I’ve played The Sims since the beginning. I was always a fan of the other Sim titles, most notably Sim City. I also played Sim Tower quite a bit and tried many of the others. However, I always came back to Sim City. In fact, one of the first games I downloaded for my phone was the Sim City game. I still play it almost daily.
When I heard that they were going to release a game that focused on the strange speaking denizens of those cities, I was excited. There’s just something about being in charge of virtual lives that appeals to me. I owned a Furby and Tomagachi. heck, I even got sucked into that silly “Chao World” mini game for Sonic Adventure.
In preparation for the relaunch of Noob and Sons, I played the latest version of the game, The Sims 4. The boys played a lot of it last year and over Christmas break. I wanted to take advantage of that interest to do our first show back on role playing. I also wanted to see what advances they’ve made in Sims technology.
Customization: As soon as I started the game, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices it gives you for characters. The game was always about letting you choose how your character looked and giving him or her a personality to match. However, they have taken that to the extreme in this game. You can change every aspect of your Sim’s looks and that isn’t an exaggeration. I spent about a half an hour just exploring the character creation screen before even playing the game.
Helpful Tips: No game is complete anymore without a tutorial section. Ever since developers realized that nobody reads directions and got sick of email, DMS, and tweets asking them how to play their games, they’ve simply programmed the first 5-10 minutes of the game to be about how to play the game. The Sims are less intrusive than most games and they just have helpful tips that pop up every now and then to remind you what you’re doing just might cause your Sim to die by some horrific way or another.
An iPhone for Every Sim: Back in my day, you had to wait for a paper or not build a toilet in your house (because a mop was free) so that you could afford a computer to search for jobs. Not so anymore. In keeping with the times, your Sim has a smart phone that they can use to find a job. Furthermore, you are no longer limited to one or three jobs depending on your method of finding one. Now, you can choose from an array of jobs right from the start, so you can get right to improving your Sim’s life.
Other Quality of (Simulated) Life Enhancements: As you go along and do things, you gain access to new skills that you can then train up like normal. For instance, the other day, I sent my Sim out to trim a flower or something and she gained the gardening skill. I now assume that I have to continue to do things to improve that skill as I do normally, but I’m not sure what those things are yet. Even so, it is fun to have those Easter eggs that pop up simply from going through your day as a pretend human being. Sort of makes me wish things like that happened in real life.
Upgrade From “Live” Mode: Again, it used to be that you had to open a whole new mode if you wanted to upgrade your bed, toilet (once you upgraded the first time from a mop), or dishwasher. Now, if you right click on the object, the menu will give you the option to upgrade the item. I haven’t tried it yet to see if it still takes you into the “build” mode to do so. But, just being able to click the item and not having to search through the “build” mode menu is a great upgrade to the game experience.
The Sims Resource?: All this discussion of items, upgrading, and building new things made me think of one of the reasons that I enjoyed The Sims 2 so much and maybe didn’t like The Sims 3 (or at least, I didn’t see a reason to upgrade the number), is that there was this great resource (pun fully intended) web page that allowed you to download new things for the game. I went to search for it and it is still there. But, I think that Maxis might have built something right into the game that allows people to mod items. I kept getting a notification the other day when I played, but I didn’t follow up on any of them to see if that’s actually what it is. I will have to play again and verify before we record so I don’t sound like a total moron. Well, no more than usual.
No Needs? (Oh, there they are): One of the most fun things about The Sims is that they are driven by 6 basic needs. You have to balance the day so that all of the needs get met. Otherwise your Sim becomes unhappy or even dead. Admittedly, there is some perverse pleasure in intentionally killing your Sim in increasingly more violent and ridiculous ways. But, that comes later after you’re bored of them and ready for a change. Until then, you want to keep them alive and happy.
At first, I thought they might have gotten rid of that part of the game. As it was such an integral part, I wondered how that might work and how the game would be any good. Why eat if you don’t have to eat? Why sleep if you aren’t tired? Then, I noticed that things were still affecting my Sim, so I thought that maybe they had hidden them from people to make you pay more attention to your Sim and his/her actions. Turns out that it just was hidden as a menu option where I didn’t expect it. So, only bad for a brief period of time, but it did make me question my purchase for that time.
Food costs money?: This might have started with The Sims 2, but I don’t remember at this point. All I know is that I was shocked to open the fridge and see that I had to pay money to buy the food to cook it. Furthermore, I couldn’t even make some dishes because I didn’t have the proper ingredients and I have no idea how to go about getting those ingredients. So, my poor Sim has nothing to eat aside from grilled cheese and cereal.
Being Bad Has Consequences: I’m not talking about Jessica Rabbit “bad”, though that might have consequences, too. I don’t have enough Sim friends nor a boyfriend to see if talking bad about them behind their backs or lying/cheating on your significant other will actually affect your Sim or their mood. However, if you do something terribly, then it will affect your Sim. For instance, my Sim cooked a bad meal and was in a funk for a few hours. Another time, she slept weird in her bed and was off the next day. These are cool little touches that make the game more interesting.
At the end of the day, it’s still simulated human life. And, I think that we can all agree that real life isn’t all that great to begin with. You wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, maybe have an hour or two to yourself, go to bed, rinse, and repeat until you go crazy out of boredom or go through a mid life crisis. Which, I guess, is just a reaction to 35-40 years of a boring life. So, honestly, how much more exciting can they make simulated life? The answer, unfortunately, is not more exciting at all.
Not much has happened in Simsville over the years. Everything that was great about the games is still great about the games. There have been some quality of life improvements, but most of the parts of the game that weren’t fun still aren’t fun. Life, as we all too often learn, just isn’t as amazing as the magazines and social media profiles of jet setting young trust fund babies would have us believe. It’s mostly just going to work so you can afford to buy a toilet and don’t have to pee your pants any more.
I still love and enjoy the game. The boys, when the mood strikes them, will play for hours and laugh and giggle as their Sims do silly things that they’d never consider doing. Wait until their older and the realize that is happiness sucking, soul crushing life and the Sims are closer to reality than they ever expected.
Okay, I don’t want to end this on a downer, but I also don’t want to ruin the joke. I don’t care as much about the joke as I do about keeping things positive, so here goes. I will continue to play the heck out of The Sims 4. I haven’t gotten as into it as I was when I was younger, but that’s mostly because I’m older now and free time is much less abundant than it once was. However, I’d like to follow a Sim family through several generations and see where that leads. Coming Soon to Hulu?: Pinky’s Family!