in its own right.
“The code tests to see if the sex of the people trying to romantically interact is the same, and if so, the result is a somewhat violent negative interaction, clearly homophobic. We are definitely going to get flack for that,” Hopkins wrote in the documents. He then goes on to write that it would be “much more realistic” to have Sims’s sexuality determined by two different scales ranging from one to one hundred: one for their interest in romance with members of the same sex, and the other for their interest in romance with members of the opposite sex.
“It would make for a much more interesting and realistic game, partially influenced by random factors, and anyone offended by that needs to grow up and get a life, and hopefully our game will help them in that quest,” Hopkins’ notes in the design documents continued. “Anyone who is afraid that it might offend the sensibilities of other people (but of course not themselves) is clearly homophobic by proxy but doesn’t realize it since they’re projecting their homophobia onto other people.”
After that follows the familiar story: Barrett added same-sex romance while working off of this old design document, and then the world saw that it was possible at E3 the following year.
Reading what Hopkins wrote about same-sex romance in The Sims over two decades ago is heartening. At that time, members of the LGBT community had far fewer legal protections than they do now, and could not legally marry their partners. But the goal of The Sims was not to reflect any particular person’s morality, but rather the reality of the world, which contains a vast array of people. The game, and our world, is better for it.