The Sims franchise has been a pioneer for inclusion and diversity in the gaming industry for more than 20 years. In this Spotlight, we learn from Lyndsay Pearson, the VP of franchise creative for The Sims™ at Electronic Arts (EA) Inc, about how she has grown her team and organization to continue to break down barriers of diversity and inclusion, how she’s handled the struggles and learnings along the way and what EA is focused on as The Sims franchise continues to evolve.
Listen to the full story on the AWS Conversations with Leaders podcast
AWS does a lot of the heavy lifting in the background so we can focus on how we bring the experiences to our players and how we help foster conversations with them.”
Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Culture Takes Imagination and Action
It must be a cultural commitment to bring diversity and inclusion into every conversation. We’ve had an advantage because this has been so critical for The Sims for so long. From the get-go, part of our studio cultural values and product pillars center around inclusion and diversity as we imagined what new experience we could bring to the forefront. So, anybody joining our team knows this is an important element of our experiences right away, no surprises.
After imagining what this new world would look like, we created it! We modified The Sims characters to include more gender-fluid options. You can now change your character's gender with a lot more flexibility than ever before. It was an amazingly powerful dream we brought to reality. Talking about diversity and inclusion is not enough. You have to take action and embed it into the culture you are trying to create. It's about making better experiences for everyone, creating a better place to play, a better place to be, and just a better mirror of the world in as many ways as we can. It's powerful and just cool that we can be a part of changing reality by embedding diversity and inclusion into a game. The Sims is bigger than a game. And we take that seriously.
If you’re not focused on inclusion and diversity in your products, you're really just limiting yourself from who might want to engage with your product or your experience.”
The Benefits a Diverse Team Can Bring to Your Business
Having the breadth of experience and backgrounds directly in your teams is just a shortcut to making sure that you're getting more rounded feedback, lived experiences, and worldviews. Creativity can take flight as you highlight these differences. For instance, someone may say, “Oh, that’s not what I did as a kid growing up. Here’s how I did it,” or, “here’s what college means for me.” You can absolutely supplement with external resources through your friends in other places or hire consultants or experts. The more you can bring it straight into your team and groups, the better off you are to at least start the conversation.
The point is, you must purposefully look for people who will challenge the way you think and the way you might approach a design, a feature, or even technology. Look for those voices that will counteract because the best magic comes when you're getting these counterpoints of views and these differences of opinion.
Look for those voices that will counteract because the best magic comes when you're getting these counterpoint of views and these differences of opinion.”
The Day-to-Day Culture of Diversity and Inclusion
Start small. Develop open streams of communication where people feel safe and comfortable. It may be that a designer doesn’t want to talk to the team leader yet, but maybe they’re willing to talk to the art director because they’re good friends, or they’ll talk to their creative director. Find those channels, then find someone to help you share that message or talk to through context that maybe you don’t have. And that’s repetition for sure. Continue to reinforce to the team, “Hey, we’re going this way, and we care about these things, but if you disagree or you see something that jumps out at you, please talk to us.”
Speak Up for Diversity and Inclusion
Here's how this plays out in real life.
Our team developed a big bonfire feature, where Sims could throw whatever they were carrying in their fake pocket into the bonfire. A very Simsy thing to do. We tested this feature with our localization team. One of the testers from Europe said, "Hey, you may not want to let them throw books in the fire. That's pretty sensitive in some areas." Our response was, "That's a super valid point! Thank you," and we adjusted the interactions. Open dialogue is what we expect from our partners and designers. If our partner in Europe hadn't spoken up, this feature could have been unintentionally hurtful to our Sims family.
It's in our team's DNA to listen to feedback and act according to our diversity, equity, and inclusion culture. It was a good point, one we hadn't thought of, so we changed it. And the more you do that, even on a small scale, the easier it is to have the bigger, scarier conversations.
It's about making better experiences for everyone, creating a better place to play, a better place to be, and just a better mirror of the world in as many ways as we can. It's powerful and just cool that we can be a part of changing reality by embedding diversity and inclusion into a game. The Sims is bigger than a game. And we take that seriously.”
About our guests
Vice President of Franchise Creative for The Sims at Electronic Arts
Lyndsay Pearson is the Vice President of Franchise Creative for The Sims at Electronic Arts. She leads and inspires teams working on a variety of projects across the franchise to deliver powerful creativity and self-expression to players worldwide. Since joining EA in 2003, Lyndsay has worked on all generations of The Sims titles, and today she is driving the direction and execution of the player experience, team culture, and charting the future of The Sims franchise.