Simulate the World | Sims 4 Analysis

The Sims 4

The Sims 4 is a videogame within the franchise the Sims, possibly the most played and most know life-simulation game to ever exist. The franchise is built on trying to make a simulation of western, suburban – and now city – life, however, often the game falls short. Besides the obvious example of virtual reality, it is not prominent to see a videogame manufacturing a system that gives a visual environment to all the players involved, (Mujber & Szecsi 2004, p1836) especially when attempting to simulate life itself.

The Sims 4 is a type of simulation game. Like many others within the genre – truck simulator, flight simulator, football manager, and many more – it is built around simulation.  In Exploring user experience in game interface: a case study of The Sims 3 It discusses how the Sims is a franchise built around virtuality, by simulating environments to create an immersive experience of the virtual world (Ali 2013, p.10). Although the academic journal talks specifically about the Sims 3, in What Is the Difference Between the Sims Games? Megan Ellis outlines the difference between in-game features. Ellis recognises the inclusion of, neighborhoods, sim complexity, more diversity, and life stages, all of which contribute to a much more accurate life simulation. There are no substantial points to suggest that the values in the game have changed and therefore the arguments in the academic journal analysing the interface of the sims 3 link directly to The Sims 4.

Discrete-Event System Simulation describes simulation as the ‘imitation of the operation of a real-world process’ p.4, as this directly relates to The Sims 4. Considering the participation elements of The Sims 4 I took into account the analytical framework proposed by Reassens. Reassens explores the difference between “cultural participation and Participatory Culture. It is interesting to note that as a previous player of the sims 4 I found myself in the participatory culture. Once I had started my digital artefact, I was less passive and although I played less, I found myself within the paratext of the sims 4 more, concerned more with modifications and online communities.

Digital Artefact & Research

No life simulation videogame is more popular than the Sims. The franchise is built on trying to make a simulation of western, suburban – and now city – life, however, often the game falls short. Besides the obvious example of virtual reality, it is not prominent to see a videogame manufacturing a system that gives a visual environment to all the players involved, (Mujber & Szecsi 2004, p1836) especially when attempting to simulate life itself.

There is a very well-researched discourse over the effects of simulation on education, moreover, any studies show the effectiveness and benefits of simulation on education. I plan to discuss the empathetic effects of simulation. There is evidence that simulation games people to live the lives of people – or virtual lives – inducing culturally and distal characters, increase students’ sense of empathy, boosting their interest in learning more about which the world we live in. (Simulating REAL LIVES: Promoting Global Empathy and Interest in Learning Through Simulation Games by Christine M. Bachen, Pedro F. Hernández-Ramos, and Chad Raphael is an important source).

In my Beta pitch, the Blog post discusses how the decentralised network of the sims 4. By this time my theoretical framework – which is often referred to as an analytical framework – was decided, considering Simulation, Modification, and Paratext.

At a time, it was once the people relevant in designing the game who was the ones who conveyed their particular point of view, in this case, the simulation of life. However, with modifications being easily accessible in the Sims 4, the responsibility is also on the players.  This accessibility to create and apply modifications in the Sims 4 is evident in the folder titled mods which EA has decided to include on the base game. Arguments have been made that it is even encouraged. Inheritably this means – as I found out through experience making my digital artefact – players took to asking other players for a better gaming experience. This makes the experience of the game become decentralised when examining the paratext of the niche, moreover, games cannot truly decentralise without modification (Smith 2009, p.25).

Persona

I conclude by saying mods are not running the game, as many players preferred to use mods over buying overpriced expansion packs. Although this created a decentralised gaming experience, players found mods a necessity. In fact, I found a better gaming experience, my digital artefact had also evolved to appreciate modded content from social utility and user feedback as mentioned in my Beta. In conclusion, my content creator persona had also transferred into the decentralised network created by modification. Modifications change the paratext of the game and can either make it more realistic or less, the freedom of the modification leaves the simulation up to the player’s discretion.

Gallery

References:

Ali, NM Abdullah, SZ, Salim, J & Lee, H 2013, ‘Exploring user experience in game interface: a case study of The Sims 3’, The Computer Games Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 6-18

Bachen, CM Hernández-Ramos, PF & Raphael, C 2012,‘Simulating REAL LIVES: Promoting Global Empathy and Interest in Learning Through Simulation Games’, Simulation & Gaming, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 437-460

Banks, J Carson, J Nelson, B & Nicol, D 2001, ‘Discrete-Event System Simulation’, Prentice Hall, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-326.

Ellis, C, Adams, TE & Bochner, AP 2011, Autoethnography: An Overview, Qualitative-research.net, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, viewed 5 October 2021

Fiadotau, M 2015, ‘Paratext and meaning making in indie games’, Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 85-97.

Mujber, ST Szecsi, T & Hashmi, MSJ 2004, ‘Virtual reality applications in manufacturing process simulation’, Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 155-156, pp. 1834–1838.

Raessens, J 2005, ‘Computer games as participatory media culture’, J. Raessens & J. Goldstein (Eds.), Handbook of computer game studies, pp. 373-388.

Rak, J 2015,‘Life Writing Versus Automedia: The Sims 3 Game as a Life Lab’, Biography, vol. 38, no. 2 pp. 155-180.

Smith, AV 2009, ‘The Impact of Decentralisation on Networked Computer Games’, Computer Games Programming B.Sc. (Hons) & School of Computing University of Derby, pp. 1-54.

Wark, M 2006, ‘Digital Allegories (on The Sims)’, Grey Room Inc. & Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pp.126-138.

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