The Sims (PC) review
"The Sims is a videogame simulation of something that you experience every day: Real life. "
The Sims is a videogame simulation of something that you experience every day: Real life.
Not the exciting parts, either. Some games are realistic, but when they are, you're usually throwing balls, powersliding through racetracks, snooping around government agencies, or shooting Nazis. Those are the fun parts of real life. The Sims contains the boring parts, the kind of stuff you do every day. Like, you know how you're at home right now, sitting at your computer? Yeah, that's the kind of thing we're talking about.
The Sims is billed as a simulation game – get it? The Sims? ha ha ha – though I'm not quite sure what exactly what is constituted as a simulation game. I'd say a simulation is a videogame representation of a real-life activity. The point of this genre is to create an experience that accurately recreates something you could do in real life, but will probably never get the chance to – things like designing a roller coaster or flying an airplane.
But The Sims is almost completely irrelevant. It's a simulation of something that everyone has experienced. It's called life, and you're experiencing it right now. (And if you're not, I am scared of you. Please do not contact me.)
The Sims is a videogame recreation of normal, mundane, everyday activities. After creating your Sims and building a nice house for them to live in, your job is to simply sit back and watch as they live out their lives. Everything that you would do in a normal day, they also do. They wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, get a shower, brush their teeth, and catch a ride to work. When they come home (you don't get to see them at work, so much of the day is automatically fast-forwarded), they eat dinner, play a few games on their computer, sit down, watch some TV, and then go to bed.
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET???!!?!!???!?
This all happens without the exciting events and thrills that real life can occasionally bring us. Every day is just as boring as the last, and you know it's never going to change. You put your Sims to bed at night, knowing that when they wake up, they'll just be going through the same old routine again, one that was never enjoyable to begin with and only gets worse as time goes on. The idea of a “life simulator” is kind of an interesting novelty for the first hour, before you realize that it’s a stupid idea.
Thing is, real life can be fun sometimes, even in activities you experience every day. But The Sims deletes the fun of even these things, since you're not so much experiencing them as you are watching someone else (i.e., a videogame character) experience them. For example, playing videogames is fun. However, watching someone else play videogames is not fun. Conversing with another person can be enjoyable, too. But watching other people talk to one another is not nearly as engaging, especially when you can’t understand what the hell they’re saying. (Sims speak in a made-up language that sounds funny at first but grows old fast.)
I'll give The Sims one thing: Building a house can be pretty enjoyable. The best parts of Roller Coaster Tycoon, I recall, were when you were designing thrill rides and creating a smart layout for your park, and not when you were sitting back, watching your park rake in cash. Here, I received much entertainment out of building things. You can really spend hours at a time completely customizing your Sims' home. You know how you've always had a “dream house,” the ideal kind of place where you'd want to live? That's what I mean. The most fun I've had in The Sims came from the moments when I typed in the unlimited money code and just went crazy. (In fact, the only expansion sets that ever caught my attention were Hot Date and Vacation, because the idea of building restaurants, hotels and resorts intrigued me.)
But once that's over with, where do you go? Even conceptually open-ended games need to have some sort of objective or frame, some motivation to push the player forward. The Sims has no incentive, no goal, no outcome that you're trying to reach for. Your Sims never change, and they never grow. Nothing seems to happen for long periods of time, and after a while, you realize that nothing has changed, that you've invested so much and gazed sleepily at your Sims for nothing. The only thing worse than a boring game is a boring game with absolutely no payoff.
So what's the point of it all? I haven't the foggiest clue. Why I, or anyone for that matter, would want to sit back and watch while someone else lives out a rather boring life is one of gaming's great mysteries. I can slightly understand why the game is popular with non-gamers; it's very relatable subject matter, and the whole thing is very non-game-like (generally, non-gamers are attracted to such aforementioned “lifelike” experiences). But as a rather experienced gamer myself, well, I have better things to play. I don't need a videogame to tell me how boring real life is.
The Sims is far from the worst game I've ever played, but it's certainly one of the most pointless. (Hey, maybe the people behind Superman 64 had good intentions.) If I want to experience the bores and mundane events of real life, I simply need to wake up in the morning and make it through the day alive. I invested quite a bit of time in The Sims, hoping that I would be able to reach some sort of reward, some recognition for all of the time that I spent essentially doing nothing. Alas, The Sims has failed me, and I want my time back. I simply fail to see what entertainment can be derived from watching other people eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, work, and watch TV.
Now I know how God feels.
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