NEWS & COMMENTARY VIDEO
EA has published a brand new blog post giving us a deeper dive into the brand new socially awkward trait that was released with the latest expansion pack for The Sims 4 (High School Years).
Remember those awkward high school days of not knowing what to say or do? That awkwardness sometimes transfers to adulthood too. Here at EA, that is totally okay. In this new High School Sims Expansion pack, EA has decided to take a different approach to accessibility. Featured in this new expansion pack is a new attribute—Socially Awkward. We’ve sat down with EA intern, Anna Machata who recently returned to EA as a Game Designer for Maxis to give you the latest news on this new attribute.
Tell me about yourself and your experience as an EA intern.
Anna: I am a Bachelor student in Computer Science. I chose this major because I wanted to go into a field that allowed me to make a difference. Computer Science does allow for much creativity but working with the Sims Game Design helped me to facilitate an inclusive experience—which I am passionate about.
What exactly can players expect from this social anxiety attribute?
Anna: Players can expect new game challenges and deeper relationships with the Sims they interact with. Sims with this trait will feel anxious in most social situations and will be able to act accordingly. When they choose to interact with other Sims or engage in a social environment, they will gain big rewards.
What in-game benefits will players have from choosing a Social Awkward Sim?
Anna: In the past year, the Sims team has introduced Sentiments to the Sims world. Sentiments are the emotions that your Sims feel towards another Sim. These sentiments are tracked in the game and factor in determining your relationships. When using a Social Awkward Sim, all social interactions are more likely to fail. As a result, a Sim gains more positive sentiments and receives more positive buffs when they choose to respond to a unique social event. Additionally, the Sim becomes more confident, and the Sim gains a more unique, deep and permanent relationship than other Sims that do not have this trait.
Tell me more about what inspired you to create this feature?
Anna: It has always been a passion of mine to break stigmas surrounding mental health and bring more awareness to neurodiversity. I’ve played Sims since I was a kid because it gave me a space to explore my identity. It was a safe space. Now that I am older, I need to see myself and others reflected in other ways. As a person who is neurodiverse, I believe that just like in reality, a Sim should live authentically. Creating a Sim like this just seemed like another step toward making a more inclusive and realistic environment for all players.
What is your favorite part about the process?
Anna: The creative process was my favorite process. I was passionate about focusing on the positive aspects of social anxiety and really made sure that the positive attributes and rewards I was implanting reflected that. One of my favorite aspects is the Two Peas in a Pod attribute. When two Socially Awkward sims become friends, they become friends for life. I am really looking forward to players discovering trait quirks like this.
What was the process like from beginning to end? What considerations did you make? What type of research did you do?
Anna: Well, there are two other traits in this pack as well: Party Animal and Overachiever. Both of which are school related. There wasn’t really a social trait. As you know this is a high school expansion pack so I thought why not explore this and really push neurodiversity. We have all been socially awkward at one point and time and given our current pandemic climate social anxiety and anxiety in general is on the rise among teens. A report I read said that around 22% of 16–17-year-old teens said they experience some form of social anxiety. I wanted that experience to be represented in our Sims as well. I used a lot of my own experience, external experience, as well as working with internal mental health groups within the company to conduct research. Creating this Sim was difficult because realistically anxiety is triggered by multiple instances that couldn’t be replicated in the game. A challenge I had was choosing how to display this anxiety as an emotion. I didn’t want this idea to be scary for players to encounter but to feel approachable. I tried to add situations that would make people anxious like the cafeteria, hanging out with friends, or unique social situations at work or school where Sims would have to make defining choices.
What do you hope players will get out of this feature?
Anna: I really hope players will be able to create and identify more with themselves through their Sims. I think this trait will allow players to play out their traits and anxieties in the safety of this game. I think this will bode well with the positive reinforcement that happens when a Sim interacts. It will also allow other non-disabled players to sympathize and understand players with disabilities and hopefully create meaningful conversations and change.
At EA, we are always looking for innovative ways to bring more diversity into our games. If you would like more information about this feature or Sims 4, visit the official website.EA