During this current module in my INTE5320 – Games and Learning course through UC Denver, we have been studying participatory culture and affinity spaces in gaming. One of the articles in our assigned readings for this cycle is authored by Gee & Hayes (2012) titled “Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning.” Since I am playing The Sims 4 this semester for class and conducting my affinity space project about a Sims affinity space, I was excited to read this article due to it being centered around the topic of The Sims affinity spaces. For my scholarly critique, I wanted to research participatory culture further beyond the work of Gee & Hayes and find more research conducted about The Sims game franchise. I am critiquing the article by Price (2014) titled “The Sims: A Retrospective; A Participatory Culture 14 Years On.”
In the introduction of Price’s article, she describes a brief history of The Sims and an explanation of the game itself. I thought it was of interest to learn that the original Sims game, released in 2000, still has a small following and fans are trying to “preserve it in the face of its growing obsolescence” (Price, p. 135, 2014). She later explains that fans of the original game believe it to be the “purest form of the game, uninhibited by the more goal-oriented game play of the later games” (Price, p. 137, 2014). Price continues by arguing that one of the major ways in which The Sims has thrived after all of these years is it’s participatory culture surrounding the fact that players are able to create and customize their own content for the game.
The Sims participatory culture is the main reason why the game has sold millions of copies according to Price (2014). She cites literature by Pearce (2009) who noted “The original Sims series has the most vibrant emergent fan culture of a single-player game in history”, and a quote by The Sims creator, Will Wright, who gave credit to the fans who made the game what it is by saying “We were probably responsible for the first million or so units sold but it was the community which really brought it to the next level” (Price, p. 136, 2014). Through the practice of “modding”, Price explains that users were able to create custom content for any theme imaginable, from ancient periods of history such as Rome, to scenes from popular movies, specific cultures, and adult-themed material (p. 136, 2014).
Of interest in this article is the discussion of how users would use The Sims as a platform to act out “fannish activities” of their favorite characters from other mediums, such as Star Wars movies, Star Trek tv shows, and comic book characters (Price, 2014, p. 137). Price gives this activity the term “transmedia storytelling” (2014, p. 137). This asserts that user-created content about The Sims was likely placed on affinity spaces for these specific movies and tv shows, not just affinity spaces for The Sim. It is a game that can span across different spaces and communities.
Price asserts through research by Gee & Hayes (2011), Sihvonen (2011), and Black (2008) find that The Sims, through user-created content (modding), creates “opportunities for peer-led and teacher-directed forms. The former permits students to learn new skills through interaction and negotiation with their classmates, rather than being ‘relegated to skill and drill and remedial tasks” (p. 138, 2012). This is of particular interest to me, because one aspect of The Sims I am researching this semester is how the game can be beneficial in a learning environment.
After reading this article, I was a bit disappointed to find that Price was only providing an overview of the original The Sims game, released in 2000. The game franchise has expanded over the past two decades, with newer releases, enabling people to continue playing now and into the future. In my opinion, it would have been beneficial to have directly said that the article was only about the original 2000 version and not any other edition in the very beginning of the article. In all, this article was an interesting look into the history of the game’s participatory culture and it provides plenty of further research in the references section to further my study of The Sims game franchise.