The first conscious memory I have of a video game, I felt safe exploring gender presentation and non-conformity was the Sims 3. It took mods to do such, and it wasn’t a native part of the Sims 3 experience; however, it was a fantastic time for me. I didn’t realize it, and I certainly didn’t know that the way I played the game was an expression of my inner battle with gender expression. But looking back in hindsight, it was the Sims 3 I started to question gender expression and the gender norms. And I began to question “but why is this considered female only?” or “why can only males wear this?” — though that latter question got asked very rarely. So many items of clothing that get placed in the male section of clothing stores are a lot more acceptable for a female to wear.
It was Sims 4, though, and the patch they released, that was the point I felt really at home with playing with gender presentation. I no longer needed to rely on modders making an alternate form of their clothing available for male frames; the sims team made it a default thing. Okay, not every item of clothing worked, but it was a step in the right direction — a massive step, and a step that again made me feel like I was at home.
The sheer power of being able to decide if a character could get others pregnant, get pregnant, or not get pregnant at all. Whether they stood to use the toilet or not when peeing, even down to the frame choice — and it’s set as “Masculine” or “feminine” no matter what gender your sim is, it’s amazingly freeing! So while they may have kept the male/female gender (though I guess I should call it ‘biological sex’) selection, they’ve also made it so that you can choose your sims presentation down to the frame they have.
Now onto the last part of this article — I can’t keep talking about video games, which have made me feel safe to explore gender presentation and not include the newest game on the list. Animal Crossing: New Horizon. My character can rock up wearing a dress, a kimono, pretty much anything they want to wear, and it gets accepted. Honestly, again it’s a sense of freedom, a feeling of being able to explore my ideas of presentation safely. That doesn’t get the judgment of others.
It also makes me sad. Sad that I have to rely on video games to explore gender identity. Sad that games still lock some objects of clothing behind gender walls. I’m glad that games are starting to look at ways to implement a broader view of gender presentation; I wish there were more that did so!