Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Byte: Criminal Mastermind. AND IN THE GAME!

Ah, those "and in the game!" jokes never get old...

In the absence of anything better to play on PC right now, earlier this week I decided to reinstall The Sims 2. I know what you're thinking; Why on Earth would I want to do a fool thing like that? Well, firstly because it's bloody brilliant and secondly because if I replay Jedi Academy or put more time into WoW right now I will hurl.

The Sims 2 might have a reputation amongst the so-called "hardcore" gamers as either a pointless time-sink or worse, a "girl's game", but it's actually rather sophisticated. As a game, I'd say it's almost an equivalent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to read as a kid. You get to create your own characters and decide what you want to do with them.

My speciality is, of course, deep and tragic levels of social dysfunction.

I'm only taking the advice of Kurt Vonnegut, who when asked how to write a good short story said "be a sadist". Because Sims is a sandbox game, you are essentially creating your own story and narrative while choosing the events your Sims act out, and it is much more fun to take your virtual charges, build them up and then completely mess with and ruin their lives. Currently my virtual self is being a total rake, impregnating all the single women who cross his path, which is entirely in character for a man who's just topped out on the Criminal career path. I really like how my Sim finds being a Criminal Mastermind fun (that is, it fills up his Fun 'Need') and how being a Con Man fulfilled the Social 'Need'... I wouldn't naturally consider being a Con Man a social profession. The best thing about the Criminal career path is that the hours are short (if a bit unsociable) and the money is good. AND IN THE GAME! (Sorry, I'll stop now)

Keeping in character, my Sim stalks around dressed totally in black - boots, leather trenchcoat, the works - and is living with a hot redhead specifically created for him (that sounds very Frankenstein, but it's not like that... really) to take advantage of the Turn On/Off characteristics from the two expansion packs I have (both ill-gotten gains from reviewing - gosh, I'd forgotten about that "Nearly Naked Chef" line...); she's so comely that her surname is actually 'Hawt' and she has ambitions of marrying my Sim and having six of his children. They may need to have words about that, though she's already working on the first... They'll probably get up to five and then I'll have my Sim move in with the cute single Mom down the road, who's already spawned one of his bastard love children.

I don't understand how people can say The Sims is boring. With such depth of interaction and the potential for tangled webs of social interaction, love octagons, callous romantic betrayals and dynasty building I think the only limiting factor is your imagination. It's as much a game for misanthropes and sociopaths as it is for people who like playing Happy Families, and that's where the genius lies. Oh, and if you're a close friend of mine, be afraid. Your virtual self is going to be moving into the neighbourhood very soon... who knows what japes and scrapes you're going to get into?

Well, I do, obviously. But that would be telling...
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