Amira Virgil was an avid streamer of The Sims — but she became frustrated when she couldn’t create characters that reflected her reality.
And so Virgil, who goes by the online moniker XMiraMira, took matters into her own hands, creating a downloadable ‘Melanin Pack’ — enabling users to create characters with 18 different skin tones and makeup looks to suit a diverse array of character preferences. In the latest episode of Creator News, Virgil shares that her custom packs have been downloaded more than 1 million times to date, which led her to create other mod packs in realms like hair, clothing, and more.
Virgil’s creations illuminate the overwhelming lack of representation that is endemic to the gaming space, especially given that a recent International Game Developers Association survey found that 81% of the people who make video games identify as white. That said, Virgil’s packs also demonstrate the savvy ways in which creators of color are seeking to solve the issue themselves. The success of her packs, for instance, led Virgil to launch The Black Simmer — a community forum that seeks to advocate for more diversity in The Sims.
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Her work turned out to be so vital that it ultimately garnered the attention of Sims publisher Electronic Arts, which tapped Virgil to become part of its EA Game Changers program, which fuses creators directly into the game development process. Michael Duke, senior producer of The Sims 4, says that Virgil led the company to re-think its approach to skin tones and hairstyles, which will be evidenced in a Dec. 8 drop of more than 100 new skin tones. Duke adds that Virgil is one member of a round-table council with whom The Sims team regularly meets in its ongoing bid to become more accessible.
Other games are getting it right in terms of character representation, per Virgil and another leading voice in the space — Tanya DePass, the founder of the advocacy group I Need Diverse Games. These include: The Outer Worlds, APEX Legends (which features voice actors from different countries), Monster Hunter, and Watch Dogs: Legion.
And though the industry may be heading in the right direction in some ways, it still has a long way to go, DePass says — especially with issues of social justice being thrust into the forefront of our collective consciousness this year.
“Gaming as a business and everything else is in its thirties; we shouldn’t still have to be fighting for this,” she says. “People don’t realize that our money is just as green.”
You can check out more in our latest episode of Creator News right here and in the embed above.
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