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Happy Birthday to The Sims

So, the Sims turns 20 this year, marking the birth of the game that made PC games fun again.

With 60% female gamers, the classic life simulation game allowed us to create our own fictional worlds through the lives of our Sims, from birth, to career, marriage, children and death, not to mention all the fun and mischievous parts along the way.

The initial release of the game, launched in 2000, first introduced us to the original family of Pleasantview, the Goths. This pre-made family, comprised of Mortimer Goth, his wife Bella Goth and their daughter Casandra appears in in all four main games in the Sims series. Also between the originals Sims game and the Sims 2, Mortimer and Bella, welcome a son, Alexander to their family. Similarities between the Goths and the Addams family have been drawn due to both families being aristocratic and from old money, with European lineage and an extended family clan. They both also have a strong association with macabre and gothic themes, as evidenced by their homes which are Victorian mansions surrounded by a family graveyard filled with family tombstones.

Between the Sims and Sims 2 a number of new changes were implemented. Aside from better graphics, customisable face and a plethora of new items, there also was the now controversial toddler stage in the Sim lifecycle, that has in current iterations disappeared, as well as teenager and young adult. Additionally, through expansion packs, our Sims could go to University, start their own businesses, be abducted by aliens and experience seasons.

By the time the Sims 3 came around we were into a whole new type of game play. The new reward system, Wishes replaced the Wants and Fears system in the Sims 2 allowing players to contribute to a Sim’s Lifetime Happiness score by fulfilling these wishes, enabling them to purchase lifetime rewards. The biggest change in gameplay was probably the Story Progression feature, which allows all Sims in the neighbourhood to autonomously continue free without the player ever controlling those Sims or as done previously pause in time until the player returns to the game.

This was then followed up with the Sims 4 in 2014, which continued to improve on many of the same features and gameplay we had already grown to love. In the Create A Sim part of the game it had replaced sliders by direct mouse manipulation. For the first time, the Sims Sims could multitask and its moodlets changed the gameplay by influencing the sims’ emotional state. At the same time, it of course was better graphics, sleeker design and a never-ending list of items to build and design worlds with.

As a lifelong Sims fan, I have to admit, it was shortly after the release of the Sims 3 that I made the decision to step back from the game – and no it had nothing to do with the missing swimming pool options or lack of certain life stages. It was just for two simple reasons: one, the absolute obsession that game would become in my life. I mean who else spends an entire weekend designing their Sims and their neighbourhood before they start playing … just me? Oh, ok.

And two, the attack on my computer memory. A smooth gaming experience with the later versions of the Sims, truly requires a gaming computer solely for the purpose of the game and its many expansion packs, or a beast of all-purpose machine that has either been upgraded with vast amounts of RAM.

I often wondered why a game that relies so heavily on real-time play and detailed rendering, is still distributed and stored on your local drive. I for one, cannot wait until much like Google’s Stadia, Apple Arcade, Microsoft xCloud and Snap Games, the Sims becomes cloud based. With technologies like 5G and full-fibre being increasingly deployed on a global scale, this might become a reality sooner than one might think. Allowing the likes of me, who wants to periodically dip our toes into the world of gaming and nostalgia without having to sacrifice my one small laptop to do it.

But I digress, here’s to the game that was the soundtrack to my teens. Happy 20th – I’ll be back really soon!

Natalie Bannerman