INTERVIEW: xMiraMira, The Sims 4 melanin queen and winner of The Sims Spark’d
xMiraMira is a staple in the Black content creator community. Winner of the first-ever The Sims esports competition, The Sims Spark’d, and creator of the infamous melanin pack for The Sims 4, she represents for Black women gamers around the world and the elusive yet ridiculously creative Sims community in the realest and most engaging way, bringing an edge to the gaming community with her fashionable stylings, storytelling, and raw, unforgettable personality.
With more than 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and 39,000 on Twitch, xMiraMira is making a name for herself in an industry that has not been known to be inclusive to women like herself. An avid gamer since age 4, the New Yorker and Twitch partner sat down with us to share insight into her world.
Our conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows.
Game Crate: At what point did you realize there was a need for more Black content and Black-created content in The Sims?
xMiraMira: I started casually making content in 2015. In 2016, I left Twitch for YouTube, started making videos. When I started making Let’s Plays, I realized that something was terribly wrong. I’m looking around like, “where are the Black people, where are the Black stories?” I see all these happy-go-lucky white families and I’m like, “where are the happy-go-lucky Black families? Where are the stories with Sims that are like, darker, and Black? Where is it at?” I’m looking around and even amongst some Black simmers, I still wasn’t seeing enough dark-skinned representation either so I was kinda just like, so I’m gonna have to be the one to do this because I don’t see it!
I had to ask myself some hard questions. I went in CAS (Create-A-Sim), and I was like, I don’t feel like I make enough darker Sims. Do I have some type of self-hatred issues that I don’t know about? No, I don’t. I like my skin tones. And I’m like well what’s wrong with these skin tones? And I was like well they’re kind of ashy and dull and grey and I just started going through the skin tones and every one of them looks fine until you get to the darker ones. The darker ones just have this ghastly grey undertone.
Then I just ended up making the skin tones, because I was like how am I going to be able to tell the stories I wanna tell if the stories I want to see and the content I want to make, isn’t even there for us to make? Because beyond , there was also hair, different noses, and body types, Sims having more accurate butts and bigger thighs and calves to go with those butts, bigger breasts, different, like, you know, more curvaceous , proper makeup to go along with these skin tones.
GC: Yeah, there was no real popping lip gloss back in the day.
xMM: Yeah! Makeup still needs so much improvement. Tattoos need improvement. The color palettes on the clothes that are not really flattering to darker skin tones. Like, I can go on all day about this. And it even spills over into the custom content community where, like, people will make CC (custom content) and they never are inclusive when it comes to hairstyles. Now, I’m seeing so many Black hairstyles. But four or five years ago, there was little to nothing. No inclusive hairstyles, no inclusive makeup, when you put the makeup on, it goes from glam cute looks on a little white Sims girl to crack on a Black Sim.
Custom content where, as soon as you make the Sims dark-skinned, you see all the imperfections, the white lines, white splashes all over the Sims skin, and you can tell the content creator only made this for a white Sim, tested it on a white Sim, and only plays with white Sims because if they made a darker skin, they’d be able to see all the imperfections across the mesh.
GC: The melanin pack and the shape of the clothing made by Black content creators, jeans, for example, that’s what really got more Black people into the Sims. I have a lot of friends who only play The Sims because of the custom content. Tell us more about your melanin pack.
xMM: One day, I was shopping for CC. And I’ve always been like a heavy CC head. My mods folder is 160 GB right now. Before I got the idea to make them, I was like, I’m going to download something that doesn’t look ashy because somebody just had to have made some decent darker skin tones, right?. Yo, I went through 50-plus pages of skin tone downloads -- nothing. All white skin tones, hundreds of creators making white skin tones, or the dark skin tones were just as grey and ashy as the ones in the game. I found some decent ones but they were like overlays and I wanted skin tones, not overlays. So, I was like yeah, I can’t do this.
GC: You’re viewed as both a Sims storyteller and a Stylist. Content creators brought the style because everyone knows the game doesn’t really come with drip. So how do you feel you were represented on The Sims Spark’d as a Sims Stylist with storytelling abilities?
xMM: I don’t feel like people got to see the true best of my abilities because of all the custom content I use. I feel I did pretty decent with what was given, as far as EA content, but I was literally just, the whole week like, this isn’t even my final form. If people could only see the actual Sims I make on a regular basis.
GC: On the show, you guys were not able to use your own custom content mods?
xMM: Nope. No custom content.
GC: You did a great job of making those Sims, to the best of your ability, they looked like the ones you’re used to creating. Especially on the Supernatural challenge. You did well. Spark’d was exciting. Was that your first run with esports or have you been in esports previously?
xMM: No, I’ve never… I never would have thought they’d find a way to make Sims competitive. It crossed my mind, you know, maybe they’ll find a way. I do it with my community. I ran a tournament, the Ugly to Beauty challenge, you have five minutes. I actually want to do another one with a cash prize. Everyone has five minutes to compete. CC and no CC. I’m still going to do it. But no, I still… even when they promote it, people are still under the tweets and the Instagram posts like “WTF is this?” All I see is “WTF?” and I’m just looking at it saying… (laughs). Because they’re like, “What? Sims?” So no, I never would have thought.
GC: I never would have thought either, but it worked. I was surprised they put you guys on teams. Sims is a solo game unless you’re streaming...
xMM: That’s the challenge!
GC: Right. What were your challenges working with a team? Because we were all flustered after the first episode, especially knowing team dynamics could put good players in jeopardy.
xMM: Yeah. That’s what a lot of people said. That’s the challenge, though. Being that we’re all used to working alone, working solo dolo, then they threw us in teams. That to me was the ultimate challenge. How do you fit well with working with other people in a single-player game where you control your own content? I’m not even gonna lie, I was stressed out! I feel like Dr.Gluon was taking his role too seriously. I feel like I was taking my role too seriously. We just all took our roles too seriously. They said Storyteller so he was in charge of stories, but I felt like he wasn’t taking into account any suggestions because he was given Storyteller. And we weren’t under any type of understanding.
GC: His stories are so quirky too. Did that affect you as Stylist and Builder?
xMM: Yeah. That’s not the challenge. I can go and create a Sim and do whatever. He can come to me and say anything, I can do it in CAS, that’s not a challenge. The challenge was giving the stories depth. You want people to be engrossed in it. You want people to be interested. You want a well-structured story. So that was the issue with like, trying to give him advice. And we literally had to go ask them behind-the-scenes like, hey, there’s nothing wrong with me giving advice and tips, right? And they were like no, as long as he’s not in build mode or using CAS, and people are not grossly out of their roles, there is nothing wrong with suggesting things to each other. That’s what a team is for.
And once we got that, that’s when things kinda shifted. Because I feel like everyone was just taking their roles too seriously. And once we had a conversation with them behind-the-scenes, they were like, “no, you can give each other ideas. There’s nothing wrong with helping each other. If they come to you and suggest you do something in CAS, that’s fine, they just can’t be in CAS making Sims.” So from there, it was cool, but like at first, it was, Oh God, I was so stressed out. I was like, hey, we should do this, and we should do that.
Even one of the things on the first challenge, I said we can start this off real peaceful and calm, then just have the Sim come in and beat the hell out of him while everything is going happy-go-lucky. I would throw everyone into a doozy, confusion. Then they want to know, well what the hell is happening here. That makes things even more interesting, when you start off shit wild, it makes people kinda reel back, like, well how did we get here? There were so many little tidbits that I was suggesting, to get people more immersed in the stories we are trying to tell.
GC: Yes, it started to come together. How did you feel about that last challenge where they asked you to tell your personal story? It was so good to see all of ourselves represented as that little Black girl, through your own storytelling and character design.
xMM: It was really surprisingly emotional. I’m not the most emotional person ever. I literally joke about having to schedule points in time to cry because I feel like I don’t cry enough.
When we did that , like all the emotion and all the stress, and all the everything just came to a head, and when they revealed the winner, I just started crying. I cried so bad that when they went to talk to us, I couldn’t speak. I notice in the final episode, they cut me out, because I was just crying. They had to have Gluon and Dawn talk because I couldn’t talk. That was very emotional, very emotionally draining. I was crying, I mean snot. I’m like, “not the snot! damn, my mom is going to see this!” I was kind of embarrassed, but I was like it’s whatever. I’mma just let it out, then I’mma go drink later.
But yeah, it was a lot. It was my idea to do all of us, and they were like no, let’s do just your story.
GC: That’s a great team right there. Both final challenge stories had representation that was needed. It was hard to choose, but I’m glad you decided to tell your story that way. How was it styling with EA content?
xMM: When the idea was first introduced to me to be on the show, was like oh my God, I’m really about to sit here and do a challenge with no CC? “No CC???!” I even told my community this. I feel like as I progressed through the competition, it was actually easier because the amount of time I spend in CAS on a regular day looking through the thousands of files I have in Create-A-Sim. It was so much easier to kinda just look through the EA content. Okay, I’ll pick this and go through the colors. It was easier for me than if they had allowed us custom content.
I realized I know CAS a whole lot more than I thought I did. Even for the head-to-head challenge, that was such a quick turnaround, from the tagline to the brand name. The Cool Collection: always shaken and not stirred. I did all that in like, less than an hour. And then the little tagline I came up with as we were waiting to go present. All that popped in my head. I was like okay, I can do blue, blue would be really pretty. There’s a lot of cohesive patterns with blue, even across the packs. I was trying to find cohesive patterns that matched across the packs. It was easier for me without custom content.
GC: That challenge gave me Project Runway vibes. One of the challenging things, even though the teams were picked at random, it also put Black gamers SpringSims and Dee on one team, and then the team was eliminated. How did you feel about representation on the show? Is there anything you would change?
xMM: I would definitely say more inclusion. I would say if you’re actually looking for drama and like, you know how people look for drama, ratings for reality shows? Get Simmers that don’t know each other. All of them are friends. Everybody’s cool with each other. So there’s not going to be any drama. Everyone’s cool! If you’re looking for drag-down, tell-tale drama, you’re not going to get it with people that are friends, or even work friends.
As far as representation, I think they have a long way to go. And with it only being three of us, if I wasn’t there to see that we are the ones that chose the teams, I would think that was intentional but we picked something out of the bag, so it wasn’t set like that by them. But they still have a long way to go when it comes to representation. Not just on the show but with influencers they work with in general.
GC: How did you feel you were represented on the show? Would you change anything?
I didn’t like that the focus from a lot of viewers was more on “my attitude” and me “being mean” and nothing about how my ideas and input were initially being disregarded. Whatever attitude you saw was pure stress. As a Black woman, I’m not allowed to be mediocre. I’m not allowed to half step. I have to put full effort, work and energy into anything I do.
GC: Many Black gamers feel like during the Black Lives Matter uprising, many companies promised to work with more Black creators, streamers, and gamers but didn’t deliver on that promise. Twitch has brought on a lot of Black partners lately. Do you feel there has been more outreach from the gaming industry when it comes to Black gamers and women gamers?
xMM: Some of it is performative. Some people are putting it all over their Twitter because they want people to continue shopping with them, but they’re not really actually taking the steps to recruit Black creators.
I’ve heard so many stories of companies reaching out to creators and then as soon as everything died down, they’re not responding. I’ve personally had my own experiences with large gaming companies reaching out to pay me for work but like, offering their lower-end stuff like lower-end peripherals.
I remember one company emailed me and the first thing they said was about their budget being tight. Like they’re always trying to lowball us and play us. It was just freshly after I had read an article about how dirty they’re doing Black women in the beauty industry and gaming is even worse, when you tie it into things like race and gender, it gets even worse. Because with gaming, these gaming companies, either they don’t see the value or they think we are just excited to get free things. Like we don’t have bills to pay, we’re just excited to get free stuff. A lot of companies are like that. So when you layer things in like race, it gets even worse. A lot of them still have such a long way to go.
GC: Speaking of streaming, what’s it like being a Twitch Partner?
xMM: Twitch is alright. It’s still like I said with the other companies, there’s still a long way that they need to go. Twitch has been getting better at highlighting creators of color, but it’s not going to be the best payoff because their target audience is not our target audience. So, it’s like setting up a fried chicken stand at a vegan convention. For lack of better terms. Or a steak house company trying to get a booth at a vegan convention. Nobody’s going to buy that. Their audience is not our audience. Their target audience for Twitch in the gaming space is not our target audience.
We can get all the highlights in the world, people on the front page, we can get a little boost, but not as much as someone else. For a lot of creators, being on the front page, I’m learning, they’re not interested because it means more harassment than growth. Our target audience being different has a lot to do with that. They have to do the work to diversify their target audience. You can put any of us on the front page but if the average Twitch user is used to seeing a 30-year-old white man playing battle royales all day, then all of sudden, here is this Black girl playing The Sims, there first question is what the hell is this? This is not the content I came to see. So this is not my audience, not even my potential audience.
GC: A lot of women have realized there is still under-representation and lack of respect for women in gaming with the recent Xbox and PlayStation announcements. What are your thoughts on that?
xMM: Yeah. I got my first console at 4. So I’ve been playing video games for a long, long time. It doesn’t make me feel good. I woke up to those tweets today, and it was actually something that I thought about when I went to sleep. I literally said in my head everyone’s talking about PlayStation but I wonder how many Black creators are going to be able to get a PlayStation.
Then I wake up to Xbox. The first thing I see is, I don’t see any Black women, and I’m like, this is really ridiculous. Why is that? When you’re Black, you have to be absolutely a humongous creator with a large, massive following or you have to be an all-out fanboy or fangirl of whatever franchise it is and never critique them in order for them to work with you. It’s not a good feeling.
I wish to see more Black women in the space, and in order for that to happen, it has to be normalized. Misogyny, racism, all that has to be talked about, faced, head-on, dealt with. More Black women need to come out and say “I’m a gamer!”