MORE MONEY MORE STUFF – The Sims as Representation of Capitalism

This is Part 1 of my blog series on The Sims – game analysis. See the overview of my project here, and project update here.

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The Sims, suggested even through its name, is a life simulation game. It is designed for players to replicate the contemporary world in their own creative way. But what kind of world are we living in? That is, arguably, a world of capitalistic culture and materialism and The Sims has been successful in replicating such a society.

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I started getting back into The Sims earlier in September to gather my thoughts on this topic as well as few others you’ll see coming in this series of blog posts. This time around, I’ve kept records of my insights and what I make out of the gameplay experience. Here are some excerpts relating to Capitalist Society topic

2nd Sep After designing my Sims, the first task is to view the house and decorate it with stuff. But, to make this my dream home, I’ll need a career! I have to quickly find a job in town to earn Simelions to buy cute clothes, to change my looks and to fill my house to earn Glam points

3rd Sep I’ve been pursuing a Career Story in ‘The Way of the Latte’ aka being a barista. You can choose the types of shift you want, the longer, obviously the more money and more experience. Since I completed a few standard shift, I’ve been promoted! Now I can work a bit faster.

Right off the bat, the traits of human advancement and capitalism is the main mechanics that drives the game. There is no grand goals or finishing line for these Sims, but rather they complete little stories about their career, relationships and hobbies. My Sims would go to bed to get her energy, eat, go to work, make money to cater for her relationship and hobby to back and eat and sleep again for the next day. I would find myself for hours trying to make money to buy that one red couch to complete a mission task, gaining experience +EXP to boost my level to expand my house just to find myself having to earn even more money to fill up such space. You eat, sleep, work and spend. You grind and grind more and more. It’s a vicious cycle of climbing the social ladder and becoming a ‘better version of yourself’. And what does that sound like to you? Capitalism.

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But I get hooked on it, though.

4rd Sep I help a birthday party for myself. I was weird that a party would go on for 11hrs (?!?). But I found out the long time is for everyone to get involved, socialize and do party tricks to boost up the level of the party. The higher the level, the bigger the prize everyone will get. Sadly, an apprentice Sims like me did not have many friends, we only managed to get the party to 2nd level and ended up with few Simelions and +EXP.

5th Sep Determined to host better parties, I work and work more to customize my Sims and my house to prepare for guests. I ended up spending $5 to spend on the Beginner’s Bargain Pack to get me some dollars, some household decors and clothes for my Sims.

Even a simple birthday party is an exchange value in Sims: the harder you party and spend your energy, the more you get rewarded. Partying is work. And it feeds to the boring grind that is doing little tasks. I didn’t enjoy my own party, when the Sims does her tricks or share food with people, though I was the one who commanded that action, I was not a part of it. I felt myself simple watching human figures making weird hand gestures.  But what I did engage in was the +EXP and +Starts that came out of those actions. One does play the Sims for the grind and the excitement of it, but one does for rewards and the stuff.

“The majority of hardcore sim players aren’t drawn to the game for its striving mechanical realism. For them, The Sims is a game of stuff, of thousands of polygons and textures.” – MARIAM NAZIRIPOUR, for Kill Screen

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Even the community The Sims has created right here on Tumblr represents this notion. The minority of so called Simblrs (Tumblr blogs dedicated to The Sims) is focused on telling stories: what their Sims do (most of the time, if it is, it’s usually an eccentric or unique storyline of remaking celebrities or pushing the limits of Sim’s humanity like vampire story or crazy sexualized Sims). The majority of Simblrs, are there for mods – altering the coding and essentially guided cheats. Hundreds and thousands of expansion packs are available widely on Tumblr for customizable clothings, themed furniture. One can find from a pack for a sex dungeon to an Ariana Grande Sims replica with these mods community. Which all goes to show how The Sims has been successful to capitalized on this notion of stuff by monetizing on customization.

However, a good note on the Sims though is its capitalistic features weirdlingly is spreading a message of equality. The game praises the grind and ignore all other factors that comes in a Sims: its gender, skin colour, appearance.

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“The Sims’ capitalist utopia is immune to the violent unpredictability of human nature. Institutionalized discrimination and irrational greed do not exist. The system is bizarrely fair and free of corruption. Everyone can find a job and reach the top with good, old-fashioned hard work” – MARIAM NAZIRIPOUR, for Kill Screen.

As long as you have the grind, you have the ability to do anything.

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