It began early one morning. I woke up with my simmies on my mind. Something was missing. Okay, I know. A lot of things are missing from Sims 4, but that’s not what this is all about. Something was missing from my storylines, and I needed to do something about it.
I first played The Sims soon after the release of the original game. For over 15 years, I’ve been creating pixelated people, setting them into a fictional world, and letting them live their lives and tell their stories. They have often inspired me, surprised me, and distressed me. From them I’ve learned a lot about myself and the real world.
For me, simming is a creative tool. It’s a resource I use to keep my imagination active and operating at its highest level. It serves as an exercise in practical creativity, the ability to develop ideas and solutions for specific problems.
Unfortunately, with Sims 4, many of the storylines that evolve are somewhat generic. With only 40 traits to choose from, a mere 10 broad categories of aspirations, limited career choices, and whims that reflect a sim’s moods, our little people’s lives quickly become routine. The game, people complain, gets boring and dull.
Like many other players, I wanted something more.
Drama comes through conflict, and the parameters of The Sims 4 allow very little drama. Sure, we have the story of the romantic young woman searching for a soulmate but finding a non-committal fellow who wants nothing to do with marriage.
We can play out the story of the family-oriented man who wants a house filled with children only to fall in love with a woman who hates the little darlings. We can play an “Odd Couple” scenario, and pit a neat sim with a slob. We can pair up good with evil, a foodie with a glutton, or throw a loner into a crowd.
And then what? After we’ve used up the standard stock-in-trade situations, where will we go with our sims? Consider, too, that many of the traits are almost meaningless in terms of how our sims behave, and it’s easy to see that the ability to build dramatic, interesting, and suspenseful storylines is not inherent in the structure of the game.
To get more out of my game, I realized, I would have to put more into the game.
Thoughts whirled around inside my head. The gears turned a bit. My little world of “New Simeria” didn’t reflect real life. As a realist player, it’s important for me that my sims face real world challenges. That means more than simply growing up, finding a job, finding a spouse, having a family, growing old, and dying.
Everyone does those things, or at least, most of them. We each do them a little differently though, and as we’re doing these things — in other words, as we’re living this thing called life — a lot of things are happening outside of us. The world around us plays a huge role in who we are and what we do.
That world wasn’t reflected in my game, and that’s what I set out to change. I wanted my sims to live in a world as much like the “real world” as I could make it. The real world holds dangers and “things that go bump in the night”. Bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes the reverse is true, too. Good things occasionally befall very bad people. The real world has a dark underside. Drug dealers, sexual predators, and even killers lurk in the shadows of our consciousness. Accidents and illnesses strike people down suddenly and unexpectedly.
I wanted and needed these aspects of life in my game, and so, I set out to create them. How? By bringing in a cast of characters representing people from all walks of life — not the basic career choices provided by the game. I wanted characters who ranged from purely innocent to wickedly evil. I wanted the best and the worst of society.
I found this all — and more — in my townies. Of course, I had to use a little imagination to make it all happen.