Maxis and the Allure of Sims

The first game I ever got on my first PC was SimCity 2000 and I soon lost count of the hours I would lose trying to make the perfect city. It was the perfect blend of simulation and fun.

The joy of any of the early Maxis games was just how easy it was to invest yourself in them. After all, everything in the game is usually directly created by you which means you’ll have a far greater emotional investment in them than in other games. You could fire up SimCity for a quick 30 minutes, and then emerge 2 or 3 hours later.

Of course the pinnacle of this was when Maxis released The Sims. soon almost everyone in the world had a copy and was busying creating little digital Sims and decorating their houses. As a guy you would think that choosing the right shade of carpet to match the wallpaper in my sim’s house or choosing a matching table for my sim’s dinner table would be boring, but on the contrary, each decision I made would have some sort of feedback from my sim. It’s this interplay between your decisions as a player and the little digital sim that’s so fascinating to watch.

You were also free to experiment and play around in the world of The Sims with no set rules or stages to funnel you through the game. This was a Maxis staple with all their games being extremely open-ended simulations that asked nothing of you other than trying out whatever came to mind and seeing how it would affect the game’s simulation. so at no point did you ever feel as though you had failed at playing the game. Even when you reached a fail state such as your city losing too much money in SimCity or your sim dying in The Sims, you could always just reload and try a different approach.

Through all of this you would actually learn something. With SimCity you would learn all about infrastructure and urban planning, while with The Sims you would learn about designing a house and prioritizing tasks. The best part of all this is that it was actually fun to play, rather than some sort of boring education simulation that had every drop of fun sucked out of it.

It’s sad to see that today’s Maxis has moved past making entertaining and enlightening simulations and just churns out endless Sims sequels and DLC. At least I can always go back and play Sims 2 or SimCity 2000 whenever the fancy strikes me.