A new Sims game isn't just a game — it's a cultural event. So thoroughly has Will Wright's baby permeated the American household (the franchise has moved nearly 200 million units since the first game debuted in 2000) that nearly everyone has some familiarity or experience with the series. Whether that's dabbling with the first game or engaging with the passionate Sims communities online, fans — casual and hardcore — of the series bridge genders and ages in a way few other games can claim.
We got The Sims 4, which came out yesterday, a week early, and let seven BuzzFeed employees, from across our editorial department, play for two hours each, to do whatever they saw fit. The players' experience with the series varied widely, from those who have only played the first game to those who compete in Sims-building competitions online. And their thoughts, which range from casual observations to highly technical critiques, showcase the peculiar and often deeply personal role that the game has played in the lives of almost anyone who's had a PC since 2000.
This what BuzzFeed thought of The Sims 4.
"This game is bitchin'."
"It was downright alarming to me how quickly I slipped back into my old familiar Sims rhythms. I haven't played in probably five years — The Sims 3 overwhelmed me with all its options, plus I had to, like, go to college — but it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of eight minutes to pick my creepy mantle right back up. This particular iteration hits, for me, that elusive sweet spot of providing just enough choice to make it feel like you have ALL-CONSUMING POWER without so many options that it's paralyzing.
I decided to make a Sim that was myself, which was uncannily easy to do: Sim-Alanna has red hair and wears mustard-yellow dresses and is a writer (although it took her a single glance at her phone in order to obtain a full-time reasonably paid writing job, which, lol). Her personality traits are Intelligent, Romantic, and Neat, and she seems to take great pleasure in the small but cozy home that I furnished for her (I found myself dropping Simoleons on a decorative hutch before I so much as thought to buy a dishwasher; my 8-year-old self would be wicked pissed at me if she knew where my priorities apparently now lie). It was a funny exercise creating her, having to quantify exactly what it is that makes me, me. I spent minutes and minutes trying to get the nose — a source of alternating consternation and pride on my IRL face — just right, and I briefly, longingly contemplated jacking her up on a pair of high heels before coming to terms with the fact that I can never manage to wear them for longer than a city block, and thus settled for brown loafers.
I stayed after work one night to play and did not get back home until after 10; I ate grocery store sushi to sustain myself, which is I think the most evidence I can provide that this game is bitchin'."
—Alanna Okun, senior lifestyle editor
"My Sims come standard with a smartphone."
"Maybe I was just born at precisely the right time to 'age up' with The Sims, but I feel like my experience with the world has dovetailed with the level of detail present in the gameplay. When I first played The Sims I was 9 years old and everything about the adult world felt vague and far away. My grown-up Sims ate generic "meals" and had "jobs" and didn't have to do laundry. Their children didn't age. As I grew up and came into my adolescence, my Sims (on the second and third games) became teens, had acne, and could go to college. Now I'm 22 playing The Sims 4 and my Sims come standard with a smartphone. They eat yogurt for breakfast, can start their careers in an entry-level position at a tech startup, or can choose to be a blogger. It strikes me as extremely clever that these new Sims have to deal with their emotions in additions to their needs — we're a very introspective generation that pays attention to how our feelings impact our goals.
Also the new build tools are the bomb diggity."
—Alexis Nedd, fellow
"The Hulk managed to get several well-earned promotions in a short amount of time."
"I was always more interested in the build aspect of The Sims than playing out the minutiae of my Sims' daily lives. Because of this, I cheated a lot. I was an unconstrained god of creation. I somehow missed the memo that BuzzFeed had a full list of cheats for The Sims 4, and because of that, I actually fully engaged in my Sim's life.
Using The Sims 4's incredible in-depth character creator, I made The Incredible Hulk, because green-skinned Sims are an option. I threw a house together using my limited budget and the new build tools, and then got Hulk a job. His emotional state and career paths were much more complex and involved than I'd ever dealt with in previous games, yet they never seemed overly complicated. It was fun, and The Hulk managed to get several well-earned promotions in a short amount of time.
'So, did your Sim get married?' someone asked as my time playing was up.
'No,' I said. 'He was too busy focusing on his career.'
It's to the game's credit that I didn't immediately realize how depressing that was."
—James Grebey, fellow
"I named my sim Pool Party and gave her a personality trait called Bro."
"The Sims 4 hardly looks any different than I remember The Sims 3 looking — which is to say, it looks better, but better in the sense that it's just what I always thought that version of the game should look like. A lot of the weird little rough edges have been polished; things move more quickly and more smoothly; the world doesn't feel as boxed in. They still haven't figured out how to render curly hair, which is bullshit. But the Sims still look and act like the Sims I knew as a youth, and that's good. It seems like they're trying hard to give you multiple angles to play in the personality/aspiration part of the game, instead of just grinding away at a single arbitrary career, which was basically the only reward track in the original game.
I named my sim Pool Party, decided that her extracurricular passion should be botany, and gave her a personality trait called Bro, which means that she's happier when there are other Bro sims in the room. I signed her up for a crappy job before I realized she didn't really NEED to have a job — she had a $3K slush fund leftover after buying a house — and that there was plenty of other stuff to do to keep her busy (planting mushrooms, wandering around the neighborhood, going to the gym to be around Bros). The only thing I'm really mad about is that they slowed down how fast relationships progress, so now it's basically impossible to go from total strangers to bang buddies in the course of your first interaction with another Sim, which is BORING. Otherwise, I'm totally on board and can easily imagine myself becoming hopelessly addicted to this game, losing my job and all my friends, and sliding into a cheerful, brightly colored virtual netherworld in which I can no longer separate my own identity from that of Pool Party."
—Rachel Sanders, senior editor
"I built my Sim a house made of prefabricated rooms that don't connect because that is chill."
"I played the first Sims, but not for long. The reason: I was 15, and after drowning my Sims, boxing my Sims in rooms with no way out, and getting my Sims to mate, I quickly ran out of activities cretinous enough to sustain my interest.
Now I'm 29, and I'm a lot chiller. So for The Sims 4 I decided to make the chillest Sim ever — I'm talking Brody Jenner chill. My Sim's name: SirJoseph Chillington. I gave him a chill shirt and some chill canvas sneaker and a chill receding hairline. I built him a house made of prefabricated rooms that don't connect; they just all open up onto the lawn, because face it: That's chill as hell. That way when SirJoseph wants to go from his opulent Edwardian living room he can just take an outdoors stroll to work out at his personal gym. Also I turned on the unlimited money cheat, which was super chill of EA to furnish.
Because work is not chill, I did not give SirJoseph a job. Instead, I took him to the three chillest locations in town: the gym, where SirJoseph took in a humongous pump sesh; the museum, where SirJoseph's chill conversations were met with decidedly unchill rejection from the resident art babes; and finally the bar, where SirJoseph had a $100 cocktail and projected enough chill vibes to put Vladimir Putin in a silk kimono.
I liked this game a lot better than the first Sims, but again, that's probably because of my new position on the spectrum of chill, and the fact that the game is a lot like gardening, which from my vantage point on 30 years old seems like a very chill way to pass an afternoon."
—Joe Bernstein, deputy tech editor
"The Sims is one of the few things that brings me close to the imagination I possessed as a child."
"As a longtime friend of the Sims franchise, I have been closely following development updates for The Sims 4. I was alarmed by the prominence of negative feedback in the community message boards regarding the removal of story progression, open neighborhoods, and other details. So here are truthful reactions to the anticipated changes:
The pull-and-drag function in Create-A-Sim is frustrating. I think sliders are easier to manipulate but, chances are, I'll get used to it and even eventually prefer it. The pull away from more realistic-looking dolls like in The Sims 3 into more simply designed Sims should resolve the issue I had in the previous installment where eventually everyone's faces all looked the same.
Build/Buy is just as, if not more, enjoyable now that they have been combined into the same interface.
Live Mode is way less glitchy and laggy than The Sims 3, so ultimately I support every change they did to support this. I didn't like how there are fewer lots to select from in the neighborhood. I'm slightly unhappy with being unable to pitch the zoom perspective freely as you could do in The Sims 3. Game time has obviously been corrected to accomplish more in a game day! Sims now idly chat between social interactions whereas in The Sims 3 you would have to pause between each interaction so your Sim doesn't do some weirdly unfitting automated interaction.
I look forward to buying the game. I have continued playing The Sims as an adult because it is one of the few things that brings me close to the imagination I possessed as a child — I just hope it can continue providing me that."
—David Bertozzi, photo editor
"I'm feeling pretty torn about the new game. There are things that are obvious improvements over Sims 3: Create-A-Sim was amazing, and allows you to easily make characters with uncanny resemblance to real people; the interactions between characters are much more interesting, and relationships seem to form much more authentically; and Sims' emotions are much more complex. I also really like the look of the game, which feels a little Pixar-y, trying less to be impossibly realistic and going more for a really well-realized but vaguely cartoony aesthetic. And the building tools are really excellent; I love being able to preselect furnished rooms, and how you can adjust windows' heights on walls.
But in many ways the game also feels like a step backward from Sims 3. In some ways it's clearly unfinished — there are no toddlers or pools. Even if you found toddlers annoying, it's weird to have a baby age up instantly into a child. And you also lose the "open world" aspect that was one of the main selling points of Sims 3; you have to endure a loading screen moving from lot to lot, which is pretty tedious, and you can't follow your Sims around the neighborhood, to work or school, like you could before. They just disappear from the lot. And the world-building capabilities — adding rivers, mountains, lakes, valleys, etc. — that were so cool in Sims 3 seem like they're going to be much more limited in Sims 4.
Ultimately, it just seems unclear to me whether it's worth it to give up many of the best things about Sims 3 in order to get some of the cooler — but hardly revolutionary — new features of Sims 4."
—Molly Hensley-Clancy, reporter
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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