2000 era, EA Games, keeping the originals alive, large fan base, Longstanding Legacy, Maxis, nostalgia, PC games, The Sims, The Sims 2, The Sims 3, The Sims Makin' Magic, The Sims Superstar, Top Selling, Will Wright
The Sims: It’s essentially “dollhouse” for adults with a god complex.
There isn’t anyone of my generation that doesn’t remember this groundbreaking computer game. Perhaps second only to Diablo or Myst in popularity and renown, The Sims (also known as TS1 or The Sims 1) was a spin-off of another well known series, Sim City, also developed by Will Wright. It was released by Maxis in 2000-2001 for both PC and Macintosh, and was instantly praised by both critics and the public. It has inspired several spin-offs and sequels, the latest being The Sims 3 series and The Sims Medieval, as well several console versions such as The Urbz: Sims in the City. It is also notable for it’s sizable community driven content, such as fan-made downloads, patches, and mods; a legacy that has continued for most of the franchise.
But let’s focus on the original series.
For those that have never played this game it may be hard to understand it’s appeal; especially since, though marketed toward kids and teens, it has a heavy adult following. On outward appearances it may look boring (it’s original title after all was “Dollhouse”). It’s an “easy” game to play. Just point and click your Sim toward objects to fulfill “needs” and goals. But while it may not prove as challenging to play as say Gods of War, it still provides a fair challenge in terms of goals and objectives that the player can make for themselves (such as career goals). It’s also completely open ended, the player controls every move and decision made by the Sim (even including bladder needs). They can determine from the start what career the Sim will choose, whom to marry, how many kids to have, what to wear, as well as what the Sim itself will look like. They can also build or decorate their home and buy furniture. Of course the decision making aspect, as well as the customization abilities, have grown significantly as the series as grown. But at the dawn of the series the customization factors were still significant.
In the first game, the player was given a ten lot neighborhood in the suburbs, with half of it’s lots empty, and there were only three families living in the lot with a few more available to move in (or the player could just create their own). As the series expanded, Maxis became more creative with the landscape. A downtown area was provided for couples wishing to experience the nightlife, a New Orlean’s inspired “Old Town” was created for farmers and pet lovers (complete with Jazzy music), “Studio Town” was available in classic Hollywood style for aspiring musicians, models, and actors, and “Magic Town” was for, well, Magic making! There was also a fantastic resort island where the player could take their Sims to the beach, out camping, or skiing. As stated above, pets such as gerbils, parakeets, cats, dogs, and even dragons were available for your Sims to purchase in these locations.
The Sims themselves were a unique playable character for the time (and the player wasn’t limited to one, they could create/control up to eight Sims a lot). They could have babies (or adopt). They could become ghosts. They could become celebrities, spies, mad scientists, or lead a life of crime. They could perform feats of magic and even resurrect a deceased loved one (though sometimes with disastrous consequences). They could get married and have large families, or be the neighborhood Casanova. They could cause chaos throughout the neighborhood. The possibilities were virtually endless, limited only to the players’ own imagination.
There were many fabulous careers for Sims to explore including Circus (performer), Criminal, Fame (show business), Hacker, Fashion, Paranormal, and Musician. Advancing in those careers provided a decent challenge, much more challenging than in later games, due in large part to the amount of family friends that a Sim was required to maintain in a field. However, unlike later games, any Sim in the household could make a friendship of theirs count as a friend of the household (a trait that could be easily exploited). There were also rewards and perks that came with career advancement. A celebrity at a 4.5 fame rating would have a better chance at winning awards, receiving gifts, as well as able to work the better jobs, such as walking the runway or performing in their own music video.
In addition a Sim could have a butler, a maid, and if a celebrity, even their very own stalker. They could mingle with celebrity Sims like Marilyn Monroe or Christina Aguilera, model for Andy Warhol, dance in cages in a disco suit, or watch a magic show. There were mimes, carnies, Goths, mischievous gnomes, wish-granting genies, ghosts (yes, you could have your very own haunted house!), magicians, and Drew Carey Sims.
Just decorating your Sim’s ideal abode could be a great source of fun. You could create castles, build a charming cottage, or go crazy with cow print! Mods and other software was provided by both the fan community and Maxis themselves to provide the player with more options for decorating their world. A player could create their own wallpaper, floor tiles, outfits, paintings, etc; or download them via other more skilled players.
As stated previously, there was/is a heavy adult following for this particular franchise (more so than later versions). Why? Well it likely had to do with the adult themes, adult humor, and overall retro feel of the franchise (complete with the ’50’s style music that played during the neighborhood screen and tongue-and-cheek game advertisements). Or maybe it’s because Sim City had a similar appeal, and as the players of that franchise have grown, they naturally gravitated toward it’s spin off. Of course, there’s something to be said for living through a controllable game character that has more opportunities to live out the fantasies and dreams of people that would find it virtually unattainable otherwise. An average person could become an international spy, a superhero, or a world-renown actor. S/He could be abducted by aliens, own a pet dragon, or become a black widow. They could live in a fabulous mansion or loft, they could arrive to work in a limo. They could be a rock star or a famous chef. And if the player grew tired of their character(s) they could kill them in an elaborate death, or simply switch to another household. The level of control for the lives of their Sims and neighbors was massive.
As the franchise has grown (and switched owners) the original may feel a little flat to some. The Sims 2 and 3 series have really expanded on the ideas of Will Wright’s as well as created their own ideas, and have thus developed substantial followings. But I maintain that there is still a lot of charm left in the originals. Sure, The Sims 1 series is a much simpler style of game play and the customization isn’t near the level of The Sims 3 series, but many hours of fun can still be had with this series. It hasn’t really aged. The music is still great. I love the trance themes of The Sims Superstar, and this was before they added real life bands/singers to the soundtrack, so all of the scores are original and done by the wonderfully creative staff at Maxis. And there appears to be much more of a quirk/whimsy factor (two words: drunk gnomes). It was fun game series, and some elements never made a reappearance in the later sequels (for instance, the Fame mini-games were immensely enjoyable and are sorely missed in later expansions). For these reasons and many others, the original Sims 1 series is worth recognition and remembering. If you haven’t played it, I highly recommend checking it out because words don’t do it justice (particularly the Superstar and Makin’ Magic expansions). If you’re still fortunate to have this game series I’d recommend another play-through if for nothing else the nostalgia factor.