I must confess that I have never really understood the attraction of the Sims, but when Electronic Arts/Origin decided to make The Sims 4 available for free for a limited time, I decided to finally take the plunge and give it a try. All I had to lose was some hard drive space and some spare time, right?
Now, my only previous exposure to The Sims has been watching funny YouTube videos like Kelsey Impicciche’s 100 baby challenge (which apparently is a thing to do in The Sims 4). And while I certainly have no desire to have 100 babies, I did want to get my feet wet, and see what the fuss was all about. So I downloaded and installed the software.
You start off in the character editor, where you set various attributes of your avatar, such as your avatar proportions and the way you walk:
I did notice that you can actually click and drag your mouse on the avatar to adjust various aspects of your avatar’s shape, which I thought was pretty cool. You’re also supposed to select your avatar’s “aspiration”, from a disappointingly small list of options:
So I decided to select Trend-Setter. Then I started playing and clicking around, and it’s certainly a very different way of adjusting your avatar shape compared to Second Life! Here I am trying on different kinds of noses:
After a lot of futzing around I finally picked a hairstyle I could live with, and Vanity Fair (Sims edition) was born!
But, as soon as I got in-world, my heart sank when I saw this menu pop up in the bottom right hand corner:
Hunger? Hygeine? BLADDER?!?? Hey, I didn’t sign up for this! This reminds me of all those add-ons in Second Life which try to make SL more like real life by making you feel hunger, thirst, etc. Sorry, but I’m not interested in running for the toilet whenever I need to pee in a virtual world! I prefer to spend my time in a fantasy, not someplace that reminds me of all the things I need to do in my real life, like laundry, dishes, cleaning toilets and taking out the garbage! But then, what should I have expected of a “life simulation” game?
So, what do I think of The Sims overall? Coming from Second Life and other virtual worlds, I miss the very thing that makes them special: your interaction with other avatars, who have real people behind them. People who can surprise, delight, confound, and even upset you. No matter how polished the computer algorithms controlling the other characters you encounter are, they can’t replace the brain of a real live human being behind the keyboard of another avatar. You can’t have real conversations (in fact, the avatars in The Sims 4 speak a made-up language called Simlish).
I’m quite sure that The Sims can be great fun, and you can certainly do a lot in it (like design and build the gorgeous mansion of your dreams). But the fact that this is, at heart, a single-player game, just kind of takes the fun and excitement out of it for me. So while I’m glad I had a chance to try The Sims out for free, I doubt that I will be playing it that often. But I’ll keep it on my hard drive for now; who knows, maybe I’ll come back for another kick at the can.