The Sims at 20: two decades of life, love and reorganising the kitchen

January 31, 2020 at 09:03AM

In The Sims, if you get a job, buy a house and earn more money then happiness will follow. It’s a beguiling capitalist fantasy

Like many girls of my generation, I first played The Sims at a sleepover. It was at my friend Hannah’s house; three 11-year-olds huddled in front of her dad’s bulky old computer monitor at midnight, gazing into a miniature house populated by tiny people going about their inexplicably compelling daily business. We took turns sending them to work, changing the wallpaper, and ordering them to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them to gather flies. We bought them a little telly, a nice couch, a blender, paging covetously through the game’s furniture catalogue. With a thrill, we discovered we could make Sims “smooch” (though we were disappointed to learn that they couldn’t actually bone down – that wouldn’t happen until The Sims 2). Before we knew it, it was 3am.

Almost everyone has played The Sims. With four main instalments, countless add-ons and spin-offs, and more than 200m sales worldwide, equalled perhaps only by Tetris in its universality. One thing creator Will Wright realised very early on was that the game was appealing to a large female audience. Whereas in the past “a large female audience” meant maybe 5% of the user base, with The Sims, women were the majority. A friend’s mother played so much Sims that she forgot to clean the actual house for weeks.

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