Art and Entertainment

Paul Sakuma/AP
The Sims 3, an Electronic Arts game,
is seen on display at Best Buy in
Mountain View, Calif.

New “Sims” Videogame Released: Just Like Real Life, But Better

June 02, 2009 06:00 PM
by Rachel Balik
“Sims 3” appeared in stores this week, enabling players to create a perfect fake life for themselves in greater detail than ever before.

Frustrated by Real Life, Users Can Achieve Their Dreams on Sim 3

The highly anticipated “Sims 3” video game was released June 2, offering users a better version of real life. “The Sims” series presents a simulation of everyday life with few fancy gimmicks. Sims characters live in normal places and earn rewards like lifelong friends. But as the Chicago Tribune notes, users can create a life that is an improvement on the one they’re living. As video game experts observe, real-life activities that may seem boring, unimportant or unfruitful become exciting and productive in the context of a videogame that allows such powerful control over one’s environment.

Reviews point out that one of the better technological innovations of the game is a greater sense of a continuous landscape. In previous versions of the game, there was a significant lag when you switched locations; in “Sims 3,” you no longer have to wait for new places to load on your screen.

One particular attraction of the new version is greater flexibility in determining how a character looks and behaves. There are now a multitude of options to consider when choosing your avatar’s appearance and personality. A Gamespot writer, who got an early peek at the game last August, notes that in the previous edition, you had to choose a spot on several sliding scales to determine the personality of your character; now, users are allowed to pick five personality traits and set specific “lifetime achievement goals.” Characters also experience “moodlets”: small emotional reactions to good and bad events in the character’s life.

New York Times video game critic Seth Schiesel says that “Sims 3’s” greatest draw is that it allows users to revel in a “joyful embrace of the minutiae of daily middle-class life.” There is no alternate world with fantasy or science fictional trappings in “Sims 3.” It is essentially a perfect reflection of regular life, except that you have more control over how your life unfolds. Schiesel even suggests that creating your Sims avatar may lead to some healthy introspection about life goals and values.

Background: The Success of “The Sims”

The earlier two versions of “The Sims” have helped it become the highest-selling PC franchise; the company celebrated the sale of 100 million units in April 2008. President Nancy Smith attributed this success to the “open-ended creative freedom” offered in the game.

As such, the franchise has greater appeal to the female audience than other games. For those in the industry looking to improve their market share by seeking an audience beyond the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Madden” crowds, “The Sims” series sets a pretty high benchmark.

Related Topic: Blurring the Line Between Real and Virtual

Other software developers besides the creators of “The Sims” have made significant attempts to enhance the verisimilitude of the virtual environment. For example, the online game “Second Life” has helped to foster simulated “relationships” between people who may have real-life partners waiting for them at home. In response, a third-party software company, Eros LLC, developed an application that allows avatars to experience sex with one another in “Second Life.”

Some users become so emotionally invested in their virtual life, it can have a negative impact on their real one. In Japan, a woman hacked into a man’s account with the game “Maple Story” and terminated it after his avatar “divorced” hers. She was arrested and potentially faces jail time for her actions.

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