The Sims, Maxis’ game in which you guide a virtual version of yourself through life on your PC, holds something of a mirror up to our own existence. Not that it’s particularly pretty.
The second version of The Sims, due in stores by September 17th, has some new features, including genetics and the ability to see and film your virtual life. It’s the ultimate reality show: A virtual person in a virtual world, being filmed by virtual cameras to be shown to an audience of real people.
Like all good sitcoms, you have to choose one of five aspirations — Popularity, Fortune, Family, Knowledge, and Romance (no mix and match allowed) — which will in turn “cause your Sims to have wants and fears — Will you give your Sims a long successful existence or leave their life in shambles?” Good question.
But as in our own lives, the Sims are nailing down as many of the variables as they can. In The Sims 2 you can “direct your Sims through a lifetime and determine their evolution as they pass on genetic traits from one generation to the next”. Sims now “have DNA and inherit physical characteristics and personality traits. They both resemble and behave like their ancestors. Direct your Sims from infancy through childhood, teenage life, and adulthood. Take them through an infinite number of generations and evolve your Sims family tree.”
All this raises intriguing questions, such as do we play games like this to escape our lives, improve on them, or try to reflect them as closely as possible? Clearly the answer is easier for The Sims Online, where most people go to make out virtually with other people. There is an element of that in The Sims, but I’m not sure it’s the only motivation. The Sims 2 will sell for $50.