digital crack

I’ve played The Sims, before. I had a copy for Windows, back when it first came out. I played hours and hours of it, not so much because it was fun, but because it was addictive. I had joked several times that it was like digital crack, and when I looked back at the reviews of the game, I saw lots of other people using that phrase. It’s true.

The problem is that The Sims isn’t just like crack in its addictive qualities; it’s also just about as fun. I don’t /enjoy/ playing The Sims. I keep thinking, “This isn’t fun. I’m going to stop. As soon as I get that promotion, I’m going to stop. Well, as soon as I get the promotion and buy a new fridge. And maybe I’ll get my Social motives further into the green before I quit, so that when I start playing next time I’m in the green. I should probably work on my Creativity, too. Boy, I hate this game. Good thing I’ve only been playing for eight hours.”

Beyond this fundamental complaint, there are a few good things and a few bad things. The graphics are good, but the framerate and max-zoom blows. The sound is good. The wait times are bad.

Finally, there are a few console-specific things to mention. Generally, when a PC-only game is ported to a console, the interface sucks. StarCraft64 is a prime example. The mouse and keyboard are a powerful combination, and it’s not enough to just replace the first with a control stick and drop the latter. The Sims for PS2 totally rebuilt the interface, though, and it works as well as just about any native PS2 game. Of course, it’s got always-holding-one-button syndrome: one of its buttons (R1) is so useful that I spend more than half of my time in the game holding it. This always indicates a design failure. In the natural state of play, I shouldn’t have to hold a button.

Back to my chief complaint, though: the problem is that the game is a constant uphill struggle. Doing well means maintaining a very slow average rate of progress while accepting constant slow setbacks. It’s kind of like Tetris in that way, but making progress requires so much planning and management that it can’t be zenned. The game is very self-similar. Nothing fundamentally new is possibly in the late game that is not possible early in the game. The point of playing is slow progress, with no clear winning scenario or new possibilities. I just don’t see the point.

Unless I hear there’s something amazing buried in the game, this will probably be my only Sims entry. Otherwise, the addiction might consume my soul.

Written on March 10, 2003
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