Game Raiders: “The Sims”

Welcome to the new sometimes-column Game Raiders, run by LD’s resident gamer girls, Courtney and Sasha. Our goal is two-part: to illuminate the mysterious shadow realm that is the gaming community, and to get fan-girly about something we love (be it the art, music, community, or the games themselves!) and hopefully make those aspects more accessible. Let us be your guides as we kick chickens, PWN bosses, sell you these fine leather jackets and make general mayhem from the comfort of our own couches. Let the games begin!

We’re starting out today with The Sims, a fantastic franchise with three installments to its name, and a fourth on the way!

Sasha: What was the first Sims you played, Courtney?
Courtney: I played Sims 1 back in the day, and after I played it at a friend’s house I begged my parents for a copy for Christmas. It was a major contributing factor to us getting a computer upgrade with a hard drive that had more than 8GB on it.
Sasha: Oh man, old skool.
Courtney: Yeah. I have since then steadfastly collected almost all of the games and expansions.
Sasha: I’m more of an upgrader. I played Sims 2, then sold it and all the expansions at a secondhand store so I could afford the Sims 3.
Courtney: I get hit by nostalgia too much to do that. Did you ever play Sims 1?
Sasha: I didn’t. I don’t even think it was on my radar when it came out back in 2000.
Courtney: Which is your favorite incarnation of the Sims that you’ve played?
Sasha: I have to say 3.
Courtney: Me too. But I always wanted to play Urbz when I was little, but I didn’t have a console till I was 16 or 17.
Sasha: A lot of the things I liked about 2’s expansions were built into the main game of 3. A big feature of The Sims that goes with their slogan, “Play with Life,” is that you get to play your Sim from the time they’re a Baby, through life stages Toddler, Child, Adult and Elder. Moving into each age group is celebrated with a birthday! Mazel tov! In Sims 2 University you unlock an optional “young adult” age group that only applies to Sims who go to college. In 3, “Young Adult” happens in base game whether you go to college or not.
Courtney: And I’m personally just happy you can now put objects on diagonals… nevermind aging. I hate when you can only place things horizontal or vertical, it makes everything look really boxy and square. So I’m easy to please.
Sasha: Yeah, diagonals were a good choice. Seamless neighborhoods, too.
Courtney: Is it bad that I kind of like the expansions more than the main games? For all of the games in the series?
Sasha: I don’t think that’s bad. That’s why they release them. They have a whole online store regularly updated with game accessories and digital downloads so there’s always something new (and always a new way to give Maxis/EA your money). What are some of your favorite expansions?
Courtney: Hmm, tough question. I always love the pet expansions, because even in video games I like animals better than people. But in the first series I loved the “Superstar” and “Magic” expansions, from the second I really enjoyed “Open for Business” and “Nightlife.” For Sims 3, I love “Supernatural” with all the new life stages and playing as werewolves! And “World Adventures” because I love being able to explore the other Sim countries and send my Sims on quests and adventures, but I think WA will be replaced by “Island Paradise” if I’m ever not poor again and can afford it. Because mermaids. Which are your favorites?
Sasha: “Open for Business” was good in 2, but what’s the equivalent in 3? “Ambitions?” Not as good in comparison. There was this great feature in “Open for Business” where you could own and manage businesses all over town, as well as hire and fire employees over the phone.
Courtney: I feel like there wasn’t really an equivalent for that in 3, which bummed me out but yeah, Ambitions is closest.
Sasha: I haven’t played all the expansions for 3, but “Supernatural” is definitely up there, and maybe “WA,” too. The really, really aggravating thing about “Supernatural” is the random zombies. I actually went to and downloaded a user fix that limits the zombies because they were eating all my gardens. No bueno.
Courtney: There was this ghost that kept killing my trees in Champs le Sims in Supes and it wouldn’t let me exorcise it or call ghostbusters.
Sasha: Sounds like a bug…
Courtney: I think it was just poor design.
Sasha: Or a really, really persistent ghost.
If people have gotten this far with our discussion, they’re probably wondering what all this business is… exorcising ghosts, random zombies… and hey, did you ever find the unicorns in “Pets?”
Courtney: In Sims 3, yes, I’m trying to tame it!
Sasha: But I think that speaks to the fun of The Sims… you can do almost anything. You can build the house, decorate it, design the Sim that lives in it, and control every aspect of their incredibly detailed life. If you downloaded the Sims World Creator, you can even make the environments your neighborhoods exist in from scratch with a 3D terrain modeler.
Courtney: I really want to use the time travel feature in the last Sims 3 expansion, personally.
Sasha: What does time travel do?
Courtney: You can go INTO THE FUTURE!
Sasha: WHA…? Can you go…BACK to the future?
Courtney: If you like, yes, you can Doc Brown.
Sasha: Wheee! I think to really enjoy the Sims, you have to have a little bit of a God complex. Not as much as in a game like GODUS, where you are literally a god, but… you know, at least a smidge.
Courtney: Yeah, but I also think that’s a big part of why it’s so popular, because A LOT of people have a god complex.
Sasha: It’s a game for control freaks, such as myself.
Courtney: But at the same time, it’s a giant sandbox with optional directives.
Sasha: But here’s something that weirds me out: When people make neighborhoods of Sims based on people they actually know. They’ll model the Sims to look like their friends, their boyfriend, themselves… THAT weirds me out a little. I tried it, couldn’t handle it, killed them all off in a massive culling. Mostly by locking the doors of the rooms they were in until they starved or played with the fireplace too much. Sims are stupid.
Courtney: I make Sims of fictional characters.
Sasha: Fictional characters, OK. Even celebrities.
Courtney: But in all seriousness, I did have a Totally Spies! neighborhood in the Sims 1. And considered making a version of me in the Sims 3 to meet a Noel Fielding Sim, but then dismissed that as being way too creepy. Also possibly grounds to get me on an NSA/Psychopathic watch list.
Courtney: They should pay us to play Sims 4…
Sasha: It’s coming out sometime later this year, right? Something to look forward to.
Courtney: It’s supposed to be out in fall. They pushed back the date; it was supposed to be May originally, I believe. I’m not sure if I’m excited for it though. It doesn’t have that “one big draw” feature that 2 and 3 did. 2 was the VASTLY updated and improved graphics and character creation, and 3 was seamless neighborhoods.
Sasha: Supposedly there are more options for how your Sims interact? And they’re even more customizable.
Courtney: The only new features they’ve come out with so far that I’ve heard about is multi-tasking, which they’ve told us we’d get since Sims 2 so I’m not that hopeful. I read something about “emotional based interaction” or something is that what you’re referring to?
Sasha: Here’s the official page. It says you can “Customize your Sims’ appearances, personalities, aspirations, walk styles, and even their relationship to others.” Also the build tools look much more intuitive.
Courtney: I rarely use the build tools. All my houses look like boxes.
Sasha: Haha, well, I’ve played with it enough to increase my skill… SEE WHAT I DID THERE??
Courtney: YES,I SEE YOU, DORK.
Sasha: I’m interested to see how the “emotional” aspect plays out.
Courtney: I’m not sure about that. I mean they’ve had the “moodlets” in 3 which I thought were supposed to be emotions. Like if your Sim set themselves on fire they were (obviously) unhappy and had a “burned” moodlet, which took away from their overall happy meter until it wore off. Or they’d get a duck moodlet from taking a bath with a rubber duck and that made them happy.
Sasha: But all your Sims respond to moments with the same moodlets, unless they have a characteristic that makes them react specifically differently. If when you create your Sim, you give them the characteristic “Never nude,” and then force them to go skinny dipping, they’re going to respond much more negatively than a Sim without that trait. Now imagine there were multiple moodlets depending on your Sim’s personality. Maybe that’s what they mean?
Courtney: I guess? That could definitely be interesting.
Sasha: But also complicated. That’s one thing that’s gotten me down about playing the Sims.
Courtney: Even though they don’t age, there’s SO MUCH TO DO.
Sasha: You have to micromanage everything. It’s overwhelming. I can’t even handle my own life schedule. Now there’s a neighborhood of needy virtual people to deal with. Well, it seems what to expect in 4 is still a little bit of a mystery.
Courtney: Which is kind of disappointing. I mean how can you build up hype when you don’t know what you’re hyping about?
Sasha: If nothing else, The Sims has a hugely loyal fanbase, and I’m sure they won’t abandon the franchise no matter what.
Courtney: Which is a good thing. Despite not knowing a lot, I am quite curious to see what 4 will be like. So I guess I’m in that loyal fanbase section
Sasha: I know I’m not selling off all of 3 to get 4, though. But that is because I am now an adult, and can make adult decisions. Like playing with virtual people in a virtual town for multiple hours at a time. Well, next time we’ll be talking about fantasy games and character classes.
Courtney: Wooo!
Sasha: So check that out.

Join us next time on Game Raiders, when we’ll be talking about fantasy games, or more specifically, fantasy classes. Are you a back-stabbing rogue? A magical healer? Maybe you’re just into smashing the world with terrific muscles or gargantuan swords! Check out what we have to say about the fantasy class systems we love, hate, and love to hate in our upcoming installment of Game Raiders.

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