Let's play a love game
December 30, 2011 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I got my hopes up for a sec when I thought it said Karen Gillan.
posted by gyc at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2011 [23 favorites]

If my experiences and relationships to my Sims are any indication then God is more like a reality show producer then loving father ( this is getting dull! You, start a slap fight! You two, kiss! You, pee on everything! )
posted by The Whelk at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know how to ask this and still be cool but I really want to know so...could someone explain this article to me? What is the article saying? I get lost in all of the anecdotes and stuff, it's hard for me to parse for some reason.
posted by Danila at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this article seems to meander around without much of a conclusion.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:14 PM on December 30, 2011

I got my hopes up for a sec when I thought it said Karen Gillan.

Hah! I thought it said 'The Simpsons.
posted by carter at 1:18 PM on December 30, 2011

Is that a Piranhas reference? Nice.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2011

I had a girlfriend obsessed with the sims, she spent countless hours creating love triangles.
In The Sims It is very easy to do or say the right thing. Figure out which action, juggle, boast, flirt, will get you that + over the target of you affections head. There are a few missteps, but it is so pat, so easy, the success come so quickly. If you fail in life, the sims makes you feel great with instant successes in the game.

Then she moved to the sims online.

One of the more interesting parts of My Tiny Life by Dibell is how he approaches his girlfriend with the fact that he will, in fact, have cybersex. For his girlfriend, the world that exists in his mind is what matters. The fact that the person he is interacting with online may not be who they say, the fact that Dibbell and his online flame will never meet means nothing. His fantasy, his projection, of who this online person is is what matters.

In the sims online, the warp speed seduction and attachment is there as well as the fantasy projection. With one important difference, These sims are real people.

More than once I saw a male sim take my girlfriend to task for leading them on, or teasing them. I saw them get angry when she kissed other sims. A male sim she spoke to for minutes would lay claim to her. Their projection of her is what mattered. To them she was what they wanted her to be. They dis not have the same success as they did offline, real people were too fickle, to hard to read. With no + or - interactions were hard to navigate.

It is not surprising sims online failed. People liked the sims because you always won, you always got what you wanted, there were no real people to fuck things up.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:46 PM on December 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

But that there’s an actual power to the in-game incarnation is one reason why it is so enthralling.
Okay after reading it real slowly I think this is the point of the article. That the game is so immersive that the feeling of falling in love/lust and the mating game evoke real emotions in us.
The magic of The Sims is that you are both in control and not in control. You can live out your fantasies, imprinting on these fictional characters, deciding what they’ll do next, but you can’t be sure if it’ll all turn out okay. In the moment between ordering a Sim to kiss and seeing the response… that’s where the erotic sparks. It’s not the animation that’s the pay-off – but that you were accepted, the seduction worked, they wanted you after all. And it’s not that you’ve kissed someone, but you know who that person is due to having spent so much time in their simulated company. The Sims is sexy because it creates a complete naturalistic context for it to occur in.
Well I have played a lot of The Sims and The Sims 2, but I have never been in love or experienced much sexual intimacy so I have no idea if this is really true. I don't know if the science the author cites is really applicable. Does immersion in the game trick the brain this way?
posted by Danila at 1:50 PM on December 30, 2011

One made the mistake of sticking me with a pointed question on what I was writing for The Book, and had my greasy innards slide forth and bury her alive.

Best line of the article.
posted by troll at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2011

Yes, I think that being accepted, even by a sim, is powerful. I always had a lurch moment, will the slap me? But of course it is all totally safe.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:04 PM on December 30, 2011

I thought it was Karen Gillan, too. I'm like, "Karen Gillan talking about masturbating over Pixar-esque cartoons on the internet? Well, there's a hobby I never would have guessed she'd have, but I guess you probably meet a lot of jerks when you're famous, and...oh, I see, it's some dude. Okay, that follows. Man, wow, my whole perception of reality just went topsy-turvy there for a second. Did I like it better the other way? That was like some crazy Phil Dickian stuff, as it were. I wonder what's on TV."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:04 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kittens, I know for a fact you know who Keiron Gillen is.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2011

In The Sims It is very easy to do or say the right thing. Figure out which action, juggle, boast, flirt, will get you that + over the target of you affections head. There are a few missteps, but it is so pat, so easy, the success come so quickly. If you fail in life, the sims makes you feel great with instant successes in the game.

So it's like Rock Band, but for "dating" instead of "playing the guitar"?
posted by mstokes650 at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2011

Not dating as we think of it, and not as in-depth as I hear Japanese dating sims are. More like a life sim.

Things have changed a lot in the more recent versions so someone else can address those. If I misremember any details please correct me.

Sims 1 was very simple, your sim worked, ate, slept, took a shower, danced, watched tv. You could direct your sim but it was semi autonomous. The goal was to keep your sim happy and healthy. All the action was set around the home, in the morning the sim was whisked away to work and whisked back at night. Status was displayed by cutesy icons so if you were bored you would see a an icon above your head with red minuses next to it.

The main frission, what the article deals with, is interactions with other sims. Neighbors would drop by, or you could visit. There is a meter for the relationship between you and each other sim. From married to enemies. To interact with them you select items from a radial menu. Things like talk about sports, talk about tv, gossip, brag, flirt. Actions like juggle, hug, dance, kiss and marry.

Each action had an instant effect. If you talked sports with a sim that was into books you would see a frown and a minus sign floating off the sims head. The relationship meter moved up or down. Eventually you move to flirt, then to kiss, then to marry.

This is probably more than anyone cares to know, but it is important to understand you are performing really really basic interactions with a computer generated person. But there was a kind of leap of faith you had to make to select kiss on the radial menu. And it did feel good when the sim kissed you back.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got my hopes up for a sec when I thought it said Karen Gillan.

Well at least the Sims is more interesting than a Doctor Who episode. It would have been a step up for her.
posted by juiceCake at 3:22 PM on December 30, 2011

Kittens, I know for a fact you know who Keiron Gillen is.

I...do now? I'd heard his name, but it kind of went into the whirl of names that come up on my twitter feed a lot but don't link to anything I really know about (see also every professional wrestler, ever, because apparently almost everyone I know is really super-invested in professional wrestling for some reason). I've heard of Phonograph and see that he writes X-Men comics, which I haven't read since Grant Morrison went back to DC, so.

posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:35 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

What? Somebody on Metafilter doesn't like Doctor Who? NOOOOOOO!!!
posted by howfar at 4:58 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well at least the Sims is more interesting than a Doctor Who episode.

posted by infinitywaltz at 5:33 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I learned a lot about relationships from playing the Sims. In the Sims 3, Sims have to go through “acquaintances” and then “friends” status and then do some mutually accepted flirtatious interactions to get to “romantic interest” status, which is only upgraded to “boyfriend/girlfriend” after one of the sims has an exclusivity talk and the other agrees. It’s actually a sensible and streamlined process that I found more logical than real life. I always thought the only thing missing was a sim version of online dating or blind dating: Have your sim sign up to go on a blind date, and have the computer randomly pull single sims from the neighborhood to match your sim. That ties into one of the most interesting aspects of The Sims 3 for me: neighborhood control. Once you’ve made a few perfect couples, and maybe even a love triangle or two, you start wanting to go bigger and bigger. I eventually had the idea that I would oversee an entire neighborhood of sim families through the generations, and try to match up the single sims as they grew up. That’s where things really got educational.

In a closed population, the sex ratio is 50/50, but personalities are so individual that it’s very difficult to match up each generation of say, 10 girls and 10 boys so that everyone’s happy. It became like a math problem for me. What I found out was that, in order for everyone to have a spouse, some sims had to compromise. The most eligible bachelor sim might marry the second most eligible bachelorette sim, who was best friends with the most eligible bachelorette. This meant that little tragedies and personal sacrifices unfolded before my eyes as female sims who had grown up together and were good friends had to choose male sims that were maybe not their perfect match, just to avoid anyone being left single or anyone being matched with someone truly wrong for them. I found that it was actually easier in some cases to match up the least eligible male and female sims first, and move up so to speak. (In most cases, eligibility is determined by the more desirable personalities that were easier to get along with. Personality traits were randomly assigned by the computer as each sim grew up; some in town were very likable, others…not so much.)

It was a lesson in realism. Nothing like scaling up to the size of a whole neighborhood to kill the romantic “get exactly what you want” gameplay of The Sims on an individual level.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:12 PM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Have your sim sign up to go on a blind date, and have the computer randomly pull single sims from the neighborhood to match your sim.

I refuse Sims 3 (um Sims 2 for life!!) but in the Sims 2 there is a blind date function. There is a matchmaker NPC and the Sims/you tell her what they want (male/female). The quality of the match depends on how much you pay her.
posted by Danila at 10:40 PM on December 30, 2011

To use Owain Bennallack’s memorable description, The Sims is an apologia for consumerism. A good life needs friends and company, yes, but a better life can be purchased incrementally at Ikea.

I think this is an interesting point, and though it's wrapped up in the politics of consumerism and you have to take a bit of a step back from that to think about the game mechanics it's worth thinking about. Sims are, for the most part, manipulated by their environment: you make Sims and their AI will send them towards interesting stuff in their near vicinity or things that will fulfill their immediate "needs"; if you put a playful adult in a house with a dollhouse he will go for the dollhouse instead of getting a job every time.

Sims are dumb in interesting ways and smart in interesting ways, and I think playing with them ends up being a good sort of distorted mirror of humanity. I also think the hardcore gamer backlash about it is a bit fascinating (it shows a lot of sexism in the game community, for one thing, and ageism and a series of general bullshit you have among gamers). It's a fun toy, and I think the article got to the guts of why it is a fun toy: there is really not a goal at all, it is a true sandbox in the way what we call sandbox games aren't, because you can still beat Skyrim and GTA even if you can run around and do shit in the meantime. You can't beat the Sims, you can just get bored with it.

Also it has the best UI, IMO, of most... things that I've used. The menus can get big and complicated but are generally arranged in a way that's pretty intuitive; complexity is built on simplicity. This is the downfall of a lot of parts of Sims 2 and 3, bits and pieces that are just WEIRD, particularly in Build Mode (foundations, decks and basements being the biggies that I recall).
posted by NoraReed at 10:47 PM on December 30, 2011

I have been playing the Sims franchise for a little bit more than eleven years, continuously. I also write about the game on a professional basis. I spend a lot of time both playing the game and interacting with other players.

This is a better-than-most article by someone who's actually played the game (which is more than many such articles). But it's also superficial in the way most articles about the franchise tend to be.

People have a lot of opinions about what the game is and isn't. Many of those opinions are just their own selves being reflected back upon them by the game. (The author toys with this idea, then outright rejects it - I think wrongly.)

If there is one thing that the game is "about," it's not sex. It's narrative.

When you play the game, you aren't just moving little people around. You're building a narrative in your head, using these little computer people. That's what keeps people playing, what keeps them invested in the game. It's not just a paunchy, balding representation of a human figure, it's Bob Newbie, and he's in an unhappy marriage, and also he peed himself this morning.

This need to build narrative is deeply human, which is why the game has been so successful. Does the narrative of human lives often involve - nay, pivot upon - sex? Of course. Which is why there's lots of it.

It wouldn't make a good narrative if there were no sex, or jobs, or houses, or childbirth, or other people, which is why the game has all of these things. It gives you the building blocks to create any story you want.
posted by ErikaB at 10:41 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

And to be perfectly pedantic, Sims aren't either gay, straight, or bisexual.

Sims sexuality exists on a sliding scale from 0 to 100 with "100% straight" on one end, and "100% gay" on the other. Every Sim starts out with a default score of 50. Your actions, and the actions of other Sims, move the slider to either end of the scale.

The scale is also not fixed. You can have a Sim who has, through your actions and the actions of others, become 100% straight. But it takes surprisingly little effort to move their score back to the other end of the scale.

It's a surprisingly nuanced presentation of human sexuality, and it's something that the media never gives the game credit for.
posted by ErikaB at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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