We’d had Sim City and countless other management sims that saw us take control of colonies, towns and cities, but actually controlling the people in those towns and cities? That was practically unheard of.
When The Sims first released in 2000, it revolutionised the idea of the “God simulator”. You were no longer just responsible for overseeing the management of a town; now you were responsible for people. Their thoughts, needs and desires – even down to how often they go pee – was entirely in your hands.
Maxis’ The Sims took the PC gaming world by storm. Even people who hadn’t previously been into simulation games suddenly had an interest. To date, the series has sold over 200 million copies, making it one of the most successful video game series of all time. Taking away any complicated business-minded mechanics, the only strategy you needed to understand to play The Sims was the basic needs of a human – and we all understand those.
Either choosing a preset family to control, or creating your own family from scratch, The Sims put you in control of an entire homestead. Starting out with a moderate budget, you could move your new family into an existing home, or you could take your budding architectural skills for a spin and design their house however you wanted. The starting rate of 20,000 “simoleons” wouldn’t buy much besides a trailer trash compound though, but thanks to some well-known exploits, unlimited funds were just a few dodgy keyboard presses away (does klapaucius sound familiar, anyone?).
With no set goals or aims, The Sims allowed you to play however you wanted. You could send your sims out to work to earn some money, if you wanted to play the “honest” way, of course. If romance was more your thing, you could start up some relationships with your neighbours – or hell, date the entire neighbourhood if you wanted. Or perhaps you were more into interior design, and just wanted to build the biggest and most elaborate plots you wanted.
The design tools at hand in The Sims were always very simple to use, but allowed a lot of freedom in creating anything your imagination saw fit. Whether you wanted to redesign your actual real-life home, recreate the White House, or build the wackiest construction your mind could muster, it was entirely down to you. Me, I always spent far more time building houses than I did actually living in them. But that’s the joy of The Sims; it encouraged you to play exactly however you wanted.
Shortly after the release of the core game, there started a slew of expansion packs, all offering new options and greater detail to add to your sims’ lives. Unleashed introduced pets to the game, Superstar allowed your sims to embark on careers as celebrities, and Vacation allowed you to take your sims out of their everyday routine for a well-earned holiday, to name just a few. My personal favourite, however, was Hot Date. Hot Date allowed your sims to take their dating endeavours to the next level, treat their romantic interests to a night on the town and get frisky in hot tubs and special “love beds”. Playing The Sims for the first time as a 12-year-old, there was something incredibly hilarious about seeing your lovestruck sims dive under the covers of their heart-shaped bed for some good old rumpy-pumpy. Hell, it’s still hilarious now, almost 20 years later.
The series is of course still going strong, with numerous sequels and expansion packs released. The Sims 4 is the latest main title, released in 2014 and EA continues to support it with incoming expansions and add-ons. While the game’s roots have stayed very grounded in home building and family management, nothing will quite beat the wonder (and hilarity) of nurturing (or torturing) your sims that first time round.
Speaking of torture, something about The Sims brought out a devious side of all of us. Call it morbid curiosity or just straight-up sadism, you can’t deny that at some point or another, you’ve purposefully killed a sim. C’mon, admit it. And you also got a lot of glee out of it; don’t lie. Whether it was trapping your not-so-culinary sim in a room filled with ovens that were bound to catch fire sooner or later, or inviting your sim for a leisurely swim before taking the ladders away, we all had our favourite means of murder. Mwahahaha!
For all the sims who lost their lives too soon at the hands of their Evil Creators, let’s have a moment’s silence.
For me, The Sims was a big part of my childhood. While I’d always been a fan of console gaming, The Sims introduced me to PC gaming when I was 12 years old. Whether it be designing your dream home, nurturing a family to financial success, making literal love and war with the neighbours, or just cruelly killing ’em off, The Sims had something for all of us, and for that, it’ll never be beaten.
If only “klapaucius” worked in real life, though…