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The Sims In The News

Thursday, October 19, 2000 - 23:10

The Miami Herald just caught on to The Sims. Check out this story from Friday's issue!

Go To Miami Herald story


Published Friday, October 13, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Living with the Sims

Addictive game lets players raise a family, direct the soap opera they create

MADELINE BARO DIAZ
mbaro@herald.com

The trimmed trees, manicured lawns and picket fences cover up the seedy underbelly of the neighborhood.

Take Evert Torres, a single dad and aspiring politician who persuaded housewife Bella Goth to leave her husband and daughter and move in with him and his daughter, Reese. Bella, who got a chilly reception from Reese, embarked on a medical career. Evert took advantage of Bella's night job to cozy up to single neighbor Gigi Rodriguez, who turned down several of his marriage proposals and ended up marrying Mortimer Goth, Bella's original husband.

They're not real people. They're not even TV characters. Evert, Bella and the rest are Sims who live in a made-up neighborhood in a computer game.

The Sims is an addictive and popular game by the creator of SimCity, in which players create characters, move them into homes and spend hour after hour, day after day, trying to keep them happy -- controlling everything from how they decorate their homes to when they use the toilet.

The original game was released in February and has consistently been on the Top 10 list of bestselling games. An expansion pack, Livin' Large, which allows characters to bargain with the Grim Reaper, be abducted by aliens and concoct Jekyll-and-Hyde type potions, hit stores last month.

Where predecessors like city-building simulator Sim City were akin to model train sets, The Sims is like a dollhouse, according to Will Wright, designer of the Sim series of games.

In The Sims, players create families (choosing gender, skin tone, head, clothes and personality) to populate their neighborhoods.

Family is a loose term meant to describe a household. A family can be a bachelor living alone, parents and kids, or any combination players invented. . In fact, family relationships are partially in the players' imaginations since it's up to them to determine how the Sims interact.

The game was deliberately designed that way, Wright said. When the Sims talk to each other, for example, they speak their own language and players must fill in the blanks.

"We're simulating these people kind of halfway on the computer and halfway in the player's mind," Wright said.

SIMS' NEEDS

Playing the game means filling your Sims' needs, which are measured by hygiene, hunger, fun, energy and other categories. (There's a meter, or gauge, for each of those categories that you have to update regularly; for example, making sure they're fed daily.)

Socializing is a big part of the game, too. Sims have to make friends with the neighbors in order to get some job promotions, and can marry neighbors or ask them to move in.

As in real life, the suburbanite Sims get to pick careers and if they miss too many days at their jobs they get fired.

The Sims pursue the American dream, wanting bigger and better stuff to place in their homes. The more expensive the item, the more pleasure the Sims get out of it.

Jason Ocampo, a news editor for CNet Gamecenter.com, who logged about 100 hours of Sims time before going cold turkey, says the materialistic undertone of the game might be the one negative, though he points out it's a reflection of society. "It does present the materialistic side of life... but is that the game's fault or our fault?" he said.

Wright says the game is actually a parody of materialism, since Sims who stock their homes full of top-of-the-line Sim gadgets will find that the gadgets break down and they'll be constantly fixing them or calling a repairs shop.

"The whole materialistic side and the way the relationships work are exaggerated on purpose to a ridiculous extreme," he said.

WHY IT'S ADDICTIVE

As with SimCity and Wright's other games, SimEarth, SimTower, etc., there's no way to win at The Sims and Wright says it's the open-ended aspect that keeps people playing.

"It's a platform for your creativity, unlike a lot of games, which are a string of puzzles to be solved," Wright said.

Creative is a mild term when describing Sims fans. Players have set up their own websites dedicated to The Sims, many of them with player-created "skins" that make the Sims look like celebrities and comic book characters, or will add to their wardrobes and decorating choices. PG-rated sites are on the official site of Maxis, the game's developer.

Randy Hillman, 19, a sophomore at Villanova University, and fellow student Rebecca Settle, have a site, www.geocities.com/siskelandsimbert, where their alter egos Sims, Siskel and Simbert, review Sims fan sites with a thumbs up/thumbs down rating system.

Hillman got the game in March and stayed up two or three days straight, skipping some classes, when he first played it.

VICARIOUS PLEASURE

"It's the God factor," he said. "I can control every little thing. I can totally screw them up or I can help them do really well."

Some fans, like Chyrel McWilliams, a Web designer in Philadelphia, say the game is like no-strings-attached parenthood. Her boyfriend, Mike Rudy, gave her the game for her birthday and their Sims now hawk clothes, homes and other items for download on their Sims Stuff website http://63.238.78.1/horizon-nmcom/html/simsstuff/
index.asp.

"I guess it's just the challenge of taking care of someone else," McWilliams said. On "The Diary of a Sim" website, www.thediaryofasim.net, players have posted first-person accounts of their Sims' daily lives. "The non-Sim fans think it is odd that I spend time working on my website so much and love a game where I can control little people," said Kristian Evensen, a 16-year-old in Norway who created the site.

Of course, the Sim universe isn't complete yet. Next up is SimsVille, scheduled for release in 2001, which combines elements of SimCity and The Sims. Wright is also working on an online version of The Sims where players will control one Sim who interacts with neighbors controlled by other players.

But Ocampo believes The Sims could end up in the same league as SimCity, which is considered one of the best computer games ever.

"I think it's going to be one of the great games," he said.

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