My 20-Year on and off Relationship With the Sims

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I’ve been playing The Sims since I was a little kid.

It all started when a friend of the family who worked at EA would bring us expansions of The Sims on special occasions. I swear on my life that there’s a crude drawing I did as a child of him giving me a copy of Sims Unleashed. Sadly, I have been unsuccessful in tracking down this work of art. Regardless, the game had a hold on me as a kid.

Image: The Sims / Maxis

I went hard as hell on Makin’ Magic. Here was a game that would let me create a dream version of myself that excelled at everything, yet could also drown in a pool without a ladder. I have fond memories of creating Harry Potter in the game, only to get bored of him and build walls around him in the backyard and wait for him to eventually perish. Yes, it was cruel, but who didn’t partake in a little bit of Sim torture back in the day?

I also was obsessed with The Sims Bustin’ Out when it was released on the Nintendo GameCube. The inclusion of a story aspect in The Sims series added a whole new layer of gameplay that kept me entertained for a while… until it didn’t.

Image: The Sims 2 / Maxis

When The Sims 2 blasted onto the scene, it didn’t take long for the game to wrap me up. Now the Sims were more detailed, with more options in terms of customisation and opportunity. Unleashed became Pets, an expansion that would remain a staple of the series to this day. There were now seven stages of a Sim’s life, and they could have aspirations! With the addition of the young adult stage, you could now send your Sim to uni with the University expansion. It truly felt like a whole new game. It could almost be considered such due to how much of the base game seemed like it had been rebuilt from the ground up to accommodate it. Weirdly enough, playing The Sims 2 was how I learned about Paramore, with their song “Pressure” re-recorded in the in-game language of Simlish. I played it, I loved it… And then I moved on.

Image: The Sims 3 / Maxis

The Sims 3 is an interesting one. Something that gained popularity during The Sims 2 era was the creation of custom content by players. These custom content creators allowed players to expand the games even further and add all sorts of new content. With the announcement of The Sims 3, many custom content creators were invited to the Maxis campus to help create content for the third instalment. Talk about setting the bar for developers to enlist modders to make their games better, am I right?

I played the absolute shit out of The Sims 3. The content kept coming out and I lapped it up like a dog on a hot day. You could create entire worlds now and actually go to your Sim’s job with the Ambitions expansion. The character customisation had been expanded yet again, although as a kid I remember hating how the Sims looked in the third game in comparison to the second. They felt uglier, but maybe I was just doing something wrong. I probably got more expansion packs for The Sims 3 than I did for any other game, which made sense considering the game has eleven expansions, which was more than the two previous entries. Alas, I had my fun, and then I dropped it to play something else.

And then The Sims 4 dropped.

Image: The Sims 4 / Maxis

Unlike the previous titles in the series, I didn’t play The Sims 4 consistently for a long period of time and then drop it. I did this multiple times. I played it when it came out, had a ball, and then dropped it. Then more expansions came out, and I played it a whole lot, and then I dropped it. Then I learned how to add custom content to the game, so I added all kinds of garbage, made everything pretty, played it for ages, and then dropped it yet again.

After a while, I found myself thinking about The Sims again. I’ve played a whole lot of fantastic games in between then and now, why would I want to go back to The Sims? I got one word for you.

Escapism.

When my best friend informed me that she had been playing The Sims 4 lately and had all the expansions, a good amount of extra content packs, and 12GB of custom content on a hard drive, I couldn’t resist. It’s been 4 years since the release of The Sims 4, so that’s 4 years of content to trawl through (and that’s not even all of it). Every time I’ve gone back to The Sims 4, there’s been something new to do. Sure, sometimes it’s bad and cursed, but the game continues to grow with both Maxis making additions and the tireless work of custom creators.

And hey, what a shitty year 2021 was, right? Many people are saying this. However, there’s no COVID in The Sims 4. If there’s some wretched mod that puts COVID into the game, I don’t even want to hear about it. On the other hand, custom content for the game has taken it to a whole new level, with downloadable content allowing for user creations to reach new heights. I say this as somebody who is in awe of just how good my best friend’s Sim house looks in comparison to anything available as a preset.

Shouts out to my bestie for having an impeccable talent in Sims interior and exterior design. Screenshot: The Sims 4 / Maxis / Kotaku Australia

Every game has something about it that keeps people coming back. While replayability isn’t a goal for every game, it’s definitely something that many games strive for. In the case of The Sims 4, the game isn’t as much about replayability as it is about continuous-yet-casual play. There’s no real end to The Sims 4, you just keep playing until you get bored. And if you’re like me and have been playing The Sims since the very first iteration of the game, there’s always something new that keeps you coming back.

Besides, I can’t become an astronaut in real life from simply reading a book and punching a sandbag. If it were that easy, I still probably wouldn’t do it because I can’t read and I’m weaker than a Tim Burton character getting hit by a small gust of wind.




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