Crime Doesn’t Pay

Yesterday I posted another installment of “The Townie Project” — information about my quest to bring more drama and excitement to my game. I quoted “The Shadow”, a crime-stopping vigilante from a 1930s radio program. Each episode began with those immortal words:

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

This was followed by a maniacal laugh with the musical accompaniment of Camille Saint-SaensLe Rouet d’Omphale.

Although many people are familiar with these opening lines, not so many know the closing words of each episode. Here is the Shadow’s reminder to us all:

“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay… The Shadow knows!”

Sims BurglarAs a simmer, I’ve always looked askance at the “criminals” in the game. With The Sims — the original game — I used to laugh at the idea of someone grabbing a newspaper and applying for a criminal position. Even more hilarious was watching my sim — dressed in his burglar attire — head out the door to meet the car pool and go to work. I remember one player from the old forum writing about how absurd it was for her “criminal” to share-the-ride each morning with his mother, who happened to be in the law enforcement career.

Only in the sims, of course.

In the original game, I simply ignored the criminals. Playing the game as a “bad guy” or “bad girl” just didn’t appeal to me. It was too unrealistic. All the same, I did rather enjoy having criminals lurking in the background.

By the time Sims 2 came around, my position on “the criminal element” changed a bit. I was broadening my game play, adding more households to my rotation, and eventually I found myself with a few not-so-nice fellows to deal with. It’s rather an amusing story as to how the first criminal came into my gameplay, but I’ll save that anecdote for another time.

Once I had criminals in the game, I was forced to deal with an important philosophical question. Would crime pay? This, I think, has always been my problem with the criminal career. I don’t like to sound melodramatic, but what sort of message are we sending to young players? Are we implying that it’s all right to pursue a life of crime, that with hard work and dedication crime can, indeed, pay?

Not in my game, folks.

I decided that I’d have criminals in the game, but those criminals would have to face the consequences of their actions. Illicit behavior could lead to a lock-up. Of course, we didn’t have jails in Sims 2, so as I often do, I relied on my imagination to create them. I became judge, jury, and jailer.

Drawing on my experience as a table-top war-gamer, I knew how useful a six-sided die could be for determining outcomes of gaming events. How could I put the roll of a die to work for me in keeping law and order in Simeria?

I started each criminal with a “0” designation. That meant no arrests. As I began each rotation, I rolled the die for each criminal. If it came up with a “6”, the criminal was under arrest. That didn’t mean much, of course. Not the first time. But his or her arrest record went up — which meant another crime check at the start of my next in-game “month” (In my rotational gameplay, my rotation schedule is divided into months, with one complete rotation becoming equivalent to one full year.) After 3 arrests, a sim criminal was immediately “sent to jail”. The sentence was determined by multiplying the total number of arrests by the criminal’s career level. I then took the sim out of the neighborhood where he lived and moved him or her to a special neighborhood I’d built just for the purpose of housing my miscreants. They remained there — unplayed — until they’d paid their debt to society and were ready to be released. I then returned them to their home neighborhood and allowed them to resume their lives.

With Sims 4, I follow a similar system of “crime checks” but the roll of the die has become a bit more detailed. Another change, too, is that a sim no longer has to pursue a criminal career to be subject to arrest. Any sim whose actions are suspect can face consequences.

Madame Melanson reads the cards for Ava Trent and tells her what she wants to hear.
Madame Melanson reads the cards for Ava Trent and tells her what she wants to hear.

Consider my young sim, Hailey Melanson, who was tired of the struggle to pay her bills. She has a job — she’s in the medical field — but she wanted more money, and she wanted it now. She came up with a brilliant idea, set herself up in the fortune-telling business, and began raking in the big bucks under the guise of “Madame Melanson” — who knows all, sees all, and will reveal all…for a price, of course.

I wrote about Madame Melanson in a forum post. You can read it here: A Lucrative New Club-Based Business for my Sim.

Nice work, Hailey, but it was inevitable that someone should complain. Apparently not all of her clients felt they’d received their money’s worth. After all, a thousand simoleons is a hefty sum to pay for a bit of psychic advice.

Police received complaints that Hailey was running a scam, a fraudulent fortune-telling scheme that was bilking people out of their hard-earned money. Hailey was added to my “criminal registry” and became subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law. She’s been lucky, though. Despite undergoing several “crime checks” she’s never been arrested. People in my game are still complaining about her, but she’s still taking in money.

Now, with the addition of a whole slew of new criminals through my Townie Project, I’m doing more crime checks and my Daily Chronicle newspaper where I record the events and activities going on in New Simeria is filled with sensational headlines. Murder, stalking, trials, and plea bargains have all become part of my regular routine as a simmer. Occasionally someone gets away with it, but for the most part, in my game, at least, crime does not pay. As the Shadow said so many years ago, it bears its bitter fruit.

How do YOU handle crime in YOUR game?



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