Posts by Tag / GAME: The Sims 3 (1)


Two Ways to Play The Sims

I feel like there are two fundamentally different ways to play The Sims:

  1. As an ant farm. You load it up with a bunch of people with varying personalities and goals and then watch them live their lives and bounce off each other.
  2. As a dollhouse. You focus on specific individuals and families and have an idea of who they are and what their life should be like so you decide most or all of what they do.

These two approaches are contradictory because they require different levels of control over the game. Just as you might occasionally tap the glass of an actual ant farm or drop in some cookie crumbs or something to see how the ants react, an ant-farming Sims player might order one of their Sims to flirt with or insult someone to create some drama and keep things interesting. But by and large, this player wants their Sims to make autonomous decisions so the simulation keeps running.

Meanwhile, in actual dollhouses, nothing happens unless the person playing with the dolls says it happens. Similarly, dollhousing Sims players want complete control over their Sims so they can create exactly the story they’re trying to create. These players disable Sims' autonomy (called “free will” in earlier Sims games) so that Sims don’t make out-of-character decisions.

Now, I have to admit that I’m only inferring the existence of ant-farming players based on design decisions in more recent Sims games. I’m very much a dollhouser, I’ve never talked to an ant-farmer, and it didn’t even occur to me that they’d exist until I was trying to understand some of the changes that came in The Sims 3 and 4. But if they don’t exist, then a lot of those changes are completely baffling.