The Sims 3: Why I Think it’s Fantastic Game Design

People approach games from very different angles, and for very different reasons. That’s a given. I play games (as I mentioned in a previous rant) for emotional connection and meaningful choices. Below I’d like to describe why I love the Sims 3, and why I think it is an excellent game, despite the reputation that the Sims franchise gets.

I am a gamer. There are no doubt about that. You could get into the argument of ‘what is a gamer, and who can call themselves that’, but that’s almost an entire topic on its own! Let’s just say I spent a lot of my time playing games, I care about the industry as a whole, I’m educated in the matter and have even made a couple of the games you might have found on the shelf of your local retailer. Then why would I play a game that got so much flak amongst gamers and even I hated the first two instalments of?

While I was working for EA Canada, they had this irritating habit of having two televisions inside each elevator, looping only EA products. A type of indoctrination? Perhaps. It worked in that it made me curious to look at the Sims 3, which had recently come out. I knew the employee behind the counter at the in-building store, and I struck up a conversation while I used my employee discount to buy this.

“I’m just curious,” I said, my face set in a vaguely disdainful sneer as I passed him the slim package for the game. “I hated the original game, and generally I can’t believe this is one of the best selling franchises of all time.”

Proof from 2002, when the original was already out:

“The Sims and all of its expansions have sold more than 13 million units combined, more than enough for all of those Sim-
happy gamers out there to buy a life.” (http://www.geek.com/games/sims-best-selling-game-of-all-time-549430/)

I’m sure something else beat it by now, but that data is irrelevant to my topic. I was revolted by this number originally, when only the first and second games were out. I felt this game somehow diminished the industry as a whole.
Sims3_Plumbob

“Sure,” The man behind the counter smiled, touching the game gingerly to run it through as though he didn’t want it to leave residue on his fingers. “My girlfriend plays this game.” He shuddered at the memory. That’s what the Sims get categorized as a lot “a girl’s game”. Why this should ever be a bad thing is yet ANOTHER topic all of its own.

After a couple of days I returned to buy every expansion that was currently out. I was embarrassed  but laughing. “I’m a still a serious gamer!” I protested to the shop keeper, who eyed me with a mix of surprise, disappointment and distaste.

So I started it with Clou, actually. I made him an adult and just started experimenting. Clou met a visitor from China, a pretty girl on vacation. Chemistry happened and the two hit it off. She was only there for a couple of days, so accidentally, when she left to return to Sim-China, she was pregnant. Whoops! Well, being an honest and proper boy, Clou gathered his meager funds to follow her, confess his true love for her and marry her and raise their children together. It took some looking, but he eventually found her in the marketplace.

Here the game was a little wonky. You see, she left while pregnant, and their reunion, while  touching, showed that she no longer was. “The game must have forgotten that when she transitioned from here to there!”

Right there in the public square Clou fell on his knees and proposed. Her answer, while it delighted him, also mortified him.

“Yes, I will marry you! Let me just leave my husband and two children.”

OOPS. As it was one of the first times I had ever played the game, I hadn’t known to check of she was… well… single. But my insults against decency didn’t stop there! We returned to our little Sim village, just her and Clou, and as the years passed they started their own family. Then, when they were both much older, they decided to return to China for a visit. The visit was emotional and the man from whom I had stolen her did not yet forgive me. No matter. Clou tried to make amends, when a young man approached that looked exactly like him. The hair, the purple eyes.

The game had not forgotten her child she carried from Clou’s town! But simply expedited the result. So it ended up that I left her and Clou’s child with the very father from whom I had stolen her!

Why I think it’s fantastic game design: My choices and mistakes created this story. There was no ‘right’ way to play it (except perhaps ‘right’ in the way of common decency), and I created this story that I might not have happen next time. Each time I play this game I have new experiences, with new challenges and hilarious moments and stories that emerge from my gameplay, not a script. How many games can claim that? After that I knew I was hooked. I still play it, creating new characters, even ones from movies or shows or books I like and I let them live out their lives, seeing what the future holds.

The two reasons I play games, as I ranted about, are choices and emotional connection. Both are in spades in this game! My choices create the whole experience, and the emotional connection comes from seeing a lifetime unfold before you, their children grow up to have adventures of their own, and so on and so on. It’s really amazing.

Examples of characters I made:

– Clou and Gilad (Not together, just each in a game)
– Garion and Ce’nedra from the Belgariad (I spoke of this series in a previous blog)
– Harry and Ginny from Harry Potter
– The 10th doctor and Rose Tyler from Doctor Who (10.5, really, but you know. 😉 )
– Random characters of my invention

But each of them had a completely different game and story, completely dictated by my own choices. Even if I restarted with the same characters, they would not have the same story twice. What’s more, it’s not one of those games you have to play with all your attention and headphones on, so I can still talk to my husband and just relax after a long day. It’s therapeutic, almost like working on art. So there you have it. The story above, I hope, shows why I love the game so much. A game of stories and adventures and love and mistakes. A story generator.

And I love it! And I hope I’ve explained why and I hope you will not look at it as severly as before. Maybe even give it a try, and if you want to be my friend on the community online, look me up as LunarBlade. 😀

 

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