The Sims 4‘s newest expansion will finally let Sims take off their shoes indoors. It’s a fantastic foot forward for Asians everywhere.
The Sims 4: Snowy Escape is a slightly misleading name for the high tech dollhouse’s 10th , set in the fictional location of Mt. Komorebi. Yes, there’s skiing, snowboarding, mountain vacations, and soothing hot springs. However, a large portion of the pack is dedicated to the arguably more interesting Japanese-themed additions, such as traditional architecture, kotatsu, kimonos, hot pot, bowing in greeting — and taking off your shoes indoors.
This isn’t only an exciting inclusion for Japanese Sims players, but for numerous other Asian people as well. Removing your shoes upon entering a home is common practice , and seeing it added to The Sims is a lovely detail for anyone who grew up barefoot with a pile of shoes by the door. It’s just a shame it will cost Asian Simmers $39.99 to add this integral part of their everyday life to the life simulator, though it’s admittedly thrilling that it’s being added at all.
Snowy Escape’s shoe removal is triggered by the new “Taming of the Shoe” wall decoration, a seemingly innocuous wooden sign costing 110 simoleans. “Set your household footwear rules with bold signage,” reads the item description. “No longer can your guests claim not to know the etiquette when entering your humble home.”
Place the sign on your lot, and Sims will typically remove their footwear upon entering your home. A Sim may be a bit mischievous and leave their shoes on anyway, but they’ll feel thoroughly embarrassed after they’re told off for it by a more responsible housemate.
Sims can also interact with the sign to change the house rules, allowing you to switch between removing shoes indoors, wearing slippers indoors, or allowing shoes indoors as though your Sims don’t know better. These options further appear when interacting with shoe racks, which were merely decorative in the base game.
Of course, in an ideal world, neither humans nor Sims would need a sign to remove their footwear when visiting friends. It would be a widely understood rule, like asking “does anyone want this?” before snagging the last chicken nugget. Alas, many have still not come around to this hygienic practice, and so we must erect signage while we wait for them to catch up.
Though a breakthrough for Asians and foot fetishists alike, the Snowy Escape expansion pack has also been hit with some controversy. South Korean players quickly noted that the pack’s initial trailer featured footage of a Sim bowing to a shrine, as well as ostensible Rising Sun imagery on new outfits. Apparently innocuous elements in Japan, these inclusions carry far more serious connotations for other parts of Asia.
While the distinctive Rising Sun flag is a common motif in Japan, its use by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II has made it an inflammatory and offensive image in other East Asian countries. For states such as China and South Korea, the Rising Sun has been a symbol of Japanese imperialism, colonisation, war crimes, and atrocities — one so objectionable that it has been likened to the swastika.
“The Rising Sun flag is akin to a symbol of the devil to Asians and Koreans, just like how the swastika is a symbol of Nazis which reminds Europeans of invasion and horror,” South Korean MP An Min-suk reportedly said last year.
Shrine worship has a similarly violent past outside Japan, as the Japanese army forced people in occupied territories to attend Shinto shrines during the war. Nearly 1000 shrines were built in South Korea during this time, and hundreds more were constructed in other nearby countries. As such, shrines and shrine worship have become reminders of oppression and trauma in South Korea.
EA was quick to remove the offending imagery from both the trailer and the Snowy Escape pack itself “to respect our Korean players.”
“[W]e will not have Sims bow in front of shrines in the world of Mt. Komorebi,” tweeted Sims producer Graham Nardone on Friday. “Further, we’ve adjusted some patterns on clothing and objects within Snowy Escape that unintentionally evoked imagery with painful historic meaning.”
Hi, Simmers! We modified the reveal trailer for The Sims 4 Snowy Escape and have made changes to the pack to respect our Korean players. I want you to know that those changes will be in-game when Snowy Escape launches.
— Graham Nardone (@SimGuruGraham) October 23, 2020
Some Sims players have argued that the pattern featured on the game’s new clothing looked more like a fan, and that the Rising Sun design has been used in other instances without incident. They also contend that shrine worship is part of the Shinto religion, and cutting it out would be removing a significant part of Japanese culture.
However, the Sims team appears to be erring on the side of sensitivity in cases of alleged ambiguity.
“We aim to be inclusive,” Nardone continued. “We involve others both within and outside of our team, and we listen to them as representatives of the cultures that we draw inspiration from. We’re unwavering in our commitment to representing more of our player’s lives in an authentic and respectful way.”
When reached for comment, EA directed Mashable to Nardone’s earlier statements. The publisher declined to comment on what steps were taken ensure an accurate and sensitive portrayal of Japanese culture, nor whether any Japanese developers were involved in the creation of the expansion.
Even so, regardless of the controversy, the Snowy Escape pack would still be an exciting addition if all it did was let you remove your Sims’ shoes indoors. This at least is a significant victory for all Asians, no matter where they come from.
The Sims 4: Snowy Escape expansion pack arrives Nov. 13 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC for $39.99.
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