Play with Life is a fitting campaign for a game like The Sims 4; one wherein you live life vicariously through virtual people.
It’s funny how much hours a person can put into a game that’s all about doing the little mundane intricacies of real life. Laundry? Check. Paying bills? Check. A nine-to-five job where you come home too exhausted to even function? Hell yeah, check!
The Sims has been around for over two decades. In fact, it just celebrated its 21st anniversary on the 4th of February 2021. It has made marks in digital and video game history with its all-consuming life simulation gameplay and drama. One of its main hooks is its diverse representation of cultures and even sexuality; from DLC packs inspired by a variety of countries and ethnicities, to same-sex relationships available even from the very first game released in 2000. So, “playing with life” is literally the core aspect of not just The Sims 4, but of the entire franchise.
Because of its sandbox structure, a lot of different play styles have emerged over The Sims’ entire lifespan. A few that come to mind are the stylist, builder, and storyteller. But the backbone of The Sims, especially for The Sims 4, is its abundance of custom content creators. Custom content (CC) are fan-made items that players share and use to enhance their gameplay experience. For a stylist, custom content gives them an even bigger catalogue of hairstyles, clothes and make-up to choose from. One such creator is half Filipino UI designer, Keanu. Also known as Luumia.
In Sims 4 talk, Keanu describes himself as a Computer Whiz with traits like Ambitious and Lazy. His hobbies are that of making music, art, tinkering with electronics, and building computers. “I do a lot of everything,” he explains over our fifteen-minute Zoom call.
If you’re an avid player of The Sims 4 and have dabbled with game modifications (mods) and CC, you may have come across Luumia’s work at one point in time.
Keanu is best known for adding body hair into the game, integrating height sliders, and custom stuff packs such as Teen Style Stuff and Summer Stroll.
So, if you have opened your game recently, you might see that one of Luumia’s creations has officially made it into the actual game as part of the ‘Unwrap 21 Presents for 21 Years of The Sims’ free base game update.
Keanu was first introduced to The Sims by his cousin in about 2010. He switched between The Sims 3, which was his first game, and The Sims 2. “What really drew me to the game was that you could create virtual people and live out their lives—like story-tell with them. And that aspect really meshed well with the kind of things I want to do in a game,” he says. “To have freedom and versatility to do different things, that’s something that I really liked about The Sims. And at the time, as a young gay teenager who didn’t really know a lot about myself and my sexuality, it really helped me discover who I was.”
KEANU CREATES AN EXCLUSIVE SIMS PHOTOSHOOT
Keanu makes custom content to improve areas in which he believes The Sims 4 is lacking. “A good example of this would be the body hair that I made. Of course, The Sims 4 does not have body hair, and it hasn’t had body hair since launch. I think it adds a level of realism that I want with my sims. Another good example would be height sliders. Of course, height sliders are another thing that has never been in a Sims game for technical reasons, which I understand. But I think people come in all different sizes, and I think having that option in-game is important.”
Keanu also makes custom hair and clothes for The Sims 4. He describes his own personal style as very minimal and understated, which bleeds into the kind of content he creates. “I like to have simple and versatile sort of styles that my sims can wear. Because sometimes, some of the styles in The Sims can be quite extravagant. I think having a collection of really basic hair and clothes is important to me.”
He may be a family-oriented player, but Keanu does have a flair for dressing his sims up. Happily coordinating a photoshoot, he exhibits exactly how transformative CC, like his, can be. Classic characters such as Bella Goth, Ollie Purdue, Don Lothario, and Penny Pizzaz are almost unrecognizable. He even incorporates the game’s recent skin tone overhaul which launched December 2020. “I was playing Cyber Punk 2077 the other day, and I was creating a character. I was surprised that there were only like nine different skin tones to pick from—The Sims 4 has over a hundred. It is a very inclusive game I feel like, and people don’t really give it enough credit.”
Culture and representation are very important when you want to play yourself in a game. So, it’s not just about having a variety of skin tone options.
Yes, that’s a significant aspect of it. But it’s also about having clothes, food, build items, and even relationship preferences that you can resonate with as well. “I think one thing that stands out to me, in particular, is with the City Living expansion pack, they included a Filipino food stall with adobo, and lumpia, and all sorts of Filipino food. I thought that was amazing! They’ve never really done that before in a Sims game.”
Keanu acknowledges that while it might be impossible for The Sims 4 to fully encompass all existing cultures, there has been an effort to try and do so. Still, he maintains that there is room to further expand inclusivity for the game. “I think an area in which they can improve is working more with people within the community. For example, in Snowy Escape, they actually worked with a couple of EA Game Changers to build the lots in the game. That turned out amazing. Having people with different perspectives from different cultures to contribute to the game is always a welcome thing.”