Sim vs. Sim

The girls and I have fallen into the Sim trap.  I’ve  been there before (way back in the early 90’s) but this is their first real foray into the mind numbing riptide of Simmese.  That said this has prompted much discussion about the Sims and what the makers could have done better.

The Sims 3 Screenshot

In the past we have loved several Sim-like games including all of the Animal Crossings, all of the My Sims games, and several Harvest Moons  and while we are enjoying The Sims 3 it is missing something that those games have.  In fact recently I was playing Walk It Out and realized what it was that was missing.


The Sims is lovely in the same way school pictures are lovely.  It is missing  panache, character, that extra something.  Sure the Simmese language and their little mannerisms are cute but artistically speaking the game is boring.  The characters could easily fit in the stands of one of EA’s sports games without a hitch (how dull is that, really?)

The Sims 3 Screenshot
Or this:
MySims Screenshot

While I enjoy playing The Sims I LOVED playing My Sims.  The adorableness of the characters drew me in (plus building things was fun.)  If they made The Sims using the My Sims characeters I would spend most of my free time playing.  Maybe that would be a bad thing.  No, EA definitely shouldn’t do that.

Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility Screenshot
The same is true of  Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon.   I have never deliberately deleted a character in any of those games and I have already deleted several Sims because they were getting on my nerves.  (I have however deleted several by mistake due to Harvest Moon’s sometimes stupid saving interface.  In fact I mistakenly saved over my 50 note, pregnant character with my daughter’s 15 music note character in Magical melody. ARRGGGHHH )  Both of those series have gotten tons of play by all of us and are ones we go back to again and again.  We go back because they are fun to play and interesting with tons of variety in game play,  and are fun to look at.  The Sims brings us back because we are obsessing, not because it is necessarily “fun” and definitely not because of the style.
Walk it Out Screenshot
If you remember, back at the beginning, I mentioned that Walk It Out was what drove the point home for me.  I realized while walking my 3rd mile (because there was this one section that I HAD. TO. FILL. IN. that I would LOVE to play a Sims like game using the Walk It Out world and characters.  I adore the blue haired chick that does my walking for me.  The island itself is cute and interesting even though the styling is much more realistic than the characters.  There is plenty of variety to keep me coming back.  If The Sims were more like that, more adorable and more stylized I would certainly enjoy it more.  Frankly, even if they just made the same basic game but using the My Sims world I would lose a lot more of my day to the game (and the kids would get a lot less turns– go play outside, it’s Mom’s turn at the computer).

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mari
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 15:45:16

    I think my issue with The Sims is a combination of the lack of – style? and the lack of – point. It’s a great house designer. It can occasionally be a fun torture chamber for creepy-looking Barbie dolls. But every time I try to just sit down and create a family and make them live a “normal” life I find myself rapidly thinking, “What’s the point?? I have more money than God, have climbed to the top of the career ladder, fulfilled my lifelong ambitions. The only thing left to do is amass more pointless STUFF.”

    Plus I have a philosophical difference with the inherent premise that apparently all Sims buy stuff on credit. Buy more stuff? “Bills” go up. When I buy a new sofa it has absolutely no effect on anything besides looking pretty in my home and making a one-time dent in my savings account. My electric, water, gas, and mortgage stay exactly the same. My house doesn’t run on credit. I’m teaching my kids not to run on credit. But my VIDEO GAME PEOPLE run on credit? No thanks.


    • Heather
      Apr 15, 2011 @ 10:30:18

      Exactly. I deleted my first because she got old and I was just bored with her. Played again thinking maybe I would try something different but with my personality I always end up making the same thing and have a hard time making a character who goes against my nature– so boring. The kids say I play very scientifically– I want to maximize each day and fill it in as much as possible (NOT how I am in real life) so I find the perfect rhythm and stick with it. I think if I were SP I would have a lot more fun with that sort of thing.

      Hmmm, I hadn’t noticed the “living on credit” thing. I think maybe you are right. I did have them come take some furniture because I didn’t pay my bills. GAH! You ARE right. Well, the kids haven’t noticed it so I won’t worry about that. We don’t do debt either–stuck with my college loan and the mortgage but everything else is cash. GRrrrr.

      I am done with The Sims already–stupid no point time sucking game. Played Hoard last night and LOVED it (except for the wonky controls–gonna try the xbox controller when I play later.) The kids have pretty much moved on though Essie has discovered all kinds of interesting things that you can do with the game– she loves designing houses and found out she could be an interior designer which lets her focus completely on her favorite part of the game. (I also fully intend to track down our copy of my sims and start a new game– THAT was a fun little game even if they did dumb it down too much.


  2. krellen
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 09:46:06

    Looking at those screen shots, my immediate reflection is that it looks like The Sims fell victim to the “realism” trap in graphics these days; they opted for as-close-to-photo-realistic as they could get, and gave up on style altogether.

    I think game designers need to hire a few less programmers, and use that money to hire actual artists (both visual and, where appropriate, literary).


  3. SpammyV
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 15:51:03

    Personally I find a lot of games(not just sandbox) fall into what I call an “itch” trap. Get them, play the everlovin’ love out of them, set them aside. So for me it was The Sims 2. I used to nuttily involved in that game and spent hours building houses, making Sims, painstakingly micromanaging their lives. Then I got over it, every now and then think, “Man it’d be nice to play Sims 2 again.” Strategy games also fall into this trap. Has nothing to do with the fact that I’m not a pro player and most of my map level strategy falls apart at the mid game. NOTHING AT ALL. Also with Pokemon, I tend to play it in spurts. Put in a few dozen hours, set it aside for a months, then I feel that itch again and the next thing I know I’ve beaten the Elite 4.

    So, I agree on the sentiment that they could spend more time adding style and flair to The Sims, but ya know… I think I got my forty bucks out of Sims 2. Plus ten more with the Pets add on. And that’s what matters, iddinit?


    • Heather
      Apr 17, 2011 @ 08:10:02

      Sure. I am sure the kids have gotten more than their money’s worth out of it and you are free to enjoy it as much as you like without my permission. 🙂 And there are obviously quite a lot of people who love the game which is fine.

      I am just saying that it disappoints me to realize that it is more time sink than anything else and that there are so many other games out there that do it SO much better.


  4. Hatt
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 01:33:10

    Something I noticed in your comments about repeated Sim deletion – there’s seems to be a certain detachment from the action. The Sim’s aren’t really characters in their own right, their… Sims. Autonomous beings you routinely interact with, rather than directly control. Lacking personal attachment, one Sim is no different from another. And so, little is lost when one is deleted. Compared with Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing, you’re in direct control of the character. You decide what they do on a given day and who they interact with. They kind of organically grow on you – given personality by what they do in the game. It’s like the difference between a marionette and a sock puppet – the stilted movements of unseen puppet master high above the stage, versus the ease and directness of movement in a sock puppet.

    Coincidentally, this kind of fits with the style problem mentioned above – marionettes are firmly rooted within the Uncanny Valley, while sock puppets are cute, colorful, and popular with the children.


    • Heather
      Apr 17, 2011 @ 08:14:07

      Hatt, you have it exactly. In fact, last night I decided to quit playing Hoard for a bit and try Sims 3 again just to test — my chickie-boo had a birthday and suddenly went from 25 to 60 and that was it. I mean really– I had a baby I was trying to teach to walk and and a 20 something hubby and I suddenly am a grey haired witch. That’s it. Either I check to see if there is a cheat (which is how my kids handle it– they just want to build awesome houses so they put on the money cheat and build to their hearts content) or I just delete and go back to playing Hoard. I am thinking the latter will be my choice. I really could care less about the stupid things (and I am a micro manager in these games so I take full control most of the time– until I realize they will go ahead and do everything on their own that I want them to so why bother.)

      And yes, I much prefer sockpuppets to marionettes.


  5. verbosestoic
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 10:21:49

    I actually prefer the photo-realistic to the adorable. The fact that they wouldn’t be out of place in the stands of a sports game may bore some, but to me it would make it seem more real and so I’d have to suspend less disbelief. The artwork in games like Harvest Moon is a reason why I’ve been tempted but never sucked into actually playing them.

    But this may just reflect a difference in what we want out of the game. I want to create a set of characters and have them interact, and I prefer to be to a large extent an overarching figure simply guiding their stories. When I played the original Sims, while I created a character that was essentially “me” I didn’t really want to be that character; I wanted that character to interact with my other characters — shamelessly stolen from books and TV shows — in some kind of story. I feel the same way about The Sims: Medieval: my monarch is not me and is not intended to be me, and I don’t really want to be the monarch of any of the characters. At best, I want to guide the story AS IF I was that character, and see how it works out.

    And so, in that sense, I’m looking for a more realistic story and so a more realistic presentation. But others may not.


    • Heather
      Apr 19, 2011 @ 10:27:25

      Obviously many people agree with you given the sales numbers for the Sims games. We don’t have Sims: Medieval and I doubt we will get it. That said I think it is interesting that you are essentially creating a story driven game by adding in your self plus book and tv characters to see how they will interact. That is such an interesting idea and shows a completely different style of game play.

      My kids have begun to hack the game– using cheats to allow themselves to just play the bits they want to play.


  6. StranaMente
    May 09, 2011 @ 19:08:44

    What I thought about the sims 3 (that sadly I already wrote in italian in my blog) is that at the end of the day you are only taking care of some green bars, and, no matter what, nothing can keep some of the needs from falling. So if you’re sleeping you’re relaxing, but you’ll have to go to the bathroom or eat, if you eat, you feel tired, and so on, much like real life. And just fulfilling the needs and saving some cash takes every day.
    And once this subtle realization starts to drip from the game, it’s really disturbing. It’s the uncanny valley of real lives. So close and yet so far. And the realism of the sims, and the puppet control increase this feeling.
    Besides that, it’s also a consumism anthem that sounds like an old italian revolutionary song that says: “Produce, consume, die.”


    • Heather
      May 09, 2011 @ 20:08:59

      That is exactly it. You are always losing the game. The kids have taken that and deliberately gone out to see how they can break the game– which is fun in its own way. 🙂 Meanwhile we have a new Harvest Moon and are obsessing over it (Animal Parade–not nearly as good as Tree of Tranquility– got rid of some of the good things.)


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