Since the release of the first Sims game in February of 2000, EA Maxis’ life simulating franchise has sold over 175 million copies worldwide. In school I was taught never to assume, but I believe it would be a safe assumption to say that if you consider yourself a “gamer” then you’ve probably played through your own Sims experience at one point or another. The Sims has managed to enthrall millions upon millions of gamers despite not actually offering anything they could not plausibly attain themselves in their own lives. When you do well while playing The Sims, you’re rewarded by being given access to the most mundane types of material possessions. Is your Sim a writer who recently wrote a bestseller? Congrats! You can now buy a reasonably priced sedan! Are you a musician that just wrote a great song? Awesome! Now you can afford that cool new TV! And that’s all it is. This is not to say that That the Sims in a bad game. I’ve got my own Sim that’s quite handy with writing sci-fi, skilled with a wrench, and is no slouch in the kitchen either. So why then, do we choose to live these lives via little animated characters on our computer screens rather than writing a novel or a song, or learning how to remake our bathroom on our own? Why not do these things ourselves?
I believe the answer is destiny. Or rather, the lack thereof. Or rather still, the ability to have that destiny but to also be in control of it. With our Sims we are able to take and capitalize on every opportunity that could possibly be thrown at us. In The Sims our lives are literally at our own disposal and nothing anyone can do within the Sims realm can stop you from doing what you wish. The Sims is so successful because it gives gamers the chance to live a life unlived, where their life is limited only by their imagination (and as Sims games progress, only more opportunities and lifestyle choices will become available). It gives players the chance to have a small inkling of what it actually would be like if they had written that song, or if they had decided to go to culinary school rather than getting engineering degree. It allows us to play God but only with ourselves. And I think that’s incredible. It’s incredible to see what you find yourself doing when you have the world at your feet and you can do anything you choose. Through our Sims, we’re also able to get a closer look at ourselves, at what we wish we could really be and do, if we were just given the chance. For example, unsurprisingly, my Sim is a writer. I knew that would be the career path that he would take from the get-go. What surprised me however, was how engrossed I was with becoming as handy as possible. I loved going around my dingy one-story house and upgrading everything I could even at the cost of not eating dinner or going outside. I was never aware of how much I would truly value that skill, and I have since tried to learn to be a bit more handy and thrifty. My Sim taught me how to improve upon myself the same way I had improved him. How amazing is that?!
As mentioned before, The Sims is developed and published by EA, and any gamer worth their salt knows that this means lots of malarkey that they’ll have to deal with, and more importantly, pay for. The newest version of The Sims, The Sims 4 will be released next month. No doubt that following not far behind will be the first among what will eventually become dozens upon dozens of DLC packages. For an example of EA’s greed we need look no further than your Sim’s swimming pool. That is, once you buy it from EA separately from your copy of the base game. Yes, no longer can you build your Sim a home with a swimming pool without first purchasing that DLC from EA. It truly is a shame what EA has done to this franchise. The Sims was and still is a truly great game that can teach its players a thing or two about themselves. Let’s hope that the day soon comes when gamers will no longer tolerate EA’s shenanigans and shrug off their countless DLC packages. But that’s another story all on its own. Until then, go enjoy your Sim, guide them well and maybe let them teach you something in the process.