The Sims and Me

Since the visit of Ravi Purushotma from MIT and Linda Bergkvist giving a seminar on Living in the Sims I have been interested in EA Games game The Sims 2.

As a text it seems very complex and rich and as a new media phenomenon it seems huge. So at the ICT and the Humanities Summer School in June I decided to write a paper on The Sims. The paper itself is almost finished but really I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have started two Sims worlds, both have identical families living in them, named the Blackfoots. I just wanted to see what would happen with two games running the same Sims…..when you start thinking like that you know you are hooked!

Anyway, the paper. Here is the rough draft’s first few paragraphs of a work still in progress, sort of like the Sims (I wonder how it will end):

The Sims as Engine of Narrativity: A Hybrid of Digital (Cyborg) Media

The way to excel at The Sims is to pretend you
are the characters. You have to give a shit.
Mark Boal Village Voice (2000)

Key Terms: Sims, Narrative, Machinima, Hybrid Media, Virtual Space, Emergent Gameplay, New Media, Digital Humanities, Cyborg, Dialogic, Virtual Worlds, Computer Game, 3D Worlds, Simulacra,

The Sims, rather than being called a game has been described by its designer Will Wright as a “software toy”. As a platform for real time simulated interaction and representation its mis en scene flows more in a manner comparable to a midday soap opera where the cast are on sever medication rather than a work of ontological realism. However, stories do emerge for this, the world’s most popular digital game, be they the temporally determined familial interactions of countless generations of avatars or, in what I find more interesting, the hundreds of machinima films created inworld and posted on the internet community sites by those who enjoy “playing God”. The need to recount the events of daily life is seemingly manifest in many new media forms; blogs, email, MSS, and online social network softwares such as www.flickr.com/. In the digital game community which emanates from the various manifestations of The Sims (2000-05) multitudes of the software’s users create and post on the internet filmed narratives recounting the interactions and lives of their inworld character avatars. Machinima is both a production technique and a genre whereby the imagery from 3D digital virtual worlds is rendered in real time to film . In the case of The Sims, some are documentary style “hidden camera” pieces where a fight, a death or a sexual encounter may be preserved in time on the video film. Others are staged and edited films contained jump cuts, montage and self contained story lines. Many of these staged films are constructed around the activities of avatar characters, which can not be completely controlled by the human users, but depend upon algorithmic responses to embedded game parameters, such as the need for food, simoleans (currency) and the age of the character.