My SimChuck has absolutely no grit. He is constantly bummed out, forever holding his head and whining about how he’s “not comfortable” or “not having fun.” At one point I bought him a pretty respectable wall mirror for $300, and he responded by saying “I’m too depressed to even look at myself.” As an alternative, he sat on the couch and stared at the bathroom door. Quite the drama queen, my SimChuck is.
And why isn’t my SimChuck happy? Because he’s a selfabsorbed, materialistic prick. This is perhaps the most disturbing element of The Sims: The happiness of the characters is directly proportional to the shit you elect to buy them. As far as I can tell, acquiring electronic equipment and name-brand furniture is just about the only thing Sims find psychologically satisfying.
The shopping angle appears to be the part of the game its designers found most compelling, as their catalog of faux products is both massive and detailed. This is the kind of shit that would prompt Tyler Durden to hit somebody in the face. Take the on-screen description of the Soma Plasma TV, for example. Buying this item for $3,500 increases the owner’s fun rating by six full points. And this is what you’d get:
Perfect form … perfect image conformity … perfect entertainment. Soma Consumer Electronics takes the ‘plasma phenomenon’ to a brave new level in this elegant technology statement. With its incredible image quality, unique form and super thin Flatuspective screen, the Soma Plasma TV is the undisputed leader in nanopixel technology.
It would be fun to claim that this kind of Price Is Right product exposition is a treacherous form of unexpected advertising, but that wouldn’t be true, as all the products in The Sims are fake. And it would make me seem as astute as Chip Lambert if I suggested this game is latently attempting to brainwash children into believing that shopping is an important part of life, but I honestly don’t think the wackmobile geeks at Electronic Arts have motives that sinister. It’s basically just weird, and it’s indisputable proof that The Sims is not a strategy game, even though that’s what it calls itself. If this was somehow about strategy, all we’d need to know is that getting the biggest television gets you x number of fun points. But nobody cares about the math. The reason so much effort has been placed in the “promotion” of fake Sims merchandise is so that its real-life players will enjoy the experience of buying them. It’s almost circular logic: If a human playing The Sims somehow enjoys pretending to buy a plasma TV that doesn’t even exist, it stands to reason that my little SimChuck would profoundly enjoy watching said TV if it were somehow real. By this justification, buying high-end electronics really should cure depression.
Something to read on the weekend? :)