“The Sims”: Ten Years Later

February 4, 2010 by  

February 4th, 2000. I was working at Amazon.com, and I had a really awful day shift that had me working on Saturdays. Since I was typically bored on Saturday nights because I had no real social life that comes to mind immediately, I would head out to the Christiana Mall in Christiana, Delaware (a real tourist trap). Truth be told, I would splurge. Once I got a DVD player later that year, it’d be worse. But for now, I had a Dreamcast, I had a fairly decent PC, and I had extra cash since I never really went anywhere and still lived at home. I’d make weekly trips to the Electronics Boutique (rememer those?! Yeah they’re called GameStop now) and check out new PC and Dreamcast titles. Dreamcast titles were rare. That’s one of the reasons it never really took off.

“What games do you have? Oh yeah. The same 5 from last year. Okay.”

But sometime in January of 2000, I remember seeing a big display for a game “Coming in February” called “The Sims”. From Will Wright, the creator of “Sim City”, this game would basically be a virtual dollhouse in which you create people, families and put them in houses and have them get jobs and live lives, get rich, get bigger houses, etc.

I have no idea why, but for some reason this post-adolescent male was salivating at the prospect. I remember walking in on the day it came out, and picking up a copy. When I got home, I loaded it up and started playing.

The first thing I really liked about it was the interface. It was like a role playing game. You could edit your character to make him or her look like you, and give them personality traits. It followed a personality bar that was ruled by the zodiac signs. Depending on what you were (how tidy you were, how irritable, etc.) it would tell you what sign you were. This would help in choosing roommates, or mates in general. If you were to be an Aquarius, you probably didn’t want to room with a Scorpio, for instance. There was a guide telling you who was compatible with whom so it made it easier to understand what you were ultimately dealing with. You could also pick what age you wanted to be. So if you wanted to be a bratty little kid, go crazy. If you wanted to be a crotchety old man, do your worst. I liked that aspect, too. But if you were going to be a kid you had to have an adult in the house, if I recall correctly.

Then it was time to build your house. Now, you could pick an already built house, or you could build your own. Obviously building your own could cost more but if you wanted something that you designed, you were free to do it. You start off with a little bit of money to be able to put yourself in a house but you really don’t get to buy the finer things–yet. Once you’re in a house, it’s time to look for a job. There were a few ways of doing this:

Every day a newspaper would arrive at your house. You could look through there. You also, if you had bought one, could call using your phone to see if there was anything available. If you had the money, you could also buy a computer and look for a job through that.

While you were gone, there was a possibility of getting robbed. I didn’t know this until it happened to me; and then realized I had to buy an alarm. At the time, though, the burglar didn’t have much to steal. But it made me realize that even in simulated life, security matters!

Now I won’t go into a whole lot else of the details because the game’s been around for 10 years. If you don’t know what The Sims is by now, you should crawl back under that rock that you’ve been living under–and for God’s sake clean the damn thing. You’re covered in fungi.

I will tell you how obsessed I became with it, however.

First of all, I actually learned how to play some of the Build music. I’m not talking about the flowery, blustery stuff that you heard while buying things. I’m talking about the moody, lonely piano music that accompanied you while you were in “Build” mode. I loved that music. I loved it so much I made a CD that had all of the piano music on it, including some of the music from the Sims Jukebox that you can buy (includes surfer music, classical, etc.).

I also learned some of the Sims’ language, probably the funniest thing about the game itself. It’s all nonsensical and neanderthal, but it’s fun to mimic. I can imagine the voice actors having some fun while recording this. I liked how it was all tone that mattered, not what you said. It made me think, this is probably how an animal hears us when we talk–has no idea what we’re saying but knows by our tone what we mean. Same with a baby, who doesn’t understand language yet.

What “The Sims” did was take a very simple premise and capitalize on everything you possibly could with it. It covered many aspects of life that we go through daily and made it fun. I enjoyed watching my Sim eat, clean up, engage people in conversation, and fall in love.

Ah, serenades...nabatalalbarahda! Cottycohnhein!

Ah, serenades...nabatalalbarahda! Cottycohnhein!

And yes. I have a sadistic side. And sometimes it was amusing to watch your Sim die. Hey…they came back as ghosts sometimes and haunted new residents. Now THAT’S comedy!

Stop looking at me like that. You know you did the same thing.

I was extremely addicted to this game for a good 3-4 years before finally hanging up the simlife cleats. I bought every expansion pack up until “Hot Date”, only because I couldn’t justify continuing to spend more and more money on a game that only caused me to grow more introverted and detached from real life. I got to the point where I wanted to BE a Sim. I wanted to live in that world. I’d create people I knew and begin friendships with them. I’d create girls I wanted to date and DATE THEM! I peed in empty milk bottles and set them aside in my room, and grew a long beard and never went outside.

Stop looking at me like that. You know you did the same thing.

In any event, yes, I think anyone who played this game knows what I mean when I say that this game was like a second life (before there was “Second Life” of course). You didn’t just play this game for like a half an hour once a week. You played this game for 12 hours a day if you could justify it, and I think one day I did spend a collective 8 hours playing. The reason it was so addictive is because of how progressive it was. You wanted to see your Sim develop. I wanted one Sim to become a great pianist. So I spent hours just having him keep practicing. Or I wanted my Sim to have that great big house, so I kept making him work (I didn’t do the cheat code thing) until he could afford it.

There are parties, then there are Sims parties.

There are parties, then there are Sims parties.

And yes…I had a LOT of fun playing around with The Goths. I mean, how could you not? They were so WEIRD. And they were real jerks, too. They were extremely hard to get along with. But I loved their house. And in a way, I loved them. I saw the good in them.

I didn’t make it to “Sims 2” or even “Sims Online”. I eventually actually got bored with it. Once you’ve seen what you can do, and push the game to its limits creatively, it kind of becomes like a re-run when you try and do it all over again. Maybe there were mini games or something I was missing but I just didn’t have the patience or want to make time for it anymore.

Besides, I’d grown to become quite affectionate for RTS games by this time anyway. “Civilization III” and “Empire Earth” became my new “Sims”. No more wasting my time playing Dollhouse. I mean that was for when we were six and seven years old, right guys? Exactly. It was time to grow up. And CONQUER THE EARTH!

But sometimes I’ll walk around somewhere public, like a mall, and just envision everyone with green diamonds over their heads, and laugh a little.

I just  want to click on them to see what happens.

Stop looking at me like that. You know you want to do the same thing. In fact you probably want to do worse, you weirdo. Get out of my house.

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