March 1, 2013 by omar373
The video game The Sims is a strategy game that allows individuals to experience life simulation by playing out the roles of the members of a virtual family. It is what is sometimes referred to as a “free roam” or “sandbox” game, meaning that there are no established goals and rather the player is at liberty to follow his or her own direction as playing continues. Characters are thoroughly constructed through user customization, which gives the player even more liberty to do as they please. These liberties within a life simulation game often leave the player with the ability to live more exaggerated versions of their own lives that would otherwise be unreasonable or impossible. To make gameplay even more limitless, players have the ability to use certain cheat codes that give greater options to the lives of one’s “sims”. It can be argued that through the limitlessness set forth by the free roam genre of the game, enhanced by cheat codes and character customization, that players can use the characters to live more extreme or unrealistic versions of their own lives.
Creating a character in The Sims is the first point to entering the gameplay, and it serves as a chance for the player to establish a new virtual life where all desired characteristics could be placed into a new person. This includes physical appearance as well as personality traits, ambitions, and familial relations. The player has the ability to model these new lives after his or her own, or someone else that they wish to experience life as. The connection that a player feels with their new “sim” becomes similar to the relation between a creator and a creation. This is different from how a player may normally feel in a game where they are given little or no choice as to who they play the game as. In most games the player usually builds a bond with the main character or puts themselves in their shoes, but in the case of The Sims this bond becomes apparently larger as one conducts a wide range of activities through the body of their own personalized “sim”.
The actions that players can perform as their newly created sim allows them to relate to not only the character they have built, but to the things that they do. Once a new sim starts living in the virtual world, the options for activity are endless. They can seek social satisfaction, career success, monetary wealth, or personal achievements to name a few. The absence of a career mode means that the direction of the character is solely up to the player to create his or her own pathway towards “success”. Newman would argue that that players experience a connection to the game world solely through these actions and movements in space, known as vehicular embodiment (1). His theories are built to counter the idea that the players relate to the characters in the game. While it is true that a connection to the game is formed by the actions performed, games such as The Sims show how players connect to a character’s movements as a relation to themselves and their own actions.
When the player in The Sims is given the ability to conduct gameplay as they please, they are often left with the ability to live more exaggerated versions of their own lives. While gameplay in conducive to all sorts of activities, the struggle of obtaining certain achievements is still there. For instance, gaining monetary wealth takes a considerable amount of effort and time. Just as in life, the natural tendency in a life simulator is to want to experience the most, and cheat codes often allow the player to experience life as a sim to the fullest. A number of cheat codes facilitate this, including ones such as “more money”, “less bills”, “magic garbage bag” and “quicker relationships”. All of these give the player a quicker pathway towards their self created goals, and with them come the thrill of higher prosperity in some form. This human thrill that one feels when cheating in The Sims is evidence of an inevitable connection that one has with the character they play as, similar to the thrill one would have from finding a shortcut into prosperity.
The Sims gives players a glimpse into the world of complete life possibilities. It has been created to allow for the acting out of virtually any what if scenario in life. It disproves Newman’s theory that players connect to the game solely through the space movements of the characters within a virtual plane; while this may have been true of early games, the new free roam genre addresses a new level of human to character relativity in video games.
1. Newman, James. “The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame.” Games Studies 0102: The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame. By James Newman. The International Journal of Computer Game Research, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2013. <http://www.gamestudies.org/0102/newman/>.