The ultimate goal of life is to achieve happiness, and the way to achieve happiness is to buy stuff. So says The Sims, a game that lets you create, direct, and manage the lives of SimCity's residents.
The game begins with the creation of your simulated people: pick a name and a gender, decide on personality/astrological sign, and then choose a look from a variety of heads, bodies, and skin tones. Name, gender, and appearance don't affect gameplay much, but personality determines how your Sim plays with others. A serious, neat Sim might go crazy living with a sloppy party animal--or opposites might attract, and the two could end up falling in love.
After creation, the next step is to find a place to live. Again, the player can choose from among the empty houses in the neighborhood or decide to buy some land and design a dream house. Building houses is a blast, and the easy-to-use house design interface could almost be its own game: players design the floor plan, put up walls, pick carpet, wallpaper, and siding, and fill the house with furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances. You're limited only by your imagination--and your Sims' pocketbook. But the choices you make in designing and decorating your Sims' house are vital.
A good general rule is that the more expensive the object, the better its ability to satisfy Sim needs. Each little Sim person has needs (Hunger, Comfort, Hygiene, Bladder, Energy, Fun, Social, and Room) which can be satisfied by interaction with other Sims or purchased objects: throw a party with the help of a rockin' stereo system, and watch your Sims' Social and Fun ratings improve. Have one of your Sims whip up some food from the refrigerator, and you'll satisfy the Hunger needs of your guests. Or have your Sim engage another Sim in a game of chess: not only will their Fun and Social moods improve, both Sims will gain some points in their Logic skill rating--which might help on the job.
One gameplay goal is to improve your Sim so he or she can climb a career ladder, which nets him or her more money, which allows the purchase of higher quality stuff, which lets you improve your Sim even more. With proper care, your Sim can have a mate, kids, and a mansion with an indoor pool.
Mismanage your new, simulated family, and you'll be faced with the worst of MTV's The Real World: jealousies will ignite, fights will break out, jobs will be lost, and the house will fall apart. Bringing about such a calamity is almost as much fun as guiding your Sims to material paradise, and takes considerably less time.
Triumph or tragedy, each significant event in a Sim's life is captured in a snapshot and saved in a photo album for later viewing. Players can also take photos any time they wish. The photo album feature is cool by itself, but the best part is that you can upload the album to www.thesims.com and share your Sims' sagas with the world. Entire families can also be uploaded and downloaded, as can houses. Want to re-create and manage your own version of Friends? Download the free face and body editor and make Sim clones of the Ross, Rachel, and the rest. Want to perfectly re-create the set? Snag the free wall and floor texture editor. Feeling a little silly? Add Darth Vader to the family and see what happens. With The Sims, you can create whatever--and whomever--you desire.
Toying with the lives, successes, and emotional states of dozens of little Sims is undeniably fun. In the same way that SimCity players develop a condescending attitude toward real-world city planners, The Sims players will begin to see life as a series of needs-satisfying challenges; the game gets in your head. But that's OK: limitless gameplay, endless variety, imaginative Internet features, and the ability to play matchmaker/landlord/counselor/God makes The Sims a great way to increase your own Fun score. --Mike Fehlauer