Back in July this year The Sims 4 underwent a rebrand. The new look was more vibrant, funkier, and a lot more youth-oriented. Opinions on the change were very divided, with many players hating the new look, especially those who are franchise veterans.
This new look was also accompanied by a marketing campaign, titled Play With Life. While the rebrand had upset some of the game's older fans it was nothing compared to the upset which followed the campaign.
After a very moving video was released, showing real fans telling their stories, many felt unrepresented when it became obvious that all the fans in the video were clearly very young.
I'll admit that I was one of these disgruntled fans. While I tried to be neutral I won't say it didn't hurt to see a rebrand so focused on those under 25. The removal of older sims from the game's cover, alongside the video, meant I did feel sidelined.
Recently I was given the opportunity to speak to senior producer Michael Duke, AKA SimGuruDuke so I decided to ask him what the aim of the campaign was and if the team were aware of how the exclusion of the older demographic came across.
Speaking about the campaign's aims he said "Our goal was to highlight and celebrate what our game has meant to so many players over the years. We aimed to highlight not only what the game has been but what it can be to new players as well."
It seems that on that front the campaign was a success as he states "Our new campaign and image refresh this past summer really got people talking. It gave us a chance to talk about our stance as a brand and what we value. Every time someone asks us about this campaign, it is more chance for people to hear the message about what The Sims is and what we stand for."
As a franchise, The Sims has always felt like a diverse title and one which has had a huge impact on people's lives, my own included. When I suggested the campaign made me feel excluded I felt like he was genuinely upset about my response. At that moment I could see that this was the very last thing the team wanted.
Duke's response confirmed this when he said "In no way was our campaign meant to represent everyone who plays our game. We are not saying you need to be young to play this game. We know that is not the case."
He went on to discuss the specifics of the campaign and its aims, giving insight into why it was done this way saying "The goal of this was to attract new players into the brand and the game. We wanted to do that by helping them understand why other people play. Not all, but most new players are younger. To grow our brand means reaching new players."
The campaign itself highlights the impact The Sims has had on others, including many players who found comfort in the positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community.A point about this that Duke made that I hadn't thought about was the importance of younger players hearing some of these stories about how their peers have used the game to help them figure out some important issues or get through some rough times.
On the message's importance Duke says "I also think when you take the kind of message that spot was highlighting, it is so valuable for teenagers to hear and see. I think they, more than anyone else, need to know there is a safe place to explore who they are and experiment. That there is no wrong way to play or live, and if our game can help even one more person work through such a difficult time in their life, I’m glad we made the campaign."
I'll admit at this point I was taken back to when I first played the original Sims as a teenager (yes, I'm that old) and the effect hearing these stories would have had on me. Getting these answers has really given me a new perspective and I hope it also helps anyone else who felt hurt by the perceived snub. It reminded me that we shouldn't judge without knowing the intent and it's clear here that the intent was good.
After all as SimGuruDuke himself said "The Sims is a universe without judgment or rules. It is a place where you can play any way you want, and every way is the right way."
Thank you SimGuruDuke for taking the time to answer my awkward questions and reassure me that The Sims is still the inclusive and diverse franchise I always thought it was.