November 29th, 2007

Is it a girl? Is it a boy? It’s an adorable Sim!

MySims is the newest addition to the Sims series. If there’s one thing it’s not lacking in, it’s cuteness. Designed by fellow redhead and all around cool gaming person Robin Hunicke, My Sims has a bright, stylized aesthetic and cuddly, SD character designs that tug on your heartstrings like someone playing Hot Cross Buns on a set of church bells–which, btws, I have totally done.

For better or worse, it’s easily-accessible, Wii title approach means it lacks some of the serious sim-iness of previous Sims games. You no longer need to sleep or use the bathroom to stay alive–thank God–but you also don’t get much chance to manage your community. In fact, the game seems to have more in common with Animal Crossing than The Sims.

The premise is simple: you’re an expert builder, and you’ve come to spruce up a dying town (Muffintown, to be specific, if you live in my Wii). In the overall, a mediocre experience. The interior decorating aspect is fun, but the controls for building itself can be cruel and finicky. Then there are the load times. Lions and tigers and bears, the load times.

More interesting for a sex and gender dork like me is 1) the seeming lack of sadism in the game. We’ve talked before about how usually half the fun of having adorable things in video games is the ability to smash, maim, or otherwise injure them–and previous Sims certainly had plenty of that. House with no doors + fire = fun!

There’s also 2) the interesting gender ambiguity of the MySims character design. Customizing your avatar is easy: pick a hair style, a mouth, eyes, and clothing. The one thing the game never asks you to pick is a gender. The characters’ body shapes are exactly the same for both boys and girls. The only way to tell the difference is with eyelashes, long hair, dresses, and other social markers.

On the one hand, you could argue the gender ambiguity just adds to the cuteness of the characters. With small, undeveloped bodies, they look like children, or dolls. At the same time, the customization system lets you do some pretty cool gender blending. Girls can wear butch male clothes. Boys can wear dresses. Or you can design a character that remains adorably ambiguous. Mascara and a pair of trousers: it doesn’t get much cuter than that.

Tags: avatars, cuteness, gender, gender bending, new games

4 Responses to “The Gender Ambiguity of Cuteness”

  1. Cat Says:

    Haha, the customizing was the best part of the game! I will have to share and put up my fag-dyke character. I looove her clothes! Anyway, I don’t care much about the building process, so the game lacks a lot of depth and content for me.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Ooh, I totally want to see! Personally, I was really hoping to make a seemingly male character and put him in the Japanese school girl outfit. Then, of course, I chickened out and made me. Alas, I am not a boy in the clothes of a Japanese school girl…

  3. Anon Says:

    Cuteness is the grey area. Give everyone the same body shape, same face shape…Moreover, it’s the lack of nose! Then anyone can be a little cutey. Hey, I’ll make that Japanese boy in girl clothes if you’re not going to… ;)

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    That’s so true: the less nose you have, the cuter you are. It does make me laugh when a game or an animated shoe takes that to the extreme and just eliminates noses altogether. Sense of smell? Bah humbug!

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