The Sims 4 is giving the Goth family a makeover. The game’s most prominent family — Mortimer, Bella, Cassandra, and Alexander — has been a staple in the life-simulation game series since The Sims, with a few different variations and storylines over the years. The family has more or less stayed the same over the years, though with each new game each family member has gotten an update, whether that’s better graphical fidelity or a new outfit.
The new iteration on the family builds on their legacy and lore, while keeping some traditions intact: Bella’s still got her red dress, and Cassandra’s still wearing pigtails. You’ll certainly recognize the family as the Goths. Just a new era for them.
And the Goths have certainly been through a lot over the franchise. If you’re not in deep with The Sims lore — yes, there’s lore — then you might not realize that each Sims game has “threads connecting the lore,” senior creative director Anna Huerta said. The timelines between the games are all mixed up; for instance, The Sims 3 is set in a time period before The Sims 2, with a young Mortimer Goth and his parents, and Bella’s abducted by aliens in The Sims 2 — so she’s not living with the family. The Sims 3 leads into The Sims’ timeline, in which Mortimer, Bella, and Cassandra are starting their new life.
The Goth family in The Sims 4 is basically an alternate timeline for the family, a world in which Bella was not abducted by aliens. The family legacy now feels like an extension of the family in The Sims, after Cassandra has grown up and her younger brother, Alexander, has been born.
The Goth family timeline is chaotic and intentionally vague; the family seems to operate outside of the laws of time and space. The fun of the Goth family is in speculating what they’re all about, and watching their family dynamics unfold alongside your own player-created Sims.
The developers have always been aware that players have grown attached to the Goth family and other families in the series. “Players have bonded with premade families over the years,” The Sims 4 associate producer John Faciane told Polygon. “They’ve created intricate and compelling narratives based on the initial designs, stylings, and personality quirks we’ve curated.”
“The Sims community is incredibly creative, and the game best serves them when players can expand on the story and allow it to manifest through their guidance,” said Huerta. “That is balanced with the excitement of something totally wild an NPC might do and also speculating on what may or may not be canon. It is almost like a choose-your-own-sitcom-adventure.”
She continued: “With a game like The Sims, the choice and agency expected from the game means we merely provide a vessel or starter for stories and fill in some blanks, but we keep most of the story open for the player to expand. Instead of disappointment, we get to see how our players have decided to tell their own stories through their streams and forum posts.”
Faciane said the Sims 4 team wanted to focus on the family’s initial legacy, but not only the legacy that the studio had created. The team also wanted to work in the legacy created by the community over decades. “Many questions came out of the research,” Faciane said, “because the history and legacy of the Goths is not simply how they appeared in our previous titles, but also how fans have received and interpreted them. The team had to do some work to understand what these characters meant to players and why this update was important.”
For one, players over the years have noticed and criticized Electronic Arts for seemingly lightening the Goth family’s skin — particularly Bella’s. The developer’s never been explicit about the family’s ethnicities, and players have made their own stories and histories; seemingly whitewashing the Goth family didn’t sit well with fans.
“One of the meaningful sentiments was that the Goths, and Bella specifically, were interpreted as darker-skinned,” Faciane said. “There was some variance in fan opinion about which real-world ethnicities, if any, they were meant to represent. Additionally, ‘darker’ is a very relative term, and with the variety of skin pigmentation, we needed to figure out what that actually meant to players.
“Representation is also more than skin color,” he continued. “We tried to identify facial features that were not as diverse or apparent within our existing facial mods, but still fit the mold of player perception for these characters.”
The new Goth family will appear in The Sims 4 via new game saves on Wednesday.