[GAME MASTER]The Sims 2: University & NightlifeI have a confession to make. I don't get “The Sims.”
This is a little embarrassing, since I've played (and adored) all of Will Wright's other Sim games for more than a decade. “SimCity” was a blast, rivalling only “Civilization” as the most wasteful distraction of my childhood. “SimEarth” was neat. I even thought the rather obscure “SimCopter” was a lot of fun. But when the original “The Sims,” and then its sequel, “The Sims 2,” came out, I found myself puzzled.
For those unfamiliar with “The Sims” phenomenon, it's the zenith of Wright's signature “sandbox” game design, a total life simulation, complete with houses, money, needs, relationships and, in “The Sims 2,” life aspirations and long-term moods.
These games were fun for a little while: twisting the little creatures into bizarre interpersonal relationships, defending them from burglary, setting the house on fire. But eventually I found myself fed up with the mundanities. I'm set on steering my Sim to romantic (or financial, or creative) success, when he unceremoniously drops whatever he's doing to go take a shower. Or eat some chips. Or, God forbid, play a computer game.
And that brings to mind two things: one, just because I can't get anything done without spending four hours playing computer games doesn't mean I want to be reminded of that by a machine, and two, what is the point of all this? I do all these things (eat, shower, clean dishes) in real life and they're usually boring. So why would watching a computer pretend to do them be any more interesting?
Of course I'm deliberately missing the point. The point of the game is not to duplicate the gamer's life, the point is to live a different life, one full of more immediate drama. Essentially, to make your own soap opera. “The Sims 2” even features moviemaking and blog tools specifically designed to allow the gamer to narrate their Sims' life stories. But even so, the little things get in the way. It is a rare literary classic that reads, “And then Mr. Darcy had to go to the bathroom again,” every few pages.
So when I loaded up the two expansion packs for “The Sims 2,” entitled “University” and “Nightlife,” I hoped that, somehow, these would balance out the game with enough new activities I’d find myself suddenly interested. They almost did.
In “The Sims 2,” Sims go through “life stages,” being born, growing old and, eventually, leaving the world in the care of the next generation. “University” adds a new life stage to the Sims, called “young adult,” and adds on different college environments. These provide a break from the household setting, as Sims at this life stage can head off to one of the three included campuses or a custom-built one.
This made for much more interesting gameplay, since one user-controlled Sim can live in a dorm with other, computer-controlled Sims (and Sims don’t have to deal with pesky full-time jobs).
“Nightlife” is roughly analogous to the original “Sims” expansion pack “Hot Date,” in that it adds downtown areas to the Sims’ world. But it also enhances interaction between Sims with new elements to determine “attraction” between Sims, such as turn-ons and “chemistry.” Plus your Sims can buy cars.
Most of my Sims ended up on academic probation, starving and smelly and completely uncool.
Oh well. At least they don’t have to do laundry.
by Ben Applegate