The Sims (PlayStation 2) review
"So there I was, as usual, crouched on my bedroom floor and playing some newfangled video games. All of a sudden, the door opens and this family (my own, presumably) trudge in, a united front. The father figure opens his greasy chops. Apparently some expert over in parliament has done a wee bit of research on my favourite pastime, and it turns out that sitting in ones room for twenty hours of the day can create what they call “anti-social” tendencies. Bollocks to that, thought I, but who was I to..."
So there I was, as usual, crouched on my bedroom floor and playing some newfangled video games. All of a sudden, the door opens and this family (my own, presumably) trudge in, a united front. The father figure opens his greasy chops. Apparently some expert over in parliament has done a wee bit of research on my favourite pastime, and it turns out that sitting in ones room for twenty hours of the day can create what they call “anti-social” tendencies. Bollocks to that, thought I, but who was I to argue with these complete strangers?
As I was led outside I tried remonstrating. I told them that I did indeed have a diverse and interesting life. In the prior week alone I had indeed held five different professions, made dozens of friends, thrown one too many raging house parties and sired several illegitimate children. But the oldies were having none of it, and I was tossed onto the sunbaked pavement and told to smarten up. Fortunately, I was soon accosted by a wayward drug-dealer that had honestly mistaken me for his woman. It was decided that video games were adequately equipped to raise me, and things got back to normal.
Back in my room I was free to continue my exciting life. I popped my copy of The Sims in my PS2, and all was well.
The opening scenes spring up, resplendent. A host of characters strut about like peacocks, content to forever traverse a housing structure constructed entirely from the name of the game. Such is the extent of their serene contentment, one can be certain that you could bulldoze their vowels and they wouldn’t care. For a sim, life is a perpetual pleasing adventure.
Here is the beauty of The Sims. For those who have already been through the bother of having a life, or for those too repulsive to ever have one, here is a middle-of-the-road model to replace what you might or might not already have. Few of life’s squalors are here, and if they do rear their filthy heads, at least they ain’t looking at you kid!
The point of this game is, of course, to take control of another human life and raise it into a successful prototype. Jobs, money and friendship are all taken care of with the click of a button, minor inconveniences as you strive to groom the most happening sim on the block. The real challenge is finding enough time in the day to shoehorn each and every one of these activities in. In real life, some of us can feasibly fit nine hours of gaming into their substantial existence. If a sim were to show this kind of work ethic in the game he would undoubtedly be tied up by a musclebound Samson Sim and shot out of a cannon into the sun.
Has my plucky little Broc-Sim ever cared? Of course not!
Displaying true 1920s sensibilities, all it takes to keep a sim happy is going to the toilet, having a bath and maintaining a nice garden. Naturally, certain avenues of entertainment must be followed from time to time, but the wild heart of a Stallion-Sim is easily tamed. Naturally, things can get a bit tricky once a sim finds some success. Most of us nerds would kill for 5 friends and a well-paying mid-level job, but a sim is never satisfied with his lot, and it soon seems like they’ll be asking for everything at once, lest they become some kind of suicidal wreck.
“You contradicted yourself, King Broccoli! You said that a sim can be satisfied with the inconsequentials of life, yet they seem to always be demanding more and more! Explain, thou vile cad!”
The disturbing sensibilities of the game are to blame for such an anomaly. The Sims seems to be sending the message that a happily occupied and social private life isn’t important as long as you’re furthering your own causes and making more and more money!
A case can be made by studying young Jim Broccoli, a sim of mine. He had just recently taken to playing the guitar in an attempt to up his creativity level, ensuring a promotion. An extra creativity point had just been earned, and young Jim was riffin’ it up to celebrate. The music was punctuated by a ringing phone. It was Terry Tailpipe, Jim’s dearest friend from an earlier, albeit less successful, level. The conversation was short. Terry felt that he had been neglected amongst all of this creativity, and severed his friendship with young Jim. The phone clicked off, and the newly learned “Stairway to Heaven” became the overture for this saddening scene.
Naturally, young Jim was promoted the next day, and Terry Tailpipe became a fleeting memory. This is all well and good for the sim, but is this what we want to teach our kids? As a jaded realist, I’m inclined to believe that The Sims reflects real life to such an extent that this question is moot. So I guess all that really matters is that deep down this is an intriguing, challenging and altogether rewarding game. Despite the apparent heartlessness that pervades the title, there is a certain degree of time-consuming mindlessness that makes it okay. If something can suck you in to the extent that you’re willing to spend hours at a time mulling over the right lawn ornament, you’re obviously in the middle of something special.
It’s not perfect, but neither is reality. The difference is that with The Sims, there is an escape from the humdrum of the everyday, and one can honestly aspire to greater things. When I’m playing The Sims I’m not shut away in my room, I’m experiencing a whole new universe that has opened up for me. A universe full of endless potential and a plethora of ambitious, yet constantly smiling hosts.
I’ll keep exploring it.
Featured community review by kingbroccoli (April 25, 2004)
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