The Sims launches 100 new skin tones thanks to the advocacy of Black players
Danielle Udogaranya, known online as Ebonix, has been lobbying EA to diversify its character options for years
Danielle Udogaranya was moved to tears the first time she played the latest update of her favourite video game, The Sims.
The London, U.K., video game streamer, known online as Ebonix, is part of a community that's been lobbying the game's developers for years to diversify its available skin tones and hairstyles to be more reflective of the people who play.
This week, they did just that, launching 100 new skin tones in The Sims 4, as well as improved options for Black hairstyles.
"I witnessed the update myself for the first time on stream with my community, and I did get so overwhelmed that I cried," Udogaranya told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"It was just such a feeling, because I was taken back to kind of an early adolescence, going to make a Sim, but couldn't make a Sim that looked like me because I didn't have the available resources."
The Sims is one of the most successful video game franchises of all times, selling nearly 200 million copies worldwide since it launched 20 years ago.
It's what's known as a life simulation game. That means players create digital characters, known as Sims, and build homes and lives for them — almost like a virtual dollhouse.
On tope of 100 new skin tones, the game has also introduced new makeup options, three baseline Black hairstyles, and a slider so people can adjust the brightness of their chosen skin tone to get it just right.
"I think that they've done a really good job on this," Udogaranya said. "The response from the community has been, you know, amazing. And they really feel like they are able to make Sims of their own skin tone and their colour that look like them."
It means so much to have been a part of making this happen for the entire simming community & for generations to come!<br><br>ACCURATE representation is & should always be at the forefront of any game, especially where there is a Create-A-Character engine!<br><br>Thank you <a href="https://twitter.com/TheSims?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheSims</a>! 💛💚💛 <a href="https://t.co/1JHWfqiujm">https://t.co/1JHWfqiujm</a>—@EbonixSims
For Udogaranya, it's been a long time coming. She's been playing The Sims since it first came out when she was nine years old.
"I was very much into books and storytelling, and The Sims actually gave me another way to express my creativity when it came to especially storytelling," she said.
But the skin tone options were limited, especially for Black characters, and she could never quite create a Sim that actually looked like her.
Now, she's also a popular modder — people who modify video games unofficially. She, along with her friend and collaborator Xmiramira, create Black hairstyles, fashion, poses and skin tones for Sims players to download and use.
And recently, she's been working directly with The Sims publisher Electronic Arts through its Game Changers community partnership program to help diversify the game.
"Because it was the voice of the community who wanted this change and wanted to be able to be seen in the game, I felt even more motivated to keep talking about it and to ensure that this is not an issue going forward for future generations of gamers," she said.
"I definitely wish it would have been done sooner, but I do appreciate that not only did they bring about so much change, but they also included members of the community who have been rallying for this change as well to ensure that it was done right," Udogaranya said.
She says she thinks often about the young gamers who are just starting their Sims journeys and will be able to see themselves reflected in the digital space.
"It's the younger generation who are going to be making our games, who are going to be our game devs, who are going to be our story artists, who want to be able to feel represented in games," she said.
"And if they can see themselves in the game from a young age, then it will only encourage them to continue wanting to see that in the games that they do play."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Matt Meuse.