So I’m playing a game… about living life. How can this be fun?
Release Date: February 2000
It was a cold, miserable weekend in Manchester when I first picked this game up. I was in Year 11, in Secondary school, 16 years old. However, this was a Saturday, so we had some freedom. Having saved some pocket money, and carefully choosing what game to buy, reading magazines and some very basic webpages…. I set out with a friend to purchase the Sims.
Why do I remember this so clearly? Because the heavens opened that day. And I don’t just mean it rained – it felt more like a monsoon. We got into town and ran to the shop, Electronic Boutique as it was then, and when the cashier handed me my game, it was with a very wry smile. We must have been a picture. But those were the “good old days”, and we sloshed our way home, eager for dry towels, hot chocolate, and our first taste of Sim-life. There’s a fond memory!
Developed by Maxis, the team responsible for the many incarnations of Sim City, this was their biggest project to date. Head developer Will Wright had been thinking about making a “virtual doll house” since the early 90’s, after losing his family home during the Oakland firestorm in ’91. His vision was that instead of controlling entire cities, you controlled a single family’s life. Their house was built as you saw fit. Their relationships, career paths, successes and mistakes were all down to you.
It was a bold concept, back in 2000. Wright struggled to find financial backing for his project initially, with Maxis branding him “out of his mind”. He found support in EA, the company that had recently purchased Maxis, and so the Sims was born. It debuted to rave reviews, record sales and spawned numerous sequels, expansions and console ports! In the end, the Sims is said to have earnt over a billion dollars!
But enough with the history lesson. I found my copy of the Sims a while ago, and after applying a small fix to get it working on a modern version of Windows, I’m back in very familiar territory!
I created my own family. Meet the Burtons – Charlie, Bob and Claire!
The game only requires basic information to get started. You name each of your family members, spend points on various attributes for them (Such as neatness, playfulness and how active they are) and choose outfits from a very limited wardrobe!
With your sims created, you select a house, and the process of building and shaping your family home can begin! You can choose from hundreds of pieces of furniture, and as long as you have the cash, you can buy anything you want. Each piece can be moved wherever you like it and rotated to fit your home’s needs. The upbeat, chirpy music becomes very apparent when you’re scrolling through lists of kitchen worktops, sofas and wall decorations, I felt like I was in Ikea.
Once you’re happy (or you’re spent up!) Click the play button and your sims enter their new home for the first time. Clapping and babbling in their own language when they find out what you’ve bought for them! Everyone’s in a great mood, neighbours drop by for a chat…. it’s plain sailing!
But after the first day, reality hits home. Bills aren’t going to pay themselves, so you need to find your sims some work. If your sims are happy when they leave for work, then they may receive promotions and you’ll earn more money to buy nicer things!
How you keep them happy is the very core of the game.
Keeping all these bars in the green is akin to spinning multiple plates at the same time, and it’s just as difficult! Sending a sim to eat will fill up their hunger bar, and maybe boost their comfort if they’re sat down while eating. But it’ll also decrease their bladder bar. Sending them to the loo afterwards will put bladder back in the green, but hygiene will take a major hit. Shower will put hygiene back up, but decrease comfort, while watching TV increases comfort AND fun, but reduces energy!
Before you know it, you’ve been sat playing for three hours, and the Sims has you in it’s clutches!
So, I had stepped back into this game for the first time in about 10 years, and found it to be just as fun as I remembered. The aforementioned plate-spinning was hard enough, but when you throw in one life’s “little emergencies” like fire, flooding, burglary, unwanted pests…. the game gets tough. Mood drops, money runs low, and you need to really manage your resources to keep the house running!
Bob, the older member of my family, became the “house husband.” While Charlie and Claire are out at work, Bob stays at home. He cleans the house, but is also the best at cooking and probably the most creative member of the family. These skills can be learnt through reading books and studying with computers, and obviously Bob has more time to do that. Having Charlie cook a meal, on the other hand, will probably set the kitchen on fire. Instead, he’s the mechanic of the house.
The sheer depth of the game is amazing, and it was unlike anything else before it. As I said previously, Maxis released several expansion packs, which changed up the gameplay a little and added more clothes and more furniture. Your sims could now own pets, learn to play guitars, go on holiday, perform magic tricks…. the list goes on.
The game benefits from being truly open, there are no levels, no challenges, nothing to unlock at a certain point. Success comes when you have tons of money, a huge house and happy sims (who may or may not have children!) Yeah i forgot to mention, relationships are in here, with romance, cuddling and tickling all selectable options from the little clouds your sims have over their heads. Is there anything this game doesn’t have?
From love to hate: Just a small addendum. This review talks exclusively about how to play The Sims properly. If you feel the need you are able to punish your virtual people. Not that I’d ever do this stuff myself, but there are plenty of stories of Sims being starved, burnt, trapped and drowned. This is a true sandbox, and their lives really are in your hands!
I love the Sims. I’m actually itching to play it right now! The only possible negative I got from this game is that it might be a little too hard for newcomers. I’d suggest you pick it up,as it still holds up today, but it does need some tweaking to run on modern machines and you really could benefit from having at least one of the expansion packs installed too. The original amount of furniture available was a little… sparse!
Graphics: Suit the game well, nice animations, nothing too flashy – 7
Sound: Simlish is a whole language created for the game. Nice music and sound effects – 9
Gameplay: Simple controls, immensley challenging, constantly striving. This is life! – 10
Lifespan: Endless combinations of families, careers, relationships… you’ll be playing for ages! – 9