The Sims : A Retrospective – A Participatory Culture 14 Years On

The Sims: A Retrospective – A Participatory Culture 14 Years On

Ludovica Price

In February 2000, games company EA/Maxis released one of the most successful games of the new millennium, a game that broke the previous mould of platformers and first-person shooters (Kline et al. 2003). That game was The Sims, a so-called sandbox game that allowed players to create and populate their own simulated world in a process that creator Will Wright describes as akin to ‘a train set or a doll’s house where each person comes to it with their own interest and picks their own goals’ (Wright 1999).

The goal of the game was that there was no goal. The player created their ‘Sims’ – simulated people whose personality could be set, whose fashion or hairstyle could be chosen – built a house for them, and decided how they were going to live out their lives. Players could decide their Sims education or career, their relationships with other Sims, and even the way they spent their holidays. The player could choose to give their Sims an idyllic and productive family life, or a torturous existence and an ignominious death. Prior to this, gaming had been dominated by male-centric linear games such as the shoot-‘em-ups Doom and Quake, or beat-‘em-ups such as Street Fighter 2 and Tekken. There was, at that time, a culture that gaming was not for girls. When Wright pitched his latest game concept to development company Maxis, using the descriptor of ‘doll house’, he was met with little enthusiasm. The board of directors thought that ‘doll houses were for girls, and girls didn’t play video games’ (Seabrook 2006). Luckily for Wright – and for Maxis in general – publisher Electronic Arts (which had bought Maxis in 1997) saw potential in the idea – something that would appeal to both boys and girls, and men and women alike. They would be proved right –The Sims became the bestselling game of the first half of 2000 (Kline et al. 2003: 270)… [Full Article Here]

From Intensive: Cult Media Review, Issue 7 (Summer 2014), ed. Erin Pearson.

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