The Sims is always an interesting beast to tackle because it resists, or at least cannot be accurately captured by, short description. The game functions in some sense as a life simulator, wherein the player creates or selects a family, builds or buys their home, and then controls to some degree the daily routines of the virtual family. This control takes the form of telling the individuals in the game, the Sims, what to do at any given point: go eat food, say hello to this person, go to work, go to sleep, exercise, etc. Oftentimes, the player will be telling the Sims to do things related to their needs, a set of continuously decreasing attributes such as hunger, tiredness, and social. If they get too low in any of these attributes, they will cease to be able to function normally. However, the Sims also have a robust AI system which can control them at any given point, and how much control the player gives over to the AI is a choice, anywhere from none, meaning the Sims will not do anything the player doesn’t directly command, to high, meaning the Sims will go about their daily routines with no input from the player, based on their needs, wants, personality, and surroundings. So, it’s entirely possible in The Sims to pick a pre-built family already living in a pre-built house, turn the AI to high, and sit back and watch them live their lives with absolutely no input from the player. On the other hand, a player could create a family or an individual, designing carefully how they look, their basic personality traits, and the clothes they wear in any situation, then build a house from the ground up, building each wall and painting it, then furnishing every room. From there, they could turn the AI off and control every minute aspect of this family’s life, what job they get, what skills to improve, and of course when to go to the bathroom. In the first case, the experience seems closer to watching a show than playing a game. And, even in the second case, there aren’t any goals which The Sims asks the player to accomplish, there is no narrative for the player to experience, instead both are created on the fly by the player; perhaps the player wants to get their Sim into a happy marriage with kids and reach the height of their career, perhaps they’d rather their Sim be a malcontent, getting into fights with others and never holding down a job, or maybe they just want to see how quickly they can get their Sim to die. A narrative can then be constructed by the player as they attempt to accomplish whatever goal they have set for themselves in the game, but is not delivered in any way by the game.
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