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By Brad Cook
According to English lore, Peeping Tom was a tailor who was struck blind after sneaking a peek at Lady Godiva. If such a penalty was in place today, half of America would be fumbling around wearing dark glasses and waving canes.
As the internet and reality TV shows have proven, were a bunch of nosy people who are oftentimes more interested in others affairs than our own. So its probably not a surprise that Sim City creator Will Wrights latest computer game, The Sims, is wildly popular. Now available for Macintosh through Aspyr Media, The Sims allows you to take control of computer generated people and meddle in their lives, deciding everything from career tracks to friends to when to eat meals.
And God Said, Let There Be Sims
Once you create your Sims or select one of the pre-generated families you set their lives in motion and sit back to see what transpires, pausing the action when you need to buy more stuff or expand your house. As your Sims relationships deepen, a friendly compliment to your married neighbor might lead to a nude dip in your hot tub, complete with blurred pixels covering the naughty bits (no, theres no Easter egg which turns them off). Or perhaps you and your roommate wont hit it off too well, leading to a couple fights, which are characterized in the Sims world by one of those dust clouds you see in cartoons or comic strips. Half of the fun is just watching what happens when you put your own odd couple together.
If I had to blame [the success of the game] on one thing, it would be the Internet, says Wright. In some sense the internet has evolved as a weird kind of marketplace between the narcissistic and voyeuristic tendencies of people. The existence of this medium to indulge those aspects of our persona have both validated and encouraged these activities. Now other media such as games, TV and movies are just beginning to reflect this part of our cultural evolution.
You can watch your Sims do just about everything that real people can, from being lazy slobs to taking up a life of crime to make ends meet. Your game can go on indefinitely and there really isnt a goal to aspire to, although deft players can supposedly become mayor of Sim City. Expansion paks such as Livin Large, House Party, Hot Date and Vacation as well as user-created add-ons available for download from various Sims fan sites give gamers a wealth of ways to play and greatly increase the long-term play value.
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
My personal goal in the game has been to live a life of polygamy and late night hot tub parties, says Aspyr Media president Michael Rogers, but, and I imagine real life is like this, the time demands of multiple partners, combined with entertaining all your friends, requires a great deal of juggling and good timing, which Im not good at. So Ive seen my share of furball fights in the house and sleep-ins where I miss my car to work a little too often.
Unlike real life, you cant own a vehicle in The Sims, so you have to catch a car pool to work every day (no one knows if this is true even if you become mayor). If you miss your car pool two days in a row, youre fired. Since your Sims are driven by their personality traits (neat, outgoing, active, playful and nice) as well as by your commands, sometimes they dont do what you want, which can make it tough to get a slovenly bachelor showered and dressed for work before his car pool arrives. You can turn off their free will in the Options menu, but doing so means that you have to be attentive to their every need or theyll do nothing and starve to death.