When a new game pack logo leaked in August, fans speculated it would be Star Wars themed and why it would be a bad move for the Sims Team—they weren’t wrong.
I have played The Sims franchise since I can remember getting The Sims 2: Holiday Edition from Wal-Mart with my allowance money 10-15 years ago. I don’t have any other game in my arsenal I’ve had such loyalty to, even as I’ve branched out into playing other games like RPGs and FPSs. When I started writing for Aroono, I became active in the Sims community on Twitter for fresh content to write about. This decision has drastically opened my eyes to all the issues the franchise has come under fire for in recent memory.
A Brief History of The Sims and Skin Tones
On September 2, 2020, The Sims 4 turned six years old, and what a tumultuous six years it’s been. From not having pools and toddlers at launch to now having nine expansion packs, eight game packs, and sixteen stuff packs, the game has progressed quite a bit. But not all the strides it has made have been well-received by the Sims community. Its most recent misstep takes the form of a game pack entitled Journey to Batuu, a Star Wars themed pack that very few asked for, and even less are excited about.
Many fans and avid Sims players are unhappy with the way EA has handled its fourth installment, and I’m inclined to agree. For years, Simmers have been asking for improvements to various aspects of the game, especially the incorporation of items and dynamics found in its predecessors like more diverse skintones, more in-depth family gameplay, and bunk beds. Thanks to today’s technology, feedback can be given directly to the SimGurus via Twitter, which is both a blessing and a curse for everyone involved. It’s refreshing to see feedback and critique go practically straight to the source, but this freedom can make many people rude and vitriolic to the SimGurus, which is unacceptable in any capacity.
Wanting a game to be the best it can be after investing countless hours and money into it (thanks expansion packs) isn’t a selfish request. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who play The Sims have been asking for improved, non-pixelated skin tones for years, but their requests never seemed to gain traction. That is until this year, with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and other prominent Simmers speaking out about the lack of skin tone diversity within the game. When The Sims 3 had a color slider that let players customize their Sim’s skin tone to just the right shade, it makes you wonder why they would ever revert back to anything else.
Lack of Family and Furniture
From launch until now, The Sims 4 has devolved its babies into “objects”—we can only interact with babies by clicking on their bassinet. The developers have embraced this joke, but it’s honestly a little infuriating. Even in The Sims 2 and The Sims 3 we could fully interact with babies, from carrying them around to changing them at a diaper station. Before the Toddler update in 2017, babies automatically aged-up into children, which was absolutely wild to see. The point is: if the technology was already there for intimate baby interactions, why not use it?
Speaking of a lack of game play, they often ignore Elders in The Sims 4. The closest we’ve seen to giving Elders more content was with the release of Nifty Knitting in July, but it was nowhere as comprehensive as The Sims 3: Generations. We can excuse this to a certain extent because Nifty Knitting was only a stuff pack while Generations was a full-blown expansion. The point, however, remains—Elders don’t have a lot to do in The Sims 4.
What upsets a lot of players more than anything else, though, is the way The Sims: Freeplay, the franchise’s mobile game counterpart, gets regularly updated with many things players wish to see in The Sims 4. Spiral staircases, which haven’t been in-game since The Sims 3: Generations, are readily available in Freeplay. Another feature not seen since Generations is bunk beds, which had the ability to either sleep two sims (top bunk and bottom bunk) or loft one bed and have a functional desk underneath. Players have repeatedly asked for this feature to make a return in The Sims 4, but in six years it still hasn’t happened. And yet they’re available in Freeplay.
Star Wars Wasn’t The Best Move For Players or The Sims
The entire concept of Journey to Batuu suspends reality in a way that makes little sense for a life-simulation game. While The Sims franchise has always incorporated the occult into its games, Journey to Batuu functions completely differently. Instead of living alongside aliens and droids in a neighborhood, sims vacation to Batuu (the location that inspired Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park) and then return to their daily lives. If The Sims is supposed to simulate life (including some occult members like vampires or mermaids), why choose a game pack that isn’t reflective of real-life at all?
Even looking past the way The Sims team hasn’t really listened to their fans, I remained optimistic for the game pack. I’m a big Star Wars fan, so I was looking forward to its incorporation of beloved characters like Kylo Ren and Rey into the Sims universe. However, that got ruined for me too! Because, unlike any other townies found in the game, sims cannot WooHoo and have babies with these characters. Many fans were looking forward to this as a bright spot within the pack, and yet that didn’t pan out either.
Furthermore, Journey to Batuu seems lackluster as a pack overall from the footage EA Game Changers have shared via early access. I was so excited to see a fleshed-out Star Wars world, and instead there are only three lots in the entire world. For perspective, the only other two game packs that provide vacation worlds (Outdoor Retreat and Jungle Adventure) had six and seven lots, respectively. It’s a massive letdown to have a game pack lack so much in terms of not only game play, but doing justice to Star Wars itself. Journey to Batuu didn’t have much hype or support in the first place, and yet it’s still a letdown.
I still love The Sims franchise. It’s precisely because of this love that I want to see it succeed and grow for the better. A Star Wars themed pack doesn’t align with what many fans have been asking of The Sims 4, and turning against loyal fans (and customers) can only hurt the game in the long run.