YouTube star Mollie talks LGBTQI representation in the world’s most famous life simulation video game
WORDS: ROXY BOURDILLON, IMAGES: YOUTUBE @THEENGLISHSIMMER
Professional simmer Mollie knows pretty much everything there is to know about The Sims. In case you don’t, here’s the 411. The Sims is a computer game that lets you create your own unique characters, customise every aspect of the personality and appearance, move them into virtual homes, redecorate, get jobs, form relationships and play out each stage of their lives – the highs, the lows and the “woohoo”s. The series is staggeringly popular. Since the first version was released in 2000, it’s sold over 200 million copies and more than 10 million people play it every month. It’s also impressively inclusive. From the very beginning, sims have been able to have romantic relationships with others, regardless of gender. Over time it’s become more diverse still, featuring Pride-themed clothing, trans sims and same-sex adoption. On Mollie’s YouTube channel, The English Simmer, she entertains her 290k subscribers with insightful, queer commentary and content about all things Sims. We caught up with Mollie to find out why this unique game is life-changing for so many members of the LGBTQI community.
DIVA: When did you discover The Sims?
THE ENGLISH SIMMER: I started playing The Sims back when I was six years old. I just became addicted from that point.
What was it that got you so hooked?
It was the creativity and being able to tell stories. I was really into creative writing as a child.
Do you think playing The Sims helped you accept your sexuality?
Absolutely. I realised that in The Sims you don’t have to fall in love with a guy if you’re a girl. There is nothing stopping you romancing same-sex characters. In The Sims 3, you could send a teenager to prom and they could kiss someone of the same sex, which was really sweet because it wasn’t a big deal. So I think that helped me. I didn’t ever feel like my sexuality was a big deal. And then when I started playing around with those storylines it became super normalised. I was like, “Oh, I am enjoying having two women building a life together and it’s adorable”, and then I was like, “Hmm, maybe that’s a hint I’m not as straight as I thought I was”.
What was it like when you came out on your channel?
I initially came out in about 2016. I had been doing YouTube for just over two years. The Sims community has such an inclusive and diverse community. There are simmers of all ages. I’ve met 70 and 80 year olds who have played the game since it came out. Because it’s a game that spans so many life stages, there’s a ton of people from all different backgrounds.
Did your content change after you came out?
Up until that point, my channel had been very heteronormative – man, wife, two kids. That was the vibe in the community. And then once I had accepted who I was and started dating a girl I was like, “You know what? I want to start telling stories like myself”.
How inclusive do you think The Sims is compared to other computer games you’ve played?
Extremely. In a lot of games, you’re just given a protagonist from the get-go. Character creation is getting better though. The discourse is finally opening to have that representation.
What do you think The Sims still needs to do to make it even more inclusive?
We’ve been having the discussion recently about non-binary [identities]. A few years ago, they did a gender update so you could choose gender options in Create-A-Sim. You could have a masculine-framed sim who wore feminine clothes. You could also make masculine sims get pregnant or pee sitting down. That was a really big move. I do think the clothes need to fit a little bit better for masculine sims wearing feminine clothes though. Also, [there should be] non-binary options, because Create-A-Sim is still binary. You still have to choose between masculine or feminine. The pronouns, as well. You still have to ask someone to be your girlfriend or boyfriend.
On your YouTube channel you’ve created the most wonderful LGBTQI themed Let’s Play series, Belong There. It’s like the queer Sims soap opera of my dreams! What was the inspiration behind it?
I knew that once my channel became more open and I was out, I wanted to make it a more inclusive space for people who needed to find me. I wanted to show the representation of my friendship group. 99% of us are queer. When people do have queer people in their storylines, it tends to be the token queer person, whereas for Belong There I was like, “No, I’m gonna do this Friends-style, but everyone’s gonna be gay”. It wasn’t all about them being queer. It was about who they loved and their relationships, their talents and their careers. It took off so much more than I thought it was going to. I still get comments on it to this day.
Check out Mollie’s channel at youtube.com/c/TheEnglishSimmer
Read our feature about LGBTQI representation in The Sims in the January 2021 issue of DIVA, available via the links below
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