This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Sims 3.
Well, fuck. I really didn't want to end up in this position. The only reason I bought The Sims 3 (after dark and while no one was watching, obviously) was as an emergency fallback for when the summer games drought kicked in. I was hoping to have Ghostbusters by now, but I guess time makes fools of us all - Australian release times to be precise. My future self will probably be playing it by the time this video goes out, but fuck my future self, he's had something against me ever since he started putting on weight.
I have to admit, I'm surprised that The Sims 3 even exists considering that EA's usual policy of releasing a new fraction of a game every time the cocaine bucket runs dry seemed to be serving them perfectly well, but I guess even Sims fans occasionally demand something more every now and again, when they're not drinking Bacardi Breezers and having periods. I know what you're thinking: "Yahtzee, you inappropriate menstruation joke, why the reluctance? The Sims is more popular than a chocolate cunnilingus machine and afterwards doesn't make you feel fat and ashamed! It's introduced millions of people to gaming and has made enough money to buy a lapdance for every depressive in the Western world!" For this exercise, assume that you are the president of The Sims fan club. Well, I could say that the majority of its audience are casual gamers (pronouncing "casual gamers" the same way I pronounce the word "tapeworms,") but that argument's a wee bit no true Scotsman. Truly, my objection comes because what I am is a critic of games, not a critic of computer programs that you just fuck around in.
Okay, let's try to be professional about this. Oh boy! The Sims 3! It's like The Sims 2, but plus another one!
Now you can explore the entire town and discover that everyone else's lives are just as bland and empty as yours. You can also customize the texture and coloring of virtually everything, so I painted all my clothes and furniture with yellow and orange stripes so that it'd be harder to tell when it all inevitably caught fire. But nevertheless, it seems like half of the actual content has gone walkabout. What happened to the sci-fi and the gothic settings from The Sims 2? The only town available is Norman Rockwellville. There are less objects available to buy; I couldn't find any snooker tables or jacuzzis for my planned entertainment lounge; and there's very little variety of hairdos. Yes, my new vagina is growing quite nicely, thank you for asking. But I swiftly deduced that all these deficiencies are because they're saving stuff for the downloadable content that you have to buy with real money. Phew! EA aren't stupid after all, they're just greedy, exploitative fucks.
If you put yourself into a chemical coma around the time Sims 1 came out (and frankly I don't blame you,) The Sims is - as the name implies - a simulation of a gated community that has been taken over by meth addicts and flamboyant homosexuals. They eat, sleep, go to work, and occasionally urinate a mysterious blue liquid.
So where does interactivity come into this? Well, you have to design and maintain the house in which they live. That's about it, actually. On the surface you seem to have complete control over their lives: you can trap them in a tiny room with no amenities and watch them slowly starve (if you're a bitter antisocial dickhead and you've alienated everyone who ever loved you and you like to think you're funny and aloof but really you're dying inside and also you smell,) but the appeal in that runs out fast; watching people trapped in small boxes as their lives visibly tick away brings back unpleasant memories of temporary office work. But beneath the surface your power over these tiny lives is ultimately negligible. Assuming you're not a bitter antisocial dickhead, etc., and you're playing properly, your role is to keep the Sims happy. They've got various stats on display and as soon as one goes in the red you make them do a wee or eat leftover pancakes or whatever, and assuming they've got a job you'll have just enough time in the day to get every stat in the green before they leave.
You fall into a routine, and it gets harder and harder to break out. Days go by, all interchangeable; even the house parties on the weekends start to feel hollow and token. Sooner or later a big fat realization drops onto your head and smothers your face in its blubbery rolls: here you are, recreating the same work-sleep routine you're supposed to be using your free time to get away from, looking forward to simulated weekends even while your own drift by unfulfilled. You see what this is? You are not the ruler of your Sims. You are the one rushing to meet their every whim. You are the slave! You are the real plaything!
This may sound a little bit hysterical, but The Sims is probably the most evil game in the world. It's not the Manhunt kind of evil that convinces children to put each others' heads in plastic bags - that's pussy evil! It's not even the World of Warcraft type of evil that turns millions of people into mindless zombies doomed to walk the Earth devouring pizza and Cheetos. No, The Sims is evil out of a sense of underlying wrongness. Despite physical appearance, every character feels the same: a facade of wholesomeness stretched over a dead, empty interior, a hive-like community of beings who make an effort to imitate human behavior but don't quite grasp the subtleties. And you just know that if you peel their skin back you'll find reptilian scales or a black chitinous exoskeleton. But the most evil thing is the player. Trapping Sims Truman Show-style to toy with their lives, not even for fun but to indulge a twisted power fantasy without having to go through all the trouble of birthing children of their own to abuse.
So I guess what I'm saying is that all women are evil. Bewitching innocents with their insidious emotions and absorbing our manhoods into their rank blood-streaked spam sandwiches, who needs 'em. Incidentally, I'm still not gay.
- There aren't any trilby hats either: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I apologise for saying that EA are evil: I of course meant to say that they are the physical manifestation of all of mankind's collective sins
- Basically I've given up on ever knowing the touch of a woman again