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The Sims -vs- Big Brother
Let's compare The Sims with Big Brother...
Before I start, I'm going to tell you a bit of history first:

Last year, somewhere in September 1999, there started a new kind of shows on TV here in The Netherlands. It was the first time people got locked up in a house, completely Back-to-Basic. There were 24 cameras following the 9 people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'm talking about Big Brother. Despite the many critics that said things that it was totally irresponsible, there were about 1,000,000 people in The Netherlands watching it every day (which is a lot: there are about 15-16 million people living in The Netherlands), 104 days long. Many countries would follow.

The first quarter of 2000. Here, Big Brother had just finished the first 104 days with Big Bart as winner. The Sims, an original game from the mind of Will Wright, was about to be released. I still remember (p)reviews comparing The Sims with Big Brother. It was something like "Big Brother on your PC". You could control people in a house, and make them love or hate each other. You could make the people marry, fight, kiss, hit, wash, go to the toilet and so on. Actually, you could do practically everything that people do in the real world.

The Sims became a big hit everywhere around the world, standing high in the charts for a long time (still at place 2 in several charts some time ago). There came thousands of downloads from both Maxis and many fans of The Sims. 1 year after the start of the first Big Brother, I'm talking about September 2000 now, the expansion pack (called Livin' Large in the US, Livin' It Up in the UK, Het Rijke Leven in The Netherlands) was released almost world-wide. Big Brother 2 has started here in The Netherlands (this time with 12 people in the house and even 108 days!), while Big Brother in the UK has just finished, with Cheeky Craig as winner of 10 Big Brothers and Sisters.

Now, because Big Brother and The Sims are being continued, I think it's time to compare Big Brother and The Sims once again, using some sort of Q&A (Question & Answer) play.

Q: How come The Sims was being compared to Big Brother?
A: As you probably know, Big Brother showed how people acted in real-life. The viewers could recognize themselves when watching it. The Sims had the same, with the difference that you could control all those so-called Sims. They love, hate, eat, fight, dance, watch TV, play computer-games, go to work, get robbed and many more things (too many to mention here). That's exactly what people in real-life do. Big Brother showed us that just a few months before the release of The Sims. I think this is why they got compared: the two things were pretty much the same, with the only difference that on your PC/Mac you could control them. You couldn't do that on TV...

Q: How much are they the same?
A: I think the answer is 'Pretty much'. As I said before, the biggest difference is that in The Sims you could control the Sims in the house. In Big Brother you couldn't: The only (very small) impact you could have was by voting somebody out the house. Both The Sims and Big Brother show us the every-day life, which contains going to the bathroom (when you have to go, you have to go), working (the weekly tasks in Big Brother), relaxing (TV in The Sims, playing cards or talking in Big Brother) and so on. Big Brother and The Sims both show us. When we're playing The Sims or watching Big Brother, we're watching ourselves.

Q: Why do we want to see ourselves?
A: This is not an easy answer. There might be many theories, but I think that we want to compare us with the rest of our society. "Is it normal what I do every day?" or "How would other people react on these situations?". That are two questions that we ask, most of the times unconsciously, when watching Big Brother or playing The Sims. The answers to these questions, are comparisons of you and other people. I guess we want to know how normal we are.

Q: Why are Big Brother and The Sims so successful, and is it strange that they're both big hits?
A: First the last question: I think not. Both Big Brother and The Sims are pretty much the same, which means that if one of the two is a big success, the other is likely to have success too. Now it's easier to answer the first question. Again, I'll have to say that we seem to like to see ourselves, or compare us with the rest. I told you why just before., in the previous question & answer.

Q: Why are there people really hating it then?
A: I think Big Brother and The Sims are things you like or don't like. There's no gray area in between those two. The people hating one of them, is likely to hate the other of the two as well. Maybe, those people are scared to see themselves. Probably, that's something unconscious. They hate to see themselves. Since Big Brother and The Sims show us ourselves, they don't like that show. People not willing to see themselves, may be scared that they aren't normal compared to the rest of the society.

Q: Why were other things like Big Brother less successful then?
A: Here in The Netherlands, we have something called The Bus, a TV-show like Big Brother, with the difference 12 people are in a bus, driving through The Netherlands and Belgium. They weren't locked away from the outer-world as much as Big Brother. It was not as successful as Big Brother. This might mean that we want to see others when they're not getting any news, don't see family or anything etcetera. We want to see how we react when we're locked away safely. I think that when people are locked for a long time, they're going to show who they really are. This shows them, and so also ourselves, a lot better. I think this is why The Bus has never been as successful as Big Brother: They were not locked away enough. Every one or two weeks (I never followed The Bus really), the two most popular passengers had a "break-out". They could get out of The Bus, and go wherever they want. This means that they could also go to see family. Also, every so-often one passenger could call home for 2 minutes. This happened very often, as far as I saw it.

Q: What's my conclusion?
A: Big Brother is quite the same as The Sims. All we want to see is our real us. Some people might be scared when seeing how they are. There are people liking them, there are people hating them. I don't know any people that are in a 'gray' area. I guess there is no gray area. For people who want to know it about me: I like both Big Brother and The Sims (why else would I have written this at this site?!).

Well, that's all folks. I hope you now know a little why you like The Sims and/or Big Brother so much. The best opinion on this article can be read below next SimDay (5 October).

C-yAh,

ChEeTaH
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Best opinion
Here's the best opinion that I got about my article:
I enjoyed your article very much. Spot On!
When there was a documentary in the UK about "Big Brother" from NL, I came up with the idea of designing a "Sim Brother" House for one of my neighbourhoods.
The only tasks I could give them were skill or relationship related. Gifts of new household items were the prizes for completed tasks. Every two game weeks (i.e. every alternate mail day), I went through the procedure of each housemate nominating the two who he related to the least. These were tallied and the least popular was evicted ("move_objects on" and then delete the appropriate Sim). Any bills had to be collected by the evictee as they left and deleted and the occasional donation (rosebud) from Sim Brother helped them out. When "Big Brother" came to the UK, I was hooked and since it has just finished over here, I am devastated and only have "The Sims" to go back to. I am now trying to skin the housemates from over here to put them in my next "Sim Brother" House, which I will be trying to design as close as possible to the house over here.
It is nice to know I am not the only one who thinks this way. Enjoy "Big Brother II" which I understand has just started in the Netherlands.

Kindest regards,

Andy
Written at 13:18 on Sunday 17 September 2000 by ChEeTaH.

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