I’ve been thinking a lot lately about goal-setting in my own life. Naturally, that’s led me to think about the goals that have become part of Sims 4. While I understand that the importance of setting objectives for ourselves, I’m not a goal-oriented person. In fact, I think goals can sometimes do more harm than good.
Most of all, I’m not goal-oriented in my approach to playing my sims. To me, in-game goals or “achievements” go against all The Sims was originally created to be. Times change, and games evolve. You don’t have to point that out to me. I know Sims 4 has to be different from its predecessors because the world itself is different. The players are different, too.
When the original game first came out in 2000, it was unlike any other PC game on the market. Players were a bit confused at first because The Sims was a game you couldn’t win. But there’s a corollary to that. It’s also a game you can’t lose. There’s a beautiful sense of freedom in that. Take away concerns about winning and losing, and you’re left with a lot of fun. You can do whatever you want — within the confines of the game engine — and if something goes wrong, you just exit without saving and do something different next time.
The discussion of “in-game” goals comes up at the Forum from time to time, and many players are quick to point out that there are goals in the original game. Yes. And no.
First, let’s be clear on what we’re discussing. There are actually three different types of goals to consider. There are goals our sims are striving to achieve — reaching the top of a career, stashing away thousands of simoleons — and these goals are built-in to the structure of the game. Every sim must have a life “aspiration”. Of course, whether or not the sim actively pursues or achieves an aspiration is up to the player.
Another way our sims pursue goals is through stories we create as we play. Goals are an important element in story-telling, and, as an example, we might give a sim the goal of finding a spouse and having a family. The game doesn’t reward us for achieving these story-driven goals, unless, of course, they happen to coincide with a life aspiration.
The third type of goal is called an “achievement”. These are also built-in to the game, and you can find a complete list of them at The Sims VIP:
Although these achievements may masquerade as “sim goals”, they’re really not. They’re player-driven. The in-game achievements are the developer’s attempt to appeal to a new generation of gamers, players who want a score-keeping system, or another way to measure their progress.
What’s happening is that it’s almost becoming a “right” versus “wrong” approach to the game. Players are now subject to comparisons, and there’s a bit of smugness and superiority among those “achievers” who truly think that’s what the game is all about.
Do I sound bitter? Maybe so. I don’t think accomplishing a list of meaningless objectives makes anyone a better player. The point of the game — at least in the beginning — is that players can approach the game however they want.
Of course, those “achievers” — who haunt the board first bragging of their accomplishments and then asking what they’re supposed to do next — always tell me that I don’t have to achieve anything. That’s true. The achievements are simply there, and occasionally, without even trying, I do complete one. I’ve received the “Bowdacious” achievement, for instance, when Jonathan Evans reached the top level of violin skill. That was part of his storyline, part of his own goal-setting. He achieved it because I was playing out his story, not because I wanted to check off an item on a sort of in-game “bucket list”.
No, I don’t have to play to “achieve” anything on the list. That’s not the point. My question is why we need such a list. First and foremost, The Sims is a life-simulation game. We don’t get points in real life, do we? We’re not really keeping score, are we? Happiness in life comes from many things. Ultimately, we determine for ourselves what makes us happy. To me, the whole idea of having achievements in the game takes away from what simming is all about. It encourages players to focus on meaningful activities, to strive toward goals simply for the sake of checking another item off a list.
Goals do have a place, even in our game, but goals should have meaning. That’s how I feel about it.
What’s your opinion?
Are you a goal-oriented simmer?
Are you an “achiever”?