Sims 3. The creators of The Sims (Maxis) pretty much created the casual gaming experience. As a kid, I grew up with SimCity, SimTower, SimAnt, SimFarm… It was a huge sprawling series of games that covered a lot of bases (and a lot of things we are now seeing as the dominant ‘casual games’ on social sites like Facebook).
Well, Maxis also created the Sims series, which zoomed in closer than any of their games had before. If you ever played SimCity, it was similar to CityVille except there was no incentive for multiplayer use, it was primarily single player (at the time, companies like Blizzard were still trying to figure out how to manage multiplayer PC games). But in these games, you controlled the whole city.
In the Sims, you control single individuals and their every need and want. I played the original Sims quite extensively (and a few of the expansions). With this being the first console port of this game, I will make a few allusions to the PC game and a few areas where the game definitely didn’t transfer as ideally as I would have liked.
So, for those of you that have never played these games… You start off creating a person (or a family). I decided I was going to try to mimic my own life, so I just made one individual. For some reason, though, there isn’t a shaved head option. Almost all games have a shaved head option as the default/blank slate. So, I had to give my character hair. I wish I had played this on PC so I could screen-capture… sorry.
Then, you choose traits for your character. You get to choose 5 traits that give them bonuses/penalties/etc. For instance, I gave my character two kind of artsy traits (Bookworm and Artistic). These let me read books faster (to upgrade skills). I also gave myself the Charismatic trait, which unlocks a whole new branch of options, so I can interact with other Sims in fun ways. There were two traits I should have picked if I was going for realism.
They actually had a trait for Dislikes Children, which disables the ability to have kids and your Sim actually gets frustrated by children. They also had a trait for Aquaphobia, meaning you couldn’t go into swimming pools. I didn’t want to waste two traits, so I just decided not to go into swimming pools and not to have kids.
You also get to choose a lifelong dream. I decided I was going to become a world-renowned author. You will be rewarded if you accomplish this dream, so you have some sort of “victory” in mind. Otherwise, this game could feel like there’s no point.
So, I started out as a mid-20 something who wants to be an author, living by himself with pretty much zero dollars.
So let’s see how my life turned out.
You get to choose a profession in the game, though the choices are fairly limited (compared to the PC versions of the Sim series and all of their expansion packs). The closest to being an author was to be a journalist. I’d flex my writing muscles during the day and then at night, my Sim would write works of art. And maybe someday, I wouldn’t need the day-job.
So, basically… When your Sim is at work, you don’t see what’s going on. But luckily, my Sim had a quite few tasks to do when he got home. I needed to get leads, so I cruised around my neighborhood and rummaged through my neighbor’s trash. One of them gave me a little prompt that I found something scandalous. I ran home to my computer and typed up a scathing expose. Soon, I was promoted.
I rose the charts. I found some big wigs in the City Hall I could interview, I happened to make quite a name for myself. I ended up being the lead anchor on the news, not just behind the scenes. My charisma came into play quite a lot. So, my day-job was a success.
After hours, I cranked out novels. How it works… is a little progress bar shows up and you have to devote so much time to writing. After a certain amount of time, it says ‘Yay! You’ve finished a book!’ and tells you how much in royalties you’ll be making. I wrote novels, I wrote restaurant reviews, I wrote interviews… Each time you complete something, your skill gets better and your next project is even better. By the end, my author was making about $10,000 a week in just royalties from these novels, and I had over 21 bestselling novels in every genre imaginable.
At one point, I felt like this made my real-life accomplishments seem meaningless, like I hadn’t been trying hard enough. But then I remembered that this is a video game and writing novels is harder than clicking Write and waiting for 10 minutes.
After I was Lead Anchor, there was nowhere higher to go. So I quit my job and lived for awhile just off my royalties. I had enough saved up for a new car and to keep my maid on staff. I was middle-age and I decided to start playing guitar. I took volunteer gigs working as a roadie and even wrote a biography of one of the band members, to make some extra cash. When I wasn’t writing, I practiced my guitar in the park for tips. I got old but eventually got rewarded with the lead vocalist position in a band. Success.
When I wasn’t writing/going to work, I was spending my time out on the town. I had these charisma options, I didn’t want them to go to waste. So, I met the ladies.
The first girl’s name was Penny. She wanted me to write a book about her. Though, what she could have done to possibly be interesting to anyone is beyond me. So, in the game, you click on people you want to talk to and then it gives you options. Friendly options, mean options, romantic options… I also had charismatic options, so I could tell stories and jokes and people loved it. Penny fell for it and she soon had that little red heart next to her name.
But then I got caught up with my career and I kind of forgot about her for awhile.
Until I got a prompt that says “Penny had a baby!” WHAT! I don’t talk to her for a few days and she had a baby? I realized she probably wasn’t my type, though it’s my fault for not picking the Dislike Babies trait. We were just on different pages.
So… My birthday was coming up and the game makes you throw a party for your birthday. I didn’t want to be lonely, so I went out and met people, so I could invite them.
I met Dena at the park. She was playing guitar, so I listened. And then we started talking and talking for a long time.
But I guess we talked for too long. She needed to go to the bathroom, but instead of just excusing herself like a normal person, she pees her pants and runs off screaming. Now here I am, standing in the park with a puddle. I feel ridiculous.
The next day, I throw my birthday party. I call up all the people I met and invite them over. I bought some new furniture and a cool little mini-bar, so hopefully they’re entertained. Lo and behold Dena shows up and everyone around her is making gagging sounds because she didn’t clean up after she wet herself. She shows up to my party like that, so what do I do?
I put the moves on her. I didn’t care. We danced, we laughed, everyone had a great time. I ended up getting pretty serious, after she took a shower anyways. She invited me to her place (and then immediately ran to a graveyard next door and started crying, don’t ask me what that’s about).
Well… Eventually, we all grew up. I was feeling non-committal so nothing else really happened. Penny and Dena both grew old. I had another girl that I kind of talked to and she would show up at my house at like 2am and look in my windows and call me and see if I wanted to chat. I never answered. Super creeper.
So, is the game fun? Yes. The vastness of what’s possible is incredible. I did one career track and started the music track and barely scraped the surface. There’s a criminal track where you can break into houses, there’s a law enforcement track… Doctor, professional athlete, scientist… Mix those differences with different ways you can build your Sim(s) and you have an incredible amount of replayability.
In terms of the game coming to the PS3, it mostly works. Obviously scrolling with a mouse is much easier than using the dual analog sticks of the PS3 controller. And when buildings got to be more than 1 story tall, navigating those became an issue as well. Graphically, it was wonderful, the sound was fun and vibrant, and the controls alone weren’t enough to make me frustrated. I did notice that the selection of items to buy for your home was also much less than previous Sims installments, but I’m sure it came down to how much could fit on the PS3.
Overall, a really enjoyable experience for those that want to play a game that is low-stress (whether your Sims live or die). Even if they die, there are ways to bring them back to life. If you’re a fan of casual gaming and have access to a PC, I’d obviously recommend the PC version and its subsequent expansions (with additional careers, cities, etc) but if you have a PS3, this would be a solid choice as well.