In the Sims 4, characters have a range of traits and ambitions that shape the way they interact with others. The results, according to the development team, are unpredictable
Phil is telling what he thinks is an amusing story, but Dianne and Jack aren’t really listening; slumped on the sofa together, they’re too busy trading flirty remarks, while ostensibly watching the evening news. Increasingly agitated, Phil finally storms off and spends the next 10 minutes battering his punchbag. He won’t be be speaking to Jack and Dianne again for a while.
Simmering with unspoken angst, it seems this scene is going to be a typical one for players of The Sims 4, the latest in EA’s multimillion selling series of open-ended life simulations. These fascinating games have always been about creating a little group of characters (known as “sims”), building a house for them, and then subtly controlling their lives. But now those lives are a heck of a lot more interesting. The sims don’t just have basic happy or sad states anymore, they have a range of emotions. And with emotion comes drama.
“The Sims is a social experiment,” says Rachel Franklin, executive vice-president of Maxis, the development studio behind the series. “People are fascinated with human life, we all want to watch each other. You see it with reality TV – what is that person doing? Why are we fascinated with fisherman working off the coast of Alaska? It’s because it’s a life we’re not familiar with – we want to know and understand it.”