The Sims 3
There have been many complaints levelled at The Sims over the years by those ‘less-appreciative’ of the series. “It’s boring,” the cynics shout, before following up with a howl of “there’s nothing to do,” and “it’s for girls.” They’d be right to some extent, of course. The Sims’ adopted moniker of a virtual dollhouse is an altogether accurate one, your mouse pointer dictating the fate of the on-screen puppets in a warts ‘n’ all mimicry of life.
That translates to telling them to go to the toilet, obviously, or forcing them to undergo other menial tasks such as cleaning the dishes or changing a dirty nappy, an action which soon takes precedence after a few too many careless clicks of the innocent-sounding ‘WooHoo’ option. Why anyone would class that as entertainment is bizarre, of course; the most obvious question posed by the game’s sceptics – why waste time recreating life’s nuances on your PC when you could/should be out there experiencing them for yourself? – still unanswerable all these years later.
The crux of the matter, however, comes in the fact that we like playing god and, judging by the series’ inexorable sales (The Sims is currently sitting pretty as the bestselling PC franchise of all time), it seems the vast majority of you do too. It’s perhaps as unsurprising as it is slightly disappointing, then, that The Sims formula hasn’t changed all that much in the nine years since its inception.
It’s an all too familiar sight, at first; the virtual stars offer a striking resemblance to their previous selves; they speak the same gibberish, learn the same skills and clog the same toilets. Discouragingly, this sense of over-familiarity extends long into the opening hours as you craft your virtual self via a comprehensive, yet easy to use creation tool; its complexity now allowing the player to sculpt their character in far more intricate detail than ever before; no longer just fat or thin, beak or button nose, the creator allows players to alter the appearance of their characters to within an nth degree of precision.
But that’s just the physical side of things. Building extensively on the foundations laid by The Sims 2, The Sims 3 allows players to shape their Sims’ psychological structure via individual personality traits. It’s no longer just a case of allocating points to a naughty/nice slider, but picking five unique attributes (the sixty-plus list includes characteristics such as Flirty, Genius, Inappropriate, even Insane), as well as their favourite music, food and colour. Each trait comes with its own strengths and weaknesses and adds a further layer of personality to your Sims. Some are useful when it comes to developing relationships – the ‘Good’ and ‘Friendly’ traits allow your Sims to get off on the right foot upon first introduction, while likeminded ‘Computer Whizzes’ can geek out for hours discussing the latest hardware or by overclocking their computers. Others help when it comes to improving your Sims’ abilities – the ‘Bookworm’ trait, for example, allows Sims to read books at a greater speed, and thus learn any skills contained within at a faster rate.
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