The latest game pack for The Sims 4, which is titled High School Years, takes a “different approach to accessibility.” This is according to EA’s latest internal interview that talks about how the game creates a “new frontier for neurodiversity” at the studio and introduces a new character attribute to The Sims 4 called Socially Awkward.
Socially Awkward is the new attribute that will lead to new challenges in-game and deeper relationships for the Sims that players interact with. Characters with this attribute applied will find themselves anxious in social situations but by interacting, they gain “big rewards.”
EA Intern Anna Machata explained in the internal interview what players can expect in terms of rewards, “When using a Social Awkward Sim, all social interactions are more likely to fail.” The result is that a Sim “gains more positive sentiments and receives more positive buffs when they choose to respond to a unique social event.” They also grow in confidence and their relationship becomes more “unique, deep, and permanent” than other Sims.
Anna explained that breaking stigmas surrounding mental health and bringing more awareness to neurodiversity has always been a passion. “As a person who is neurodiverse, I believe that just like in reality, a Sim should live authentically. Creating a Sim like this just seemed like another step toward making a more inclusive and realistic environment for all players.”
The Sims 4 Socially Awkward attribute isn’t the only new one to arrive in the High School Years game pack. Two Peas in a Pod is another that finds two Sims with the Socially Awkward attribute becoming friends for life.
“A challenge I had was choosing how to display this anxiety as an emotion. I didn’t want this idea to be scary for players to encounter but to feel approachable.” Anna explained when talking about the process of designing the Socially Awkward attribute. “I tried to add situations that would make people anxious like the cafeteria, hanging out with friends, or unique social situations at work or school where Sims would have to make defining choices.”
Anna hopes that players will be able to “create and identify more with themselves through their Sims.” She hopes it will allow players to play out their traits and anxieties in the safety of the game. In addition, there’s also the hope that it could encourage “non-disabled players to sympathize and understand players with disabilities and hopefully create meaningful conversations and change.”