Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Sims

By: Patrick Morris

Hey everybody welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth joint. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. This week we are going to be talking about a drug that all of us were introduced to at a very young age and how it has changed over the years, so without further ado let's talk about The Sims 4.

I used to play the shit out of the Sims when I was a kid, my sister played it while staying overnight at a friends house one time and the next day she begged my mom to drive her to Target to buy a copy. I had no idea what this game was all about and as a result I had very little interest initially but after seeing her play I, just like everyone else, was inexplicably driven to play this silly game. My sister and I were hooked early and The Sims went on to become one of the few games that she was more interested and obsessive over than I was. She bought ever expansion pretty much as soon as they were released and would play for hours on end and honestly some of my most treasured memories of video games are watching my sister play and feel as excited about a game as I was. It was a series that I fell off of almost as soon as the first full blown sequel was released and for a while I've wondered what has become of the games so when The Sims 4 was on sale on PSN for $8 a few weeks ago there was no better time to find out. This isn't a review of the Sims 4 its just a perspective of a player coming back to the series after a long time away.

The Sims used to be a game that was two very different experiences that complimented each other well. Turns out it's still a game that is essentially two games in one that feed off each other. The Sims consisted and still consists of a building game that allows players to design their own homes and run wild with cheats and a completely absurd life simulation game where players have to handle the smallest details like sending their sims to the bathroom on a regular basis and the unrealistic like being haunted by dead family members you didn’t even know existed. These two radically different experiences are designed in such a perfect way to make the player want to expand on the other that even before Minecraft The Sims was a life sucking monster that always pushed the player to just do this one last thing then before they knew it they had lost their entire Sunday to building and living and building more then living in the building to drive themm to build so they could live to build. Two unique games that have been engineered to fit perfectly into one another can be a dangerous thing and it is the reason I don’t get to spend as much time with my girlfriend anymore.

Not much has changed when it comes to the building game. It is still made up of what seems like unlimited options and potential but when you really need something to work a certain way the game couldn’t possibly be more limited. When I was a kid I was a firm believer that The Sims was the best way to model building a home for anyone who is rich enough to design their own home and build from the ground up; and today with absolutely no expanded knowledge on the subject I'm willing to say that hasn’t changed. It's a fantastic way for teenaged couples to fanaticize about a future they will never be able to afford, young adult couples to design something together and fight about the color of a bathroom wall that will never exist in real life, and older couples to map out how they want to put off retirement until they're 80. In fact, as I was writing this it occurred to me that The Sims is essentially just Ikea in software form…would it be considered a conspiracy theory to think that The Sims was somehow financed by Ikea? Or that Ikea is secretly owned by EA? Regardless, in the Sims 4 the building is still ridiculously easy to learn making it approachable for even the most inept players while still offering a level of complexity that makes it impossible to master. While almost nothing has changed the building portion of the Sims 4 still gets a passing grade in my book.

 Once you're done building all of your houses and pools and doorless sheds you use to lock unwanted step children in so they don’t bother you while they're starving waiting for child protections services to take them away what's left is the living game and this is where the biggest improvements have been made. When I first started playing the living portion of the game I was blown away! I could take my sims to other places to meet other sims!? I wasn’t forced to just wait for the neighbors to walk past and hope I was quick enough to sprint out and have some sort of human interaction with them!? This was amazing! But then after two weddings, one failed marriage, two girlfriends, one boyfriend, two children being taken away by CPS, and an hour of gameplay it occurred to me that there were two full entries with their own numerous expansions between what I last played and this game. After some research it appears as though there has been some level of regression back to a more contained experience after The Sims 3 was a far more open and free experience. From my perspective what is available now is fantastic and fun but if I was someone that had stuck with the series I can see myself being a bit disappointed, but I'm not that person so I'm not disappointed!

As someone who only played the first game and all of it's expansions The Sims 4 is an excellent update to the core concept of the original game. Managing the needs of the Sims, progressing their lives, and providing them with social interactions is all still there but now there are some excellent new additions. When creating my Sim the very first thing I was prompted to do was select their interests and aspirations, initially I wrote this off as a stupid and meaningless decision but as I got more and more into the game it became apparent to me that those decisions that I made at the very outset are what guide a meaningful sense of progression. Sim's don’t live their lives exactly how we want them to anymore, they have long term goals that need to be satisfied in order to keep them happy. While it can still feel like a mundane game with no real progression there is a new give and take balance between the players goals and the Sim's goals and working in harmony together is how both the player and the Sim progress. It's very strange to think about but the game has gotten to the point where rather than being a hollow avatar for the player to inhabit Sim's have become the player's partner in the game and exuding desires beyond eating and going to the bathroom makes each Sim a much more unique character.

So would I recommend going back to The Sims after all these years? Yes, but only do it when the game is cheap and when you do be careful to only play the game for one day of nostalgia because above all else it is designed to be addicting. I was excited to get the base game at such a reasonable price and it wasn’t until around hour eight on my first day of playing the game when $200 for all the expansions started to not sound so bad that it occurred to me: EA is a straight up drug deal. They gave me the first taste for a measly $8 because they like me right? But then once I'm hooked they jacked up the price. It was a fun game when I was a kid and to no surprise it's still a very fun game. The improvements that have been made to the series are substantial and exciting and would definitely be worth buying if this was the only game I was playing. But it's not the only game I'm going to play. My 11 hour day with The Sims 4 was an excellent trip down a drug addicted memory lane and for that reason I don’t plan on going back to the series until The Sims 7.

Have you played The Sims recently? What was I missing out on during the formative Sims 2 and 3 years? Let me know in the comments down below.

If you liked what you heard don’t forget to subscribe for a new video every week. And if you just cant get enough check out our video games podcast HardReset for more free form video game discussion or our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to. You can find those on most major podcast services and right here on YouTube. I will be back next week talking about extreme sports games so until then just go play some games!

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