November 25, 2017 9:14 PM   Subscribe

The History of the Sims [YouTube] [33:12] “Very few games can say they presented something truly original to medium like The Sims did, and even fewer can boast the kind of cultural significance it has. Released in 2000, The Sims allowed players to puppeteer the lives of virtual people, micromanaging every aspect of their existence with no real goal other than whatever they set for themselves. For some, The Sims provided unparalleled escapism, letting them live out a fantasy life through in-game characters. For others it was an invitation to indulge their creative whims by crafting ideal homes and, of course, there's also those that indulged their sadistic side by toying with the lives of Sims in cruel but often amusing ways.” [via: Gamespot]

• Growing up with and growing out of The Sims [Eurogamer]
“I will never forget the day I first played The Sims 2, rushing back home from what was an otherwise dreary first year at secondary school. The leap this sequel had taken from the original was unlike anything I'd seen before. Suddenly my Sims were no longer polygon shapes but almost human, with aspirations and goals. They could meet someone, fall in love, get married, get pregnant (morning sickness included), then raise their children from dribbling babies to angsty teens, before settling in their own retirement. You would lead your Sim from life to death. The detail in the base game had increased tenfold. You could hone your Sim's personality and appearance, with their genetics passing on to their children. Teens could go to university where they lived in dorms and sat exams. There were popular songs in Simlish on the radio and players could specify what they wanted Sims to make for dinner. The possibilities seemed endless. What I wanted from The Sims had changed. With my parents' divorce ongoing three years later, I was being bullied in school. Early signs of depression were beginning to show. I locked myself in my room and escaped to the warm familiarity.”
• A Brief History Of Simlish, The Language Of The Sims [Now Loading]
“It all started with Will Wright's SimCopter. Unlike other popular fictional languages like Klingon and Dothraki, Simlish wasn't designed in a particularly learnable way. When deciding on a language for his #VideoGames, Wright had a few parameters in mind. He wanted a language that: (1) Would not become repetitive for the player (2) Would be full of emotion so that it could be understood on a macro level. Wright and team experimented with everything from fractured Ukrainian, to Tagalog and even Navajo. They eventually settled on a completely improvised set of phrases created by two improv actors named Gerri Lawlor and Stephen Kearin whose names will be immortalized by our simulation-based fixations. Who knew that improv could be so influential?”
• The Sims Finally Has Great Curly Hair [Kotaku]
“I have been waiting with bated breath for The Sims 4’s Cats & Dogs expansion since it was announced in September. I didn’t realize that it would give me something else I’ve been waiting for: curly hair. If I’m making a sim that’s black, I usually have to compromise on their hair. If I’m loading up the game for the first time or have to remove my mods, I find a game with dozens of fashionable styles for straight and wavy hair, and then maybe some braids and an afro. The Sims 4's cartoony animation style has made creating curly textures much easier. It has a couple of great styles for wavy hair, but curly haired people with dense, thick hair are still out of luck. With the new Cats & Dogs expansion, The Sims 4 finally has decent curly hair that players can choose right out of the gate. These new Sims hairs look like the curls are so dense that they form a solid mass. ”
• Geeking out about The Sims with Jessica Williams [Entertainment Weekly]
What’s the most diabolical thing you’ve ever done to your Sims? “I’m not a diabolical. I hate to be like, “I’m not diabolical!” like a dweeb, but I do feel personally responsible for each and every Sim that I have in my game. Like in Westworld, I would be a good developer. I wouldn’t be a villain. But accidentally, I was trying to get one of my Sims to turn into a vampire, and in order to do that, they have to befriend a vampire and then convince the vampire to turn them. There was this one vampire that I wanted my Sim to keep getting to know, and he was such a snob. He was such a pain in the ass to become friends with, and I had done all this work. So my Sim and him were hanging out at the park, and it was during the day, and I didn’t know that if he was smoking, there was a danger there. So the vampire ended up spontaneously bursting into flames, and he died right on the spot. He deserved it because he made it really difficult to get to know him, but also, that was a murder that I did feel really bad about.”
• The importance of cultural fashion in games [Rock Paper Shotgun]
“Virginia never imagined she’d be telling a Black woman it was okay to wear Black clothes. As an African with lighter skin, Virginia had feared accusations of cultural appropriation when she first started making traditional African outfits for The Sims 4. Though she had spent the first 12 years of her life in West Africa, her mixed-race origins marked her as an outsider, and she worried people might see her creations as inauthentic. That only made the response she received to one of her West-African wedding dresses all the more surprising. ‘I’m African-American, I’m Black, but I don’t feel strong ties to Africa,’ read the email. ‘Would it be cultural appropriation if my Sim wears it?’ Virginia was stunned. “I was like, of course not!” she recalls. “You’re a Black person asking me if you can wear clothes that were created for Black people. That’s your culture that was stolen from you, and you’re asking if you’re allowed to have it back? You should wear it with pride!” For Virginia, that moment was a real eye-opener. The Sims might be a video game, its clothes stitched from 1s and 0s, but here was proof that a simple digital garment could make a big difference.”
• Every Time I Think I Can Quit The Sims, A Cat and a Roomba Drag Me Back In [Waypoint]
“But I am infinitely lured by my own speculation that The Sims might turn a corner into a truly new type of game if I spend $15 on a pack of new content. My fantasy that the monotony of sim life might be broken if I spend a little more money is a recreation of how we’re intended to play these games. In the game, I buy marginal upgrades for my shower so that my sim’s life gets marginally better, but it never really changes. The same thing can be said for me, and it’s been this way for half of my life. And yet here I am, again, eyeing the sales that accompany all of The Sims on this week of sales and mass consumption. The horrible thing, I think, is that I can see it and I don’t care. I’m going to buy that vampire pack. I’m going to get a pack of new jobs for my sims. I’ll play the game the same way, again, and hope that it changes totally. Maybe French toast won’t be the killer this time; maybe things will be completely different once I throw more money into the game. And yet, in my heart, I know that’s not the case. ”
posted by Fizz (31 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I remember when it was still Little Computer People.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:39 PM on November 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

I've said it before and I'll say it again: That. Fucking. Guinea. Pig.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:43 PM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit surprised they haven't made a mobile version, but considering EA's business practices and the amount of time I've lost to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp this long weekend, it's probably just as well for me that they don't.
posted by ckape at 12:16 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sims is like playing dollhouse. Dollhouse was always a great game, but Sims is live dollhouse with changeable dolls and you can model all the people at your party and that's not creepy even when Sim-Kyle is set on fire and and Sim-Geoff panics and Sim-Mel doesn't care.
posted by jb at 12:35 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel worse about the woman who lost her husband to the maid and had her kids killed in self-inflicted house fires who had to get a job as a mascot who cried on her birthday because no one came to her party because I sucked at Sims 2 than I feel about several of my real life relationships. She was literally crying in her mascot uniform and I think they engineered this moment on purpose.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:52 AM on November 26, 2017 [37 favorites]

I'm a bit surprised they haven't made a mobile version

I've got good/bad news for you...
posted by LSK at 1:30 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Getting home from work to play a computer game about people getting home from work and playing computer games got a little too meta for me... but i still pick it up occasionally to see how my sims are doing.
posted by dazed_one at 1:35 AM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

In Sims 2 or 3 I created a Frankenstein's Monster. When it came to life, it rampaged around the house, systematically destroying all the plumbing.

I am not sure exactly what I expected, but it was not that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:52 AM on November 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think I first realised I was living in the future when someone pointed out that while we were playing Desert Combat as bad-ass Marine helo pilots, there must be at least one actual bad-ass Marine helo pilot spending their downtime playing as a web dev in The Sims.
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:21 AM on November 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

We had to institute a house rule about no Sim-usses. No Sim Soren Lorensen, no Sim Mr Lorensen. It just caused too much marital strife when we'd make Sim Eachother do something terrible, or let them die of hunger in a puddle of their own filth or whatever.

I had to put the game away for a good long time after a particularly traumatic situation in which very pregnant Rose Tyler died because she couldn't simultaneously eat and pee (serious game mechanic flaw there) and the Doctor was so distraught he lit the house on fire, and then Rose haunted him and he basically died of sadness.

What? Don't play like you don't use the Sims to produce the turgid babyfic you'd never let yourself write in real life.

posted by soren_lorensen at 5:22 AM on November 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

I played exactly one game of The Sims 3 in my late 20s, collaborating with my 25-year-old brother on Sims versions of ourselves and a suitable bachelor pad. It went pretty well -- his Sim began to pursue a career in music, nicely in line with his own interests, and develop an eclectic social group.

There's absolutely no warning of how incredibly mortal Sims 3 characters are by default.

Within a few hours, his character died of old age while playing chess with a neighbor.

I never played the game again, and that melancholy continues to follow me years later.
posted by a series of tube socks at 7:24 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I grew up with video games, so the concept of death or losing a life in a game is not something I was unaware of. And yet it's an interesting thing to purposely build a set of walls around your avatar and watch it suffer. I sort of hate that there's a part of me that enjoyed doing this, watching another tiny version of myself endure such psychological and physical distress. It's kind of fucked up. It didn't stop me from doing it again and again, but it's still really fucked up in a way.

I recall losing interesting in The Sims because of that meta moment that was referred to up above:
Getting home from work to play a computer game about people getting home from work and playing computer games got a little too meta for me...
There was something sad about this realization. I'm in a home playing on a computer forcing a tiny version of myself to be in his home playing on his tiny computer. I now like to play games that give me a bit more of an escape. The Sims often feels like "work". The funny thing about this is that I don't feel this way about something like Stardew Valley which has many of the same types of "work" oriented tasks.

Maybe it's the aesthetic and design of Stardew Valley that lets me pretend in a different way. The Sims is maybe too close to simulation and that feels exhausting to me. Hmm, I'm off to think about that as I drink my morning coffee.
posted by Fizz at 7:43 AM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

A "real" cup of coffee, not the digital kind.
posted by Fizz at 7:47 AM on November 26, 2017

A few years ago I was really, really deeply into Sims 3. I didn't actually play the game that much, but I spent hours upon hours building. I used custom content and even custom worlds so I could make as many cool things as I wanted.

Then Sims 4 came along, and EA took away a lot of the building tools. You couldn't even do create-a-pattern anymore.

It still makes me sad. I had so much fun with Sims 3, but EA basically decided that the players like me (there were a lot) weren't worth keeping. Not too long ago I thought that maybe I'd just reinstall Sims 3, but of course it's no longer supported...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:13 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Perhaps our universe is just some vast, unknowable alien intelligence playing their game of the Sims.

More seriously, I've never played the Sims but I did watch some Let's Play videos and decided it wasn't for me - it looked repetitive and I aso wondered if I wanted to play a game that would wind up paralleling life frustrations rather closely, along with the melancholy that comes with the character deaths. At the same time, I will happily play games like Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld which have repetitive components, frustrations, and also tend to end in tragedy, so *shrug*.
posted by nubs at 8:19 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Then Sims 4 came along, and EA took away a lot of the building tools. You couldn't even do create-a-pattern anymore.

Kutsuwamushi, the History of the Sims video, that is in the front part of the post, references this very issue. I'm not a Sims regular by any means (haven't played since 2) but the video mentions that a lot of those features that were missing from 3 have been reintroduced back into 4, so maybe its worth considering picking up again since you have interest, maybe if it's on sale or something.

Although, you could also just pick up the latest Animal Crossing game. It scratches a lot of those same itches.
posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on November 26, 2017

At the same time, I will happily play games like Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld which have repetitive components, frustrations, and also tend to end in tragedy, so *shrug*.

I've been thinking about this all morning. I play a lot of other simulation/world-building type of games: Stardew Valley, Terraria, Don't Starve, and so many others. They all have these same repetitive components and yet they don't feel like work.

Is it because The Sims is a bit too close to our world, a bit too familiar with its emphasis on time management, work, relationship, etc? At least these others games are skinned in different time periods or fantasy worlds. It provides some distance and sense of play. Hmm...
posted by Fizz at 8:24 AM on November 26, 2017

I'm still playing Sims 4, and I occasionally think about reinstalling Sims 2 & 3 on this computer. Every once in awhile, I need to forget what my life is like and spend my time coming up with stupid people who do clever things.

Except for my current family. Who had one baby, then decided to get pregnant again, only to have triplets. Which meant four toddlers in the house. And I just know they'll want to have more kids.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:26 AM on November 26, 2017

There are very few computer games I can play and enjoy, because my twitch-reactions are appallingly bad and my tolerance for 'puzzles' is fairly low. Minecraft on Peaceful is one I really enjoy-- the other is Sims4. Minecraft for when I feel more lonely and introspective, and Sims4 when I want to watch truly charming little doofuses do doofus things and have doofus silliness happen to them. I have made all my D&D characters into Sims, and I have also locked Donald Trump in a rundown bodega and watched him burn to death, covered in his own filth and starving, several times.
posted by The otter lady at 9:00 AM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I largely appreciate the Sims as a very popular series that defies a lot of the things people expect from videogames.
posted by RobotHero at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2017

The way the Sims appealed to its players' imagination was truly remarkable. Many game designers seem reluctant to embrace emergent storytelling (and prefer to create their own hermetic narratives), but not Will Wright.
The Onion AV Club: You pioneered the idea of open-ended games like The Sims, which really has no discernable goal other than what players make for themselves. Have the areas of play that users have chosen to concentrate on surprised you?

Will Wright: Yeah, but I was hoping that they would surprise us. So the fact that I'm surprised was almost expected; at least, that was the success case. I hope that they do things that we could never imagine them doing with this game, which they in fact did, quite a bit more than I was even hoping. I like the idea that our game players are, in some sense, becoming the co-developers of the game, that we're giving them more powerful tools, and they're able to take those tools and make interesting experiences with them. It's not just that we're using our tools to make an experience, and everybody's going down the same rail, even the meta-games that they create on top of The Sims. So it's not just the customizations that they make, but the way that they use the game to create whole new games on top of it. Like in Sims 1, people were actually able to do these little story albums, which were originally meant to be, "Here's my family album, my family over time." But people ended up using them to tell very elaborate stories, like small novels.[...]

O: Did you anticipate people imposing narratives on their Sims?

WW: Oh, yeah. We were counting on that. It's about even balance in a game between the technology of a computer and the psychology of a player. There are certain things that the computer is very good at doing. It can tackle all these numbers, and simulate all these intricate scenarios. But there are a lot of things that the computer sucks at doing, and those things are where we want to offload it into the players' imagination, and use their imagination as the co-processor. Like in The Sims, they don't speak English. They speak this kind of gibberish language. In fact, when you're playing the game, and you hear them speak this language, you do get emotional intonations from them. Most people are basically filling in the blanks, and imagining the conversation in their head. That's a much more effective, realistic-feeling conversation than if the computer were spitting out computer-generated text, or scripted conversations. In that case, we're actually levering the player's imagination as a co-processor to fill in the blanks where the computer is weak.
On the minus side, when Wright launched the Sims Online, he did not expect how some players would band together to enforce their idea of how the game should be played correctly: "There was a whole mafia that developed in it, and even though we had tried to keep players from trying to hurt or inhibit each other, they found ways to kind of socially annoy other players, and use that to enforce their mob power. They thought they were protecting the game, because they had this very particular view of how the game should be played, and they were going after what they called 'the griefers.'" Learning more details about this phenomenon would be interesting - I can't tell if there's any overlap with the type of player who would later join Gamergate or if online play somehow encourages this kind of behavior from a certain psychological grouping.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:49 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Sims was a phenomenon that occurred after I decided that I would never in my life buy another EA game, so I never got into it.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:40 AM on November 26, 2017

I loved The Sims (the first one) a LOT more than I loved 2 or 3. I loved how open it felt, that the goals and directions imposed by the game were pretty flimsy, and left a lot more space for the player to move stuff around in their heads. There was a thriving community of people making funny and charming mods, and while I know that persisted into later iterations of the game, the increasing detail and "workiness" seemed to dilute some of the cuteness and whimsy I liked so much. I had a lot of really wonderful modded garden stuff, and made a little tiny Narnia in a back garden, snowy trees surrounding a lamp post. I still remember a potted plant for the house, and in that version, you had to water houseplants or they would die, that scattered a lovely ring of lilac coloured petals around itself a couple of days after watering, and I screen capped a pic of it to use as an avatar for years.
posted by glitter at 10:49 AM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I too was a Sims originalist, in that I preferred 1 to 2, and after two was the rootkit fiasco with Spore, and ea was dead to me.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:08 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm still waiting EA adds The Sims 1 complete on GOG, although I suspect I'd fall in the same "cheat, build dream house, get bored" pattern quickly, and have The Sims 2 when EA was offering it on Origin (and later got bumped to the complete collection), but never bothered to play it. I did play the GBA versions quite a bit, which are fairly different to the main series.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:14 PM on November 26, 2017

I've recently started playing The Sims 3 again - partially so that I can create a world where any Sim can just love whomever they want. I get miffed when characters get involved in scandals because they woo hoo with "occults" because it feels like the real world encroaching in on my little socially progressive utopia.

Also I love doing stuff that makes the Sims applaud happily. I know they're just beeps and boops, but it is satisfying to see them chirp with delight over their favorite food or because they received a life wish.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:19 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Sims was important to me as a weird little queer kid, because as far as I could tell, all Sims are bisexual. Fond memories of being at the basement computer, making everyone kiss all the time and having weird feelings.
posted by ITheCosmos at 2:09 PM on November 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

I once stumbled upon a blog kept by someone who chronicled the insane things her Sims did. (Just went searching for it, but it's all gone now.) She modled her Sims after various fandoms, and somehow there was endless sex going on. It was like watching the Id of Tumblr laid bare.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:35 PM on November 26, 2017

The story of Alice and Kev is one of my favorite Sims-related things.
posted by The otter lady at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Friend of mine was a sound editor on a version of The Sims years ago. Had to record and edit little "simlish" audio clips for what felt like endless hours, apparently, and having to listen to that fake language babel made it one of the worst jobs they ever had to work on.
posted by davejay at 6:07 PM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I played quite a bit of Sims 3, so I gotta add my two cents:
1) It was a nice depression simulator. There was a bug that made your mood decline every (game-time) day unless you had a quality bed, until even a spa day wouldn't cheer you up enough to function. Saving and reloading would fix it, but without the (player-made) patch, a long session would result in frustration as your sim became less pleasant to be around, with nothing you could do about it.
2) Sims had a "lifetime goal" set when they reached adulthood. At some point, you would sometimes realize that they would never achieve that goal, and you would think "well, I guess I'll concentrate on his children's goals instead, and wait for him to die". I'm at that point in my life.
I leave any syllogisms drawn from those two points as an exercise to the reader.
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 10:15 PM on November 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

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