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It’s been an interesting progress getting back into Sims again and being a new player. This project has made me view the game so differently and change the way I view a piece of media. To fully understand a piece of game media, it requires more than the game’s content and its ideological, but it’s also about “the context of their production, play, and wider circulation within popular culture” (Moore, 2012).
(Source: Ricky Setiawan)
I talked in my first blog post about how The Sims is a sandbox game, however the more I engage with the gameplay, the more I realize that The Sims is more than that. Categorizing a game into a genre is more than considering how the player interacts with the game, but it’s also about the very platform and technology the game is built on. It’s about the people behind the game as well (discussed in Week 5 Lecture, Moore). Will Wright, the creator of the Sims, had his inspiration for the game after losing a home (Taylor, 2011). His house was the first to burn in the Oakland – Berkeley Firestorm, and “the process of assessing his losses and material needs after his home burned down set Wright to thinking about the value of possessions and the promise they hold of fulfilment” (Taylor, 2011). The sudden loss made him step back and reflect on what life consists of. When he had to start again, he thought to himself of how life is like a project in the making.
The Sims, as suggested in the name, is also a simulation. It’s designed to recreate the daily activities that one encounters in everyday life: work, eat, sleep, socialize. The actions in the Sims, though some may have a comedic element, are all relatable. While a typical sandbox game, such as Minecraft, lets you to be free of doing virtually anything. The Sims let you have that kind of freedom (with customization, modding) while setting boundaries on the simulation platform it is created upon.
This brings me to another aspect to look at the Sims, which is Platform studies. It’s “a sub-field of media and games studies that builds on the material approach of media archaeology” along with a humanistic approach argued by Monfort and Bogot (as discussed in week 4 lecture, Moore). With the Sims, it’s worth noting that it’s designed by Maxis studio in California. Hence its elements of simulation clearly reflects where it was created: a vibrant, dynamic, and most importantly, capitalist-driven community.
Huntress X Thompson, a game media Youtuber made a compelling theory of the Sims is actually a representation of a Capitalist Utopia. For example, for a mod to be encrypted for the game to provide Welfare to unemployed Sims, there are numerous restrictions and alterations needed to be made to override the capitalist nature of the game. Maybe it wasn’t in Wright’s intention to create such capitalist utopia, but rather it’s a product of how and where the game’s elements was built and developed.
Here’s another great read about the Sims and its rhetoric. It discovers how gameplay, especially in the Sims, entails procedural model of systems and representations of ordinary world based on Ian Bogost’s The Rhetoric of Video Games.
Sidenote, I would like to give a little shoutout to Colestia, an indie gamedev based in Canberra who created Post Capitalism, a game which denies the Sim’s culture of “more and more” and seeks to discover the weak links in capitalism and replacing them with alternatives to create a functional socialist society.
If you’re interested in sharing your Sims experience (I would love some more insights), please feel free to catch me anywhere: