I first played The Sims in early 2000, right after it was first released that February. I remember it being a huge deal. Everyone was talking about it. I think my mom first purchased it and got really into it, and then I followed soon after. At the time, I was experiencing a painful time in my life and this game had a pretty positive effect on me. I could get lost for hours in it. Because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for The Sims, even though I have not played it in years. If you are unfamiliar with The Sims, it is described as a sandbox-style life simulation game encompassing three parts: character design, building mode, and social interactions. My favorite aspect of the game at that time was the part where you design and build your house, because I’ve always had a love for architecture. I would build a home, live in it for awhile, then tear it down and start all over.

During my undergrad, I took a serious interest in sociology and anthropology, taking as many courses as I could in those subjects. Although I graduated with a degree in New Media Communications, and later a master’s in Technical Communication, I’ve always said that my true calling was either as a sociologist or cultural anthropologist. I love how people interact. I have a serious interest in learning about different people and cultures. It was of no surprise to me that the first game I thought of when I enrolled in INTE5320 – Games and Learning, and learned that I needed to immerse myself in a game for the semester, was the PC version of The Sims 4. It is the newest release of the main version of this game franchise, released in 2014. I wanted to know several things about this game, such as how it has changed since I last played it, how it could potentially be used in a learning environment, and what sort of emotions I might feel when playing it again. I picked up a copy and eagerly began playing. Often times with games, I am really reluctant to start because of the amount of new skills needed. I felt pretty confident that the skills I learned back in 2000 would likely translate to the newest Sims game.

My INTE5320 course requires me to write three journal entries about my game choice this semester. I’ve decided to break the three journals up into the three main stages of play in The Sims: 1) Beginning game play and designing your character; 2) designing your home/living space, and 3) interacting and game play. As this is my first play journal, I will write about starting the game and designing my first character.

My initial concern with The Sims 4 was how my computer would handle the game’s graphics. I recall the first Sims game as being very slow to load and somewhat choppy, and that was even on a pretty decent computer in the early 2000s. Sometimes my computer would crash due to the heavy graphics and I would lose my work if I hadn’t saved it in awhile. Today I have an older Dell laptop that gets heavily used for my business, school, and personal use, and it’s definitely not set up for game play. My concern was unfounded initially, as The Sims 4 was very quick to install and I had absolutely no issues with starting it up for the first time. Admittedly, I was shocked. Through the entire period of creating my character’s look and personality and choosing the plot of land I will build my home on, the game had ran completely smooth with no choppiness or crashing occurring. However, this changes this later on, as I will explain towards the end of this blog entry.

As the first Sims game, The Sims 4 is very good about including multiple pop-up tutorials to learn the skills necessary to play. Since I already knew the general ways to play The Sims, and the style of game play has not changed much from the original, I clicked out of these. Other tutorial pop-ups that are useful are ones that include information about the newest changes to The Sims, such as the new toddler character option and how to create a living space for your toddler. I have joined an affinity space on Reddit for The Sims and have found that the information on there is beneficial to me to learn some of the more intermediate and advanced options of game play.

When designing my character, I was extremely pleased with the vast amount of options to customize its appearance and personality. With this newest release, the option to create a toddler was now available, and one can choose to create a character of any age. I also noticed that one can create a character that is not conforming to gender norms. For example, a woman with a more masculine appearance or dress can be chosen, or a man with a more feminine appearance or dress can be created. The smallest of details about your Sims character can be chosen, down to jewelry and tattoos.  I created a female character that resembled me physically in a general sense, but I included physical characteristics that I wish I had in real life. I found this to be interesting and I intend to research this phenomenon – creating an avatar/character that features characteristics that you wished to have.

During this stage of game play, your character’s personality is developed. Several aspects of personality can be chosen: the characters aspiration in life (love, money, etc.), confidence level, communication style, activity level, style of their walk, and sound of their voice. This is vastly improved since the original Sims game, where more general characteristics of the personality could be chosen. These options make me eager to hurry up and build my home and actually play the character.

After designing my character, the game went into the world mode where you can choose your living environment and then choose a plot of land to purchase and begin building your home. It provides three worlds, or communities, to choose from:  Willow Creek (coastal, forested community); Oasis Springs (desert community); and Newcrest (suburban community). There are three other unlockable worlds available also at this time if you have the corresponding expansion pack, such as City Living. For now, I chose the Newcrest world. There were many different plots of land available, and I chose the biggest lot next to a lake.

During this stage of game play, I wanted to see if I could go back and edit some parts of my character’s personality. It was during this point of time where I began experiencing some issues with the game attempting to crash. It would always recover itself and allow me to resume play, but it was pretty concerning when it first happened. I have since replicated this crashing, and it seems to happen when flipping back and forth between editing either the personality/look, changing to a different world or exploring those options, and switching back to game play.

At this point of game play, I was very pleased with the entire game and felt eager to continue learning more. My next Play Journal entry will include my experiences with build mode.