Contextual essay – It’s a Sim’s World Out there #BCM215

My Digital Artefact is a series of blog post (Tumblr, WordPress) exploring certain aspects of gameplay in the Sims. In particular, I explored two topics concerning the relationship between the Sims and its players:

  1. The Sims as representation of capitalism 
  2. The Sims – a personality-filled escapism 

In setting up the framework through which the Sims as a paratext is analysed, I based my 3 nodes as well as my approach on Mitew and Moore’s (2017) methods of exploring internet games. My approach was as follows: 

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This framework was applied to both of my topics, however not all modes were utilised in each study. I will, therefore, present my Digital Artefact in 2 parts for clarity and easy tracking. 

1.The Sims as representation of capitalism 

The Sims has been notorious for simulating a capitalistic society (Serrano, 2013) with its clear goal for earning money and gaining social levels. I myself has been caught in the whirl of money-making and even spent real dollars for Simonians and Sims stocks.

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In my blog post, I discovered the structural mechanism behind the Sims that allows for such capitalist-like Sims world: the constant missions and needs for money and experience in order to advance in the game and the inability to accommodate features that doesn’t follow the capitalism model (welfare, etc). The structural approach comes into play in my research as it argues that the normality of the Sims mechanism has an underlying notion of capitalism and the context in which the Sims was born.

Drawing heavily on my own experience, I look back at how my Sims game play reflects unique capitalistic traits, from its subtle money prizes to its career story as a necessity for character development. Through which process, the Sims appears to have an affect on its players. Affect as in the players’ unconscious reaction to the Sims experience before it was registered as emotions or feelings (concept drawn from Week 9 Lecture, Moore 2012). There is a precognitive tendency to move forward, completing missions and gain more money, more experience for a Sim before any other objectives can prevail. I found myself looking forward to special events and missions every time I log onto the Sims in order to advance my character’s stories. 

The process for this topic was mainly based on my field journal as the main resource as it is a crucial part of game analysis (Week Four Lecture)

2. The Sims – a personality-filled escapism 

For this topic, the post-structural and phenomenology approach was utilised to dissect one of the psychological aspects associated with digital games in general and with the Sims in particular – escapism. The concept is heavily discussed in media studies, especially with video games because of its ability to offer unlimited virtual possibilities that caters to every niche community (Calleja, 2010).  Modality and spatiality was the two nodes I found most related to this topic. Firstly, the Sim’s genre of sandbox and simulation game makes it a perfect gateway to recreate and take control of an alternative lives that people search for when trying to escape from reality. And the sociality of modding communities, forums and the level of customization as a post-structural emergence of the Sims keeps its players constantly engaged with the gameplay even when logged out of the game itself. I went from joining the Tumblr community to joining a Discord server to discuss about the Sims gameplay, which did not only provide me with extra resources in studying the Sims, but also kept me in the loop of the Sims world almost 24/7. 

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SimWorld Discord

The Sims structural mechanism works the same for everyone (creating characters and progressing to telling their stories through careers, relationships, hobbies,…), however it is built on one of the most complex video game AI. And this very structural base allows for varied post-structural experiences that is unique for each player. This is where the phenomenology approach comes into play as I set out to Tumblr and Reddit to gather responses of different players’ experiences with the Sims. The responses and my analysis was presented in my blog post.  The approach, as discussed in Week Four lecture, focuses on the human experience in their own bias subjectivity as well as in relation to the similarities to others. Placing this approach on a medium study, it is extremely interesting since it allows the researcher to discover the varied experiences drawn from a single medium to then reflect those experiences back to that medium’s attributes and significant mechanism.

This topic was inspired by the feedback loop I gotten from my pitch. In my first pitch, I mentioned briefly about a possible topic of the psychology behind Sims, and a lot of my peer commentators mentioned the projected personality and escapism as interesting topic that they would like to know more about.

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And along with my interaction and engagement with the Sims community, this blog post is an improvement from my previous since it caters to my audience’s interest and features evidences other than my own experience.

Iteration and Utility 

The main platform I have chosen to present my DA is Tumblr because of its Sims community. The modding culture on Tumblr is prevalent as the platform allows for an outlet of creativity and self-expression through Sims expansion packs, aesthetic screen captures and overall multi-media expansion of Sims game play. Although, the feedback loop on Tumblr is not as effective since Tumblr doesn’t allow direct commenting. In an attempt to fix this, I have made the blog post available on my personal WordPress to initiate audience engagement.

My pitch and beta also serves as valuable insights into what my peers (who also fall into my targeted audience) look for in a Sims analysis. From the content

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To the presentation and formation of my DA

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All of these comments were taken in and considered as I continue to iterate on my Sims series blog posts.

With this DA, the utility is two-fold. Firstly, for my targeted audience of Sims players, the DA provides a reflection and analysis of the Sims’ gameplay through which readers can gain more information and interesting insights into the Sim’s meaning-making process. Secondly, my DA has been my first step into analysing a media paratext. It has given me an opportunity of reflection and thinking critically of the media which I’m consuming and trying to make sense of my experience in the meaning-making process from a game play. This has been a journey of self-discovery as well as self-educating on the media culture, in particular the game media industry and it has opened up my interest for future deep-dive into media analysis.

Conclusion 

The Sims as a paratext of media study is a powerful source of information and discovery since it has established its own pedestal in modern media culture. Not only is it a compelling case-study for technological advancement but it’s also an avenue for the study of meaning-making through a media piece. The Sims is just one of numerous examples of digital game offering meaningful and profound insights into game media study in particular and media study in general.

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