The Sims: Its Evolution And Impact
Picture this: It’s a rainy, miserable October afternoon in 2002. I’ve popped into Woolworth’s to buy some pick ‘n’ mix sweets, and I happen to pass the computer games on my way through. Something catches my eye, and I stop. There’s a game on the shelf – The Sims: Deluxe Edition – and I hesitate, picking up a copy of the game to read. Upon this discovery, my life is changed forever. “Finally, a decent sim game!”, my heart cries. Needless to say, I forgot my pick ‘n’ mix and didn’t remember this until I was already in the car, but by then it didn’t matter. I had left Woolworth’s with a much more worthwhile purchase.
There’s no doubt that my life completely changed upon first playing The Sims (for the better or worse is up for debate – I sure as hell ended up glued to the computer for a long time). The ability to actually create and control the lives of these little people was a mind-blowing experience for an 8-year-old me, as it clearly was for many others: the original game has sold around 16 million units. But why is the series so popular, and are the games really worth the cost?
Considering the limitations that many other simulation-style games have fallen victim to in the past, The Sims was revolutionary. It was able to take a potentially complicated idea (controlling people’s lives isn’t easy work, after all) and actually make it work. This is pretty damn impressive, especially considering the original game debuted fourteen years ago. Okay, so in retrospect there are some pretty basic aspects to it – mood is based solely on sims’ “needs” (e.g. how hungry they are, whether they’re tired, if they need the loo and so on), and the way that kids were conceived didn’t quite match up to real life – but it was still so much more involved than any other life simulation game out there.
Yep, the way to have kids in The Sims was basically just by kissing until a crib popped up
And that’s not all; the game successfully managed to create a huge business model by luring gamers into buying a plethora of expansion packs to enrich the lives of their sims. Fancy whisking them away on a holiday? Cough up the cash. Want to bless them with pets? Hand over some more of your hard-earned dough. Hey, why not even gift them with the power of magic? … For a fee, of course. But the thing is, so many people bought into the franchise and it clearly worked. But then they decided to make simmers start their collections all over again with the creation of…
The Sims 2
This was a massive step up from its predecessor, requiring four whole discs of data to be installed onto the PC at its time of launch. It built upon the shortcomings of The Sims in many ways, such as introducing toddlers and teenagers as life stages, which allowed children to age up rather than remain young for the entirety of your game. The graphics were massively overhauled and it gave the whole game a HUGELY more immersive feel as it was completely 3D (just compare the above and below images to see the difference). The Sims 2 also introduced a whole plethora of new ways to kill your sims off – this was an important feature, if you’re as sick minded as I am. The “aspiration system” – giving sims wants and fears – also made mood a whole lot more realistic, as it wasn’t just the case of “I’m full and I don’t need to pee so I’m obviously going to be happy”.
The Sims 2 really stepped up the game, with the fluent life stages from conception to death
The Sims 3
Building further upon the ever-popular simulation game model, The Sims 3 is the current generation (but only just). This game seemed more polarising than the previous two games, as some have refused to touch it (the look of the sims just don’t seem to appeal to some, for a start). I admit, it takes some getting used to, but it has been my favourite of the three games by far. The reduced loading screens, the open neighbourhoods, the more advanced personality system (which incorporates a whole new level of external influences on a sim’s mood); I love so many things about this game. But The Sims 3 hasn’t just opened up a more seamless world in which your families can move around with great ease, oh no. It has taken the online sharing of sim content to a whole new level. Ever-true to the social networking generation of computing, this instalment gives you the ability to connect with other simmers all over the world, sharing memories and updates and allowing each other to comment.
If you own The Sims 3 then you, too, can share strange and pointless memories with the online community
In accordance with the focus on the online, EA has taken greed to a whole new online level and also has a shop on the website which allows you to buy extra content from your game. Granted, this extra content does add a lot to your gameplay – items range from dragons to a roller coaster – and people seem to love it, but the amount you spend on these items is sometimes comparable to one of the smaller expansion packs (the “stuff packs”).
The Sims 4
Now, with the release of The Sims 4 just around the corner, it makes me wonder whether it’ll continue to up the ante or whether the series has already reached its peak. I’d like to think that the new building and create-a-sim tools (the latter of which I’ve already tested), along with the completely new moods system, gives a more immersive feel to the overall game. Sadly, some of the core ideas from its predecessor have been left out – no toddlers or swimming pools, what were they thinking? – but they’ll probably follow up in an expansion pack.
The Sims 4‘s new building tools in action
And on that point, yes, shelling out money for these things can be hugely expensive – but I’m willing to give it a shot with the expectation that it lives up to my previous expectations of the games. Having said that, here’s hoping that the vampires at EA don’t ramp up the cost on expansion packs too much, or find even more ways to drain our bank accounts.
What do you think of The Sims? Let us know in the comments below.