The Sims is a game for anyone who thinks that real life is boring. And that must be a pretty good number because The Sims is the best seller in the nation this week.
Created by the same folks who made the popular SimCity series, The Sims drills down to the neighborhood level of a city and in fact puts players in charge of a single household.
The first part of the fun in the game comes when you create your family. Will you make a slobbery bachelor, a fresh-out-of-school party girl, a full family complete with kids or a yuppie dual-career couple? Once you pick your family’s images, you then have to choose a nice lot where you will build the house of your dreams. There are a variety of lots to chose from, including expensive waterfront property and secluded woodland patches.
The game has a pretty strong nod to architecture and design in it. You can chose from a couple of houses that are already built in the game, or you can choose to design your own. Whatever you choose, you will be limited by the starting cash of your family. That means you will have some tight, or very sparse, quarters when you start the game. But hey, what couple of kids just getting a real start in life gets to live in luxury, dot com millionaires aside?
There are no real goals in the game, other than to make enough money to survive. You can live off low paying, unfulfilling jobs for the entire game if you want. You need money for bills and food, but if you don’t put a lot of fancy stuff in your house, you can keep expenses low.
The sims, as the game people are called, find their jobs by checking out the daily paper or surfing the Web on their computers. There are ten different career paths that sims can choose from. but each job starts at the bottom of the ladder. The advantage to the low end job is generally short hours, but also short pay. If you go to work on a regular basis, you can get promoted. Initially this means longer hours, but more pay as well. Once you break into upper management, you get more pay and shorter hours, though this is hard to do. Sound familiar?
One of the most interesting things about the game is that you get to meet other characters who live in the neighborhood. Some of them are installed with the game, but others are ones you create to play in other houses. So if you are playing a huge family in one house, the various members might stop by when you are playing your bachelor.
So, interpersonal relationships develop between the various members of the neighborhood. These can be positive or negative, based on the personality of the different sims, or your actions as a player. I actually think this is the hardest part of the game, since you can’t directly control the actions of the other guests in your house. Even if you go through all the motions to be as nice as possible, order a very expensive pizza and make sure the stereo is cranked up high, there is no guarantee that the other person will like you.
This actually leads me to the one negative thing I have to say about the game. To advance in your career, you need to make friends. And the higher you go on the job ladder, the more friends you need. I’ve got no problem with the difficulty in getting new friends, but I might want to role-play a grumpy old man. I can do this, but he won’t advance very far in his career.
One of the pleasures in the game is the ability to improve your home, both by adding new rooms, or a second and third story, and putting cool furniture in the ones you already have. You can keep your sims happy by buying them nice things, like a more comfortable couch, a plasma television or even a brand new swimming pool. You basically keep them happy by balancing their satisfaction with their home, their career, their restfulness, their bladder, their hunger and their fun level.
And unlike some sim games, you really can’t leave this one alone. The sims will fend for themselves if you don’t give them any commands, but mostly they chose to sit on the couch, eat snacks and ignore work. It takes your responsible hand to guide them to success.
This game has really got it all. Not only does it teach valuable social skills, it’s also a lot of fun. This game should be mandatory playing in schools, because it will really teach children the basics of how to live, a skill that is more difficult to learn than one might think.
Adults will have fun with the game as well. The many variables will have you staying up for hours. Build the cast of the television show Friends and see how they interact. Be brave and make your own personal family or create the worst neighborhood you can imagine. The developers have gone out of their way to make sure that whatever you try is supported by the game. Most of the guys in the GiN lab have tried everything you can imagine, from a mafia Soprano’s type complex neighborhood, to a campground where everyone lives under the stars.
Maxis has done a great job of supporting the game. If you go to www.thesims.com you can download new objects for the game, like a slot machine and a moose head for the living room.
The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a multiplayer component, where multiple people could control different family members from different computers. I have a good time sharing a house with my fiancÃ©, but when both our characters are home sometimes we end up fighting over the mouse. (and the moose)
There is a real community forming around this game, and it’s no wonder. Just about everyone can relate to what this game simulates. We all share life, and we can all share the fun of this title. The sims are a lot of fun to play with and the only danger is that your own life – your friends and your family ties – might begin to suffer as you work long hours to improve theirs.