After a chat with my sister, who is far more up-to-date with the newest fare for the Glorious PC Master Race than I am, it appears that Will Wright’s Sims franchise has long since hit its fourth incarnation, with all of the money-leeching expansion packs being shoveled our way. People are getting their knickers in a twist about life-like renderings, and being able to play God with the most realism possible. However, I cannot be the only person who longs for the simplicity, blockiness and ease of evil-doing that came with the original Sims.
The Sims Uno was a masterpiece, following on from the much-lauded SimCity, which came out for SNES, PC and other formats. While the latter game allowed you to construct whole townships and then mismanage their basic functionings/destroy them through natural disaster with a little a tap on computer keys, The Sims was the first game that allowed you to create and seize control of the basic functioning of actual families. The wannabe sociologists in us all could piece together the most well-adjusted social units, in which wealth and love spewed forth, or the nihilists of us could prod our underlings into seedy affairs, bankruptcy and borderline arson.
The standout feature of the original Sims compared to its newer, shinier siblings is the soundtrack. Jerry Martin did a fabulous score for the Buy and Build sections of The Sims: in fact, I had the album lurking on my Spotify as background music for writing many a law essay during my undergraduate studies. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame did a stand-up job on the Sims 2 (also a fabulous game), but it doesn’t quite match up to the plinky-plonky piano-driven genius of the Sims 1’s soundtrack. It’s timeless. Plus, Sims 3 and Katy Perry singing in Simlish – what the heck was that about?!
The Sims as a franchise is sandbox in nature, meaning that the player can construct their towns and individual households however they wish. However, there are some vague story arcs that the player can invest time in, if that’s their jam. One of the pre-made families for the original Sims, and my favourite family of all, is the Goth family. Mortimer is a B-movie actor when we first meet him, all handsome and swarthy as a convincing Raúl Juliá lookalike. His wife Bella looks like a classic screen siren, and their daughter Cassandra has more than a touch of Wednesday Addams about her. In short, their family was a whole load of fun to play, and maxing out their stats was decent training for me to move on and put together my own families.
However, as much as I still enjoyed playing the Goth characters, The Sims 2 kind of tarnished my warm and fuzzy memories of the first game. Mortimer is now an old crank with a roving eye, and Cassandra is a frump who’s content to turn a blind eye while her fiance cheats on her with the neighbourhood hussy. Alex, a new addition to the family as Mortimer and Bella’s son (born after the events of the first Sims), is slightly brattish and precocious. I let him grow up to be a pizza-munching slob who changed his slovenly ways after getting impregnated by aliens, but user experience varies.
Worst of all, Bella is GONE. Well, rumours are abound that the fake Bella in a different town is the real Bella, but she is just an NPC that you can marry off into other families. She seemingly has some memories which point to the existence of her former family, but because she is in a separate town to the Goths (in The Sims, this may as well be a separate universe), only some serious fiddling about with files or recreating the entire Goth family will reunite them. You probably wouldn’t even want to combine NPC Bella with her former family, because NPC Bella is about the same age, if not younger, than her own daughter…eesh. Someone call Jerry Springer, there’s some serious shenanigans going on here!
By far my fondest memory of the Sims revolves around the creation and nurturing of Sim sproglets. It appears Will Wright’s sex ed counsellor came from a particularly traditional convent, as Sims kiss a bit too much to make babies. No, not “kiss a bit too much”. Literally, if they kiss often enough, a crib bursts out of nowhere. Again, the Sims 2 got rid of that hilarity (and made for many awkward moments when I had to turn the speakers and monitor off, lest my parents walk in on 12 year old Charlotte watching pixellated hot-tub secks) by the Sims having actual intercourse, or “WooHooing”. That was funny in it’s own right due to the slimeball purple love-heart icon that was used to represent it, but it wasn’t AS comical.
OK, so a quick snog and you have a sprog; surely they’re piling up, like all those yellowing newspapers that your Sim point-blank refuses to recycle? Maybe so, but child neglect in the Sims world is really no biggie. Any working mum who finds their responsibilities a little too much to take will simply find that their bub has been whisked away by the social worker, perhaps while they were in another room of the house. The baby will simply vanish without a trace. However, the local authorities have no sense of continuity, or their records-storing facility gets periodically burnt down every few days, because the Simette in question is completely free to kiss her way to motherhood once more.
It really is a wonder that any of us Sims fans became well-adjusted adults. Then again, I do occasionally set my oven on fire and stand there screaming at it, rather than calling the fire brigade. What can I say, my Fun meter is often just too low for me to go on.