The Sims 4 was released on September 2, 2014, the fourth game in The Sims franchise. The original game, The Sims, was released in 2000. In fact, most Simmers- as the fans of the franchise are called- have been playing the game since its very inception.
I myself didn’t know about The Sims until 2002, when I discovered it on one of the desktops at my Dad’s workplace. My father had decided to take me to work that day, and for a four-year-old, an office is simply boring.
But after a few rounds of Solitaire, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to the strange blue logo on the corner of the screen. Before I knew it, I had spent hours essentially playing house with a random family I’d created in the game. And for some reason, even though there was only the base game available, I liked it.
Suddenly, going to Dad’s workplace became a treat. Years passed, and even though I hadn’t played The Sims more than a few times, the game stuck with me. When I got my first computer in fourth grade, The Sims 2 was out, and I probably spent more hours playing the game than I should’ve. The same thing happened with The Sims 3- which was probably the best thing that happened to me in middle school, but somewhere in 2012, I stopped playing the game altogether.
It wasn’t until I discovered The Sims 4 in 2015 that I decided to get into the game again. For a very long time, I only watched a few gameplay series on YouTube. I guess the teenage me was embarrassed to admit that she liked The Sims franchise. I’ve never really known other people who’ve played The Sims in my immediate social circle. But the fact that it was already considered so geeky that I was embarrassed about it has always seemed very confusing to me.
Does this imply that there’s a certain type of people who gravitate towards the game?
I feel as though I’m missing a critical point to address this question. So, I began a quest- or in this case; I started a new aspiration- to understand what kind of people like The Sims 4.
The Stereotype Involved
Of course, my first stop in this journey was via The Sims community itself. Looking at the various threads and forum discussions, you’ll quickly learn that there are definitely many subsections of the community. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to say that there are so many different groups of people playing The Sims 4, you really have to admit that a broad stereotype actually does exist.
In fact, I probably fall into the socially awkward cat owner stereotype for a pretty long time. Now, I’m not shaming anyone (except myself) because I will admit that while lurking in the forums, I am drawn to groups with similar people.
We’ll talk about the most mundane of things, including gardening a Death Tree. Our part of the community likes knitting, gardening and tries to play the game with as few cheats as possible. We’ll do legacy challenges and are generally more interested in family-oriented gameplay.
However, that’s not the only stereotype. The other major stereotype (which I’ll admit that I’ve been drawn to since the lockdown) is what I call the evil gamer where the player will do everything- and I mean EVERYTHING- to ensure that their sim dies in the worst way possible, or that they’re a proper villain, or are absolutely hated by the other townies (NPCs) in the game. These guys probably have many violent or NSFW mods installed on the game and are often mis-characterized as weird control-freaks who like to make pixel people do weird stuff.
While this makes up the two halves of The Sims fanbase, these are actually two extreme ends of the spectrum. Obviously, there are many other types of Simmers as well.
What Types Of Players Are There?
The Ones Who Are Builders And Interior Designers
These kinds of Simmers only play The Sims 4 to make beautiful architectural masterpieces (which the rest of us just download from the gallery because there is no way we’d ever be able to do that). Some might not even be into interior designing but since both building homes and interior designing require the use of the Build/Buy mod only, I decided to keep these two in the same category.
The Ones Who Like To Play Dress Up Only
Like the builders and designers, these Simmers only like to use the Create-A-Sim menu (called CAS, for short), where they’ll make the most perfect sims with the best fashion sense. They never really get to play the game, but they’re happy playing dress-up with the hundreds of families they’ve created.
The Ones Who Are Vicariously Living Through Their Sims
I personally attest to being a part of this for a while. Basically, when I started playing The Sims 4, I couldn’t believe the customization options we had on CAS.
So, I decided to get myself married to Benedict Cumberbatch, and now there’s a 45 generation save a file that I’m too embarrassed to run again.
As you can clearly tell, these Simmers are essentially doing things that they couldn’t possibly do in real life through their sim.
The Ones Who’ve Taken The Ability To Play God Too Far
As mentioned before, this is basically the evil gamer stereotype where these players will not only install mods to make the game more violent, but they will also come up with the craziest storylines. Basically, if you know such a Simmer, you’d know how chaotic they can be when playing God in the game.
The Ones Who Can’t Live Without Mods
The Sims 4, by no means, is a perfect game. In fact, The Sims 3 has better gameplay than this one. So, to fill the void of TS2 and TS3, these players download as many mods as possible.
The Ones Who Are Serious About Their Aspirations
Every once in a while, you’ll hear about the ultimate rule-abiding player. Such Simmers play the game strictly as it was intended to be played. This includes going to work, living a normal life, and even going through the extra mile of fulfilling their sims’ aspirations as well.
The Ones Who Are Family-Oriented
And last but not least, you have the family-oriented player who will probably use a builder’s family house built from the gallery and maybe a family made by the ones who play dress-up. They try not to use cheats unless they have to. This is the closest to everyday life simulation you’ll find.
But What Does It Have To Do With Liking The Game?
It’s been more than two decades since the creation of The Sims franchise, and it’s been almost seven years since The Sims 4 came out. However, for some reason, this game keeps attracting a very large audience. Why is this so?
Reason #1: The Marketing
For the latest edition of a franchise, The Sims 4 is severely lacking in gameplay and features. This is a sentiment held by the majority of The Sims community, yet we can’t do anything about it. We can’t boycott any of the DLCs. In fact, the closest thing to a riot we had, was when the Sims team released a game pack with Star Wars. I personally did not have an issue with that because, well, I like Star Wars as well. Similarly, a lot of people just bought the game pack anyway because it’s The Sims.
Majority of players have memories attached to this game, so we’re going to buy whatever EA puts out. We’re going to complain about it, of course, but we’re going to buy it anyway because we’ve loved the experience so much that even if EA were to release a $40 expansion pack with just one feature that belonged to the other Sims games, we’re going to buy it. It’s as simple as that.
The Sims marketing team knows this, and they’ve done a splendid job keeping us hooked on a game that was half-complete at its release.
Reason #2: It’s The Perfect Mix Of Sandbox And Life Simulation Games
You can do whatever you want with the game. The Sims franchise as a whole has this unique quality that no other life simulation game has been able to achieve: it allows you to be creative as you want.
You can come up with characters, storylines, plots, lore, and there’s just the right amount of gameplay to validate everything you’ve come up with.
Of course, the sims themselves have a certain level of autonomy, so there’s also an element of mystery. Sims are weird, and they’ll sometimes end up doing something that will totally change the story arc that you’ve got in your head, but that’s fine because that’s the fun of story-telling, isn’t it?
This game doesn’t need anyone to put pen to paper. All you have to do is imagine, and that’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that’s been able to do that for me. I mean, there’s obviously Animal Crossing now, but The Sims just hits differently.
Reason #3: It Makes You Want To Do Something For Yourself
You’d think that a game wouldn’t be able to influence you to want specific accomplishments, just because they have already been done by your sim. In a Wired article, Saira Mueller describes how The Sims 4 actually made her want more from life. I didn’t really understand how that’s possible, but when I read her piece, something clicked.
After all, for some bizarre reason, I’ve always been either a scientist or a famous writer in almost every sims game I’ve played. It’s completely unintentional, probably because I’ve always been a big fan of books, so to a child choosing a career in the game, maybe writing seemed to be the most understandable one. I’m sure that The Sims franchise did not make me want to become a writer. There are various other authors whose writings ultimately convinced me. But it’s interesting to see that I’m trying to pursue a career I thought was feasible for me as a child.
While Mueller uses The Sims 4 as an enabler to bring a positive change in her life, I’d say that I believe I’m manifesting or subconsciously thinking of certain things while I’m playing the game. Maybe it impacted certain decisions? Who knows! All I know is that watching my sim become extremely athletic makes me want to stand up and stretch a bit sometimes because I feel like a slob.
A psychoanalyst also says that any sort of virtual life simulation game can actually put us in a better mental state because it’s got the right amount of escapism to relieve stress. I think he’s right.
For me, as a university student, the weekends are all about The Sims 4. I’d rather prefer playing any of The Sims games than going out somewhere. It’s just a better way to relax.
Reason #4: It’s Designed For Everyone!
Apart from this, The Sims 4 has also attracted a large fan-following because of various social justice issues.
Can you believe it?
The Sims 4 brings all sorts of people together to pretend that they’re a millionaire alien living in Sunset Valley or doing the 100 Baby challenge. These people may fall into some of the player types, but they’re not copies of one another. We’re not all teenagers belonging to a particular social class or religion, or even ethnicity. This game has managed to transcend beyond so many social barriers that it has allowed people from every background possible to relate to it.
So, you could be a straight male playing the game to build cool houses, but that doesn’t mean that the game wouldn’t be relatable to a queer, non-binary person who wants to play the Legacy Challenge in a non-traditional family setting. The Sims 4 has made it so easy for LGBTQ+ community members to create a sim that accurately resembles them and allows them to be themselves as authentically as they want.
The bottom line is that this game is so inclusive that it doesn’t take away from any particular group. It allows everyone to be who they want to be. It gives them this enjoyable experience which they can only relate to with other Simmers. I don’t think any other game can do this.