Nobody at EA Maxis questioned it when lead engineer Jamie Doornbos introduced same-sex relationships into The Sims prior to its launch in 2000, said lead AI programmer David Graham during a panel at EA's GaymerX conference.
The Sims was one of the earliest mainstream titles to feature same-sex relationships, which according to Graham is the result of Doornbos "just [doing] it, he just went in there and it was a thing one day."
The lead engineer "had more permission because it was seen as a kind of casual type game, so it would've been harder to have that happen in a huge AAA game," said Graham. Publisher EA also didn't believe the game would prove popular, allowing more forward-thinking features to be "snuck in."
"They didn't think The Sims was going to do well at all," said Graham. "They thought it was a terrible idea. So that was also a part of it: They thought, 'Who's even going to play this game?' And all that stuff kind of allowed it to sneak in."
The premise of The Sims helped to lay the foundation for same-sex relationships, Graham adds. Its aim is to playfully simulate real life, and same sex relationships are an acknowledged aspect of that reality.
"I think it was just that homosexuality isn't new, it's something that exists in our world and we're trying to simulate people in our world. And so I think that what they wanted to do, and this is going to sound terrible, but what they wanted to do was protect the people who are basically bigoted against that kind of thing, because they want sales from everybody. So, to make it an optional thing that's essentially disabled unless you seek it out as the player, that I think gave EA the sort of permission to say that's fine. People wouldn't even find it unless they looked for it."
The Sims franchise continues the legacy of offering the option of same-sex couples, including Graham's previous release The Sims Medieval.