Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Later Sims games were probably better games, in terms of how they fleshed out the fantasy (and accidentally gave it more than the intended degree of consumerism critique subtext with all those expansion packs and DLC), but Will Wright’s original people simulator remains unsurpassed, I think. It has this detached, sciency atmosphere, far more interested in people as behaviours than people as people – like an experiment which coalesced into entertainment.
I’m not convinced anyone involved with The Sims ever expected it to be the eternal smash hit that it quickly became. This was humanity as ant farm, rather than a doll’s house, but the latter aspect entirely governs it now. The Sims’ Sims seem so much more animal-like than those in subsequent games, helpless and stupid, so easily toyed with. Making them a home was more perfunctory: these are the things they need, psychologically, rather than than a pursuit of prettiness.
Of course, the ability to make Sims passingly resemble and bear the name of friends, families and celebrities sealed the deal: this was the soap opera simulator. Make your friends suffer, make your friends screw, make your friends the stars of your screen. Its success seems so inveitable now ,whereas at the time it seemed such a curiosity. Honestly though, if the Sims didn’t exist and a game like this launched from a big publisher, we’d question their sanity while potentially hailing it as a creative tour de force. The world needed The Sims, but The Sims’ success makes it all too easy to forget that.