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Fantasy or Reality?
In the second of Matthew Eastaugh's irregular columns, he takes a look at the upcoming expansion pack. And why it will be rubbish.
Hey, I said my columns would end up being irregular. I didn't lie. Welcome to my second column for this here site. Since I last wrote one of these I've been to Florida, written what seems to be about a hundred news updates, and launched my very own personal website again. The Duckpond is at www.eastaughs.fsnet.co.uk, you know. Just thought I'd say. Anyway, what's 'got my goat' this time?

I won The Sims in a competition way about a month after it came out. Since then, I've had many a happy moment playing it. I've recreated my family and friends on my computer screen. I've witnessed births, deaths and marriages. Heck, the on-screen me has even been involved in most of those things. The Sims has been one of the few games in the past few years that has caused me to sit for hours at my computer monitor. But for the last few weeks, something has changed. I've got bored.

It has come to that time in a games lifespan on my hard drive when I start to consider uninstalling it. It's been a while since I last played the game, and to tell the truth, and I really need something to come along and spark my interest in the thing again. I've done everything that I feel I want to with what I have now - I want more. So, thank goodness there'll be an expansion pack along soon with some more things to play with. Bet you think I can't wait for it to turn up.. right?

Wrong.

Livin' It Up. Living Large. Whatever you call it, I can't seem to get that enthusiastic about this here expansion pack. Maxis have been starving up of official downloads for months now, saying they've been putting their efforts into this here pack, and yet nothing in it really makes me sit up and take notice. And I think I've worked out why.

The Sims is a life simulator. You take command of a group of people, and influence their lives in a way you can't influence your own. It's a 'family in a box', as some people have called it. However, you tell me the last time that you saw a family with a magic lamp, or robotic servants, or alien abductions. And no, anything you've seen on the Jerry Springer show doesn't count.

The original game was successful because it was an accurate simulation of everyday life. It was a welcome break of normality in a computerised world of shooting, sports stars and bubble blowing dinosaurs. There is nothing normal about a family having their own genie, and so the normality of the game world is shattered. Sure, there'll also be certain additions to the game that'll make it easier for people to create their own new objects - but the floodgates have now been opened.

Upcoming objects will have the potential to ruin the life of your Sims in new ways. You thought the guinea pig 'virus' was bad? It was only the beginning. Sure, I enjoy finding new ways to kill of my Sims as much as the next sicko - I just don't want someone else doing the killing for me with their own creations. That's my job, and the control shouldn't be taken out of my hands.

I'll probably still go down the shops and buy the pack anyway.. I just don't think I'll end up liking what I see. In my mind, the Sims was normal everyday life. Now, the aliens have landed. The walls have been broken down. And nothing will ever be the same again in SimsVille.

Written at 03:34 on Thursday 31 August 2000 by Matthew.

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