“The Sims 3″ makes full-on gay marriage a virtual reality

I remember that when The Sims debuted, the idea of a video game being inclusive of gays and lesbians was still pretty surprising, even in a game that promised to capture the little details of life. I recall how a friend and I scrutinized the magazine ad, noting the two guys in the corner of the picture (they wore pink speedos and hugged affectionately) and wondering if the actual game could turn out to be as gay as it looked.

When the virtual dollhouse made its debut, it was a breath of fresh air that The Sims‘ idea of love included same-sex romances. It was a welcoming touch of the real world. However, the realism of The Sims also reflected the inequality same-sex couples faced in reality: while opposite-sex couples could get married, gay couples could only move in together. In game terms, this meant that same-sex couples couldn’t have the wedding parties that opposite-sex couples could have.

When The Sims 2 came out in 2004, things were better for gay Sims couples, as they were allowed to be "joined" and they essentially had access to the functions of marriage, aside from the name. While it would have been nice to be able to escape to a virtual world where gay couples had full equality, it was a step forward and better than the reality of most gay couples.

Married male couples are now called "husbands" by The Sims 3

So when I bought my copy of the latest Sims game yesterday, I wanted to find out if gay couples had taken another step forward and now had the ability to get married like any other couple … and after a week of game time, I was able to get a male couple to plan a wedding party and tie the knot.

It may seem like a small step for a game series that has always been LGB-inclusive, but games that treat gay people equally are still pretty rare. Homophobia is still sadly common among video game communities and, worse, some companies’ attempts to deal with anti-gay harassment have ended up being even more repressive to queer players.

On the other hand, Sims fandom has long been incredibly welcoming to gay players (including, notably, the modding community). That welcoming atmosphere started with the example (Sims‘ publisher) Electronic Arts set in the first Sims game, and it’s great to see that it has evolved with the series.

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