Are You a Cheater?

In most games, the idea of cheating sparks controversy, but as we all know, The Sims franchise isn’t like other games. You don’t play to win — well, except for all those new achievements EA has added into the game. Or maybe you’re an in-game collector, sending your sims off to explore their worlds and find every plant, fish, element, and special holiday egg. I suppose those might count as a competition, but even then,  you’re not playing for a final win-loss outcome. There is no final outcome. The game only ends when (a) you grow tired of it, or (b) the next version hits the market.

That said, I once looked askance at cheaters. Why bother to play the game at all if you’re going to rosebud, kaching, or motherlode your way to sim success? What’s the fun in cheating a sim’s skills to the max? Isn’t it just a little wrong to use cheats to keep all those need bars glowing in green?

Yes, I once thought that way.

My tune began to change a bit when I looked at some of the big, beautiful mansions that came with the original game. My sim families would never be able to afford to live in such luxury, but wouldn’t it be fun? Actually, I just wanted to see what one of those homes looked like from the inside. I also had my “sim-self” in that first game, remember, and I decided to make all my dreams of wealth come true. I created a handsome fellow to fall in love with, and as the lyrics say in Matchmaker, Matchmaker, for papa, I made him a scholar — in my mind, at least — and for mama, I made him rich as a king. I’d already made him as handsome as anything, just for me.  We met, we married, and we moved into a gorgeous mansion — courtesy of that handy little money cheat.

Oh, but I wasn’t cheating! Not at all. I was simply exercising my creativity, building a storyline, and bringing a rich character into the game. After all, we may all be created equal, but we don’t stay that way.

At the time, the money cheat was the only one I knew. I’d heard that other cheats existed, but most of them sounded so complicated I was hesitant to try them. There were also concerns about boolprop — how it could ruin a game — so I figured I was better off not knowing how to use it.

I never did consider myself a cheater in the original game, despite my marriage to a wealthy young man. I did, however, learn a lot of helpful tricks that made certain game elements much easier. This came as I first discovered “custom content”.

Oh, my! Did you know you could download a picture, hang it on the wall, and everyone in the neighborhood would become a family friend? Oh, my goodness! There’s a little candy bowl that makes every party fun! What’s that? That silver tea service immediately turns all the household’s bars bright green?

One by one, I downloaded little fixes like this. Again, I didn’t see it as cheating. It was simply part of the storytelling process, ways to make my sims behave more as I wanted them to under various circumstances. The game, for me, has always been about telling stories. I needed the ability to create characters and situations that were appropriate for my storylines.

I still made my sims work for things — like skills. Of course, again, that was partly because using cheats to increase skill levels still seemed a bit too complicated for me. And despite my use of the money cheat and a bit of helpful custom content, I didn’t see myself as a cheater.

With Sims 2 — my favorite of the series — I went wild with custom content and mods that helped me better “manage” the game. I was becoming more and more comfortable with using cheat codes — mostly simple ones, such as “aging on” and “aging off”. I used money cheats sparingly — and always as part of a storyline, such as when Darla Scully’s aunt died and left her a lot of money.

There were a lot of suspicions going around about the old woman’s death. Had Darla been responsible? Questions arose, but in the end Darla was vindicated. She was also shunned by everyone in the neighborhood, and while quite rich, she lived a very unhappy life. Enough about Darla.

All the while, I still scoffed at forum members who routinely “cheated” in the game. It was all right when I did it, because I was doing it for a reason. Other players were simply cheating to make things easier. That’s how my thinking went.

Little by little, of course, I realized that I often did the same thing. Using cheat codes not only made the game easier, but also more enjoyable. Those cheat codes, I realized, were tools designed to give players more control over in-game events and characters.

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s one of the greatest features of the game.

Craig in the Kitchen
I didn’t have to cheat to make Craig Dennison a master chef, but I did use cheats to alter his personality — not once, but twice.

For me, simming is about creating stories around the lives of my families. I need the ability to manipulate their reality from time to time. I need ways to quickly make adjustments to sims, their personalities, and their world.

People in real life sometimes change and in fiction, change is a key element. I’m grateful we have cheat codes to help me bring about real changes.

My sim, Craig Dennison, has gone through a lot of changes, for instance. He began with the non-committal trait, and went through a miserable marriage and divorce. Later, after meeting Rhiannon Gould, he changed. He was ready to settle down and I got rid of that non-committal trait, replacing it with one more suited for the new Craig.

Later still, as he aged — and as problems and frustrations occurred in his life — he underwent another change. I changed his good trait to mean, and the results weren’t pretty. He’s now divorced from Rhiannon, but he might get back together with his first wife. Maybe it’s time for Craig to undergo another personality change.

Is that cheating? No, not in my book. It’s storytelling. It’s creative manipulation of game elements.

I no longer frown when other players talk about cheat codes or mods. I’ve come to see that there are valid reasons to use them. It’s not cheating. It’s making the game our own, creating our own sim-realities, and telling our own stories.

A handy list of cheat codes can be found here.

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