Ah, van vesua! Cummuns nala?
… Ok, by your blank expression I’m guessing I should probably explain that that was a greeting, and not a sneezing fit. I was trying to say in Simlish – the official language of The Sims franchise – “Hello! How are you doing?” but I apologize, clearly my pronunciation was off… Don’t look at me like that. God this is awkward. Excuse me whilst I go flail my arms in embarrassment, rage at the sky and kick a pink flamingo.
Because really, if I were a Sim, in the thirteen years that the Sims has been flying off our shelves (or into our online baskets, if you’re all technological) that would have been the only outlet for an emotional display: uncontrollable limbs, public displays of cloud hatred and animal cruelty. But times are changing. Whereas Sims lives have always revolved around their physical needs, now gameplay is based around their emotions. In this new generation of the virtual reality game, the controlling force of play is much more about manipulating their emotional states to run their lives, rather than manipulating their circumstances by, say, buying them things. Or walling them in a windowless room with no toilet.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll be Sims
In Sims 4, now more than ever the player has been given the powers of a storyteller, creating a cascading domino chain of events that will affect the way your Sim interacts with its virtual world. Previously, Sims bounced back pretty easily from life-changing events like the death of a parent or the discovery of an unfaithful spouse. There’d be a short-term moodlet, sporadic skyward flailing would occur, and in a matter of days the whole thing would be forgotten. Unfortunately for new generation Sims, they will not be so lucky. Now, Sims confronted with severe emotional trauma will enter a powerful state of psychological grief that will affect their every interaction with the world around them. Bodies and actions reflect feelings: shoulders hunch, feet drag, faces frown, lips quiver whilst happy Sims light up a room and angry Sims put extra furious effort into work out routines.
A Toy That Toys With Your Emotions
Interestingly, if the idea of watching your Sim sit listlessly in the corner, clinically depressed because you made their brother run off with their wife provokes a twinge of guilt in your heartless soul, well, that is the very real aim of the game. Instead of players only affecting the game’s state, the increased human complexity of the world you create is bound to affect your own emotional state. It’s a game that makes you feel.
Still, the idea of gameplay being less about pressing a button to make a Sim angry and more about engineering a chain of events and choices is fascinating, but is a new focus on realism going to alienate fans who for more than a decade have been drawn to a game centered around escapism? Complicated programming now allows you to manipulate every fleshy corner of your Sims body, but overweight Sims can now look in the mirror and feel disgust at themselves. Sims with eating disorders and clinical depression? It seems the more human traits our Sims evolve, the darker the universe they inhabit becomes.
… Let’s hope the developers have engineered some kick-ass pink flamingos.