A digital dolls house? What would I want to play a digital dolls house for? Because it's The Sims? That's not a good enough reason to play a digital dolls house. Because The Sims is one of the biggest selling PC video games of all time? You're going to need more than that. Because you can delete the ladder from a swimming pool and the idiots are too stupid to think of a way to climb out and will drown and die and return as a ghost to haunt the place thereafter.
Ok. Might be worth a look...
I've never played any of The Sims series in my life. I remember one conversation with some mates who did, way back when, and they didn't convince me that I was missing out on anything. "You can download furniture!" Coooool...
I'm emulating the PS2 port, which pulls no punches with its menu screen and also solves the age-old debate of whether we have free will or not.
It also stalls on every customisation option for my first character and then fails to load at all. We're off to a good start here.
The GameCube version does emulate well, and I'm able to see how outdated my fashion sense is: it can be recreated in a 2003 video game.
We begin at the height of luxury, or whatever the equivalent is in The Sims, with 200 moneys in our account and a woman in our arms.
Clearly, I have no idea what to do with all this wealth, nor how to interact with a woman. The Sims has captured my likeness quite well, it seems.
Well, darn. Reality comes crashing back as we wake from our slumber in Moms house.
The Sims is, as the name implies, a simulation of life. Paying for furnishings to make your days worthwhile, hunting for jobs to get the money to pay for furnishings, reading books to learn the skills needed to land a job to pay for the furnishings...
We're tasked with borrowing money from our Mother and cooking dinner without starting a fire, and will be handsomely rewarded with something upon completion. Before I can even begin with those tasks, the TV goes on the fritz. We're doomed.
Moving our magic cursor over the various objects in the home will reveal what we can do with them. A broken TV doesn't have any options beyond repairing it, and it's as simple as pressing the A button to send your Sim over to it and get working on the problem.
I don't watch the TV anyway. Time to cook.
Are you kidding me? You want me to read books on how to fix TVs and cook TV meals before doing either? Is there no wiggle room for just happening to be able to cook, once in a while at least?
What, did I not read enough of the book? Should I read a second book? Why do I even have books on mechanics on my shelf in the first place? Was it for this specific scenario? Do I have a book on plumbing kicking around in case the bathroom floods?
A Vanity Table! Oh boy! Just what I always wanted...
Swinging the camera around - a feature that is new to the game since the fixed perspectives of the PC original - I see Mother making an absolute mess in the kitchen, clearly on purpose, as though I need to trash tutorial. I suppose I better read a book first.
Turns out you can borrow money from Mother just by choosing the Borrow Money option on her contextual menu. Talk was an option too, but after the stunt she pulled by covering the floor in crap, talking can wait. This trash will cost her...
What the bloody hell is your problem, woman?!
Getting some air/going to the only bin with space left, I see that the newspaper has been sat on the pavement for most of the day, and elect to read it. Maybe I'll learn something, and increase my 'local news' stat.
My Sim keeps reading it.
Mutters some Simlish.
Oh God, I'm so bored with this game.
So that was The Sims. A game that millions upon millions of people bought and played and then bought and played expansion after expansion, stuffed with digital furniture and clothing and whatnot. They actually expand the gameplay considerably too, but there's no way in Hell of me knowing that firsthand because the underlying gameplay is so dull.
You can play the game as a kind of God, turning the Sims into ants that try to exist in whatever wasteland you create for them, and therein lies the 'fun' of placing them into rooms with no doors and pools with no ladders, locking them in burning buildings and making them piss themselves with fear - understandably so.
As far as sandboxes - well, dolls houses - go, in terms of allowing you to do whatever you want to do, The Sims is quite a creative sandbox. I could see myself plopping furniture down and making the perfect house. Why I don't know. I'd have to make my own goals and hope no Sim gets in my way and dies on my new carpet.
Is that fun? Probably. I bet everyone who has played The Sims has a story they like to tell, but the story I've got to say is that I electrocuted myself on a broken TV twice, while my Mom trashed the kitchen and then I got bored and quit. As stories go, it needs a little work, doesn't it?
Can I see the potential in this game? Of course. There are hundreds of entries in this series. People devour this stuff. There's something in there, but that something sure isn't for me.
The adverse reaction from early focus groups meant that The Sims was worked on as a side project for much of the 1990s, before turning into the juggernaut that it now is.
The Sims, developed by Maxis, first released in 2000.
Version played: PlayStation 2, 2003, via emulation
GameCube, 2003, via emulation.