When I was a little girl, I had the most wonderful dollhouse. It wasn’t Barbie’s Dreamhouse, but a giant wooden thing that had been passed through my family for years. It had a green roof and white paint with a little black front door that functioned at the front of its grand colonial shape. Everyone who had it added something to it, so by the time it came to me, the floors were covered with leftover tile, linoleum, and carpeting from renovations past and a few of the rooms even had wallpaper. My family’s contribution was a vast addition of furniture compared to the few pieces that were there. By the time it left our house, it was with a box of furniture that was a strange mix of bright colorful plastic, fancy and delicately crafted pieces, and a stove that lit up and made cooking sounds. It’s one of the toys of my childhood that I remember the most.
Over the last year, while trapped inside during the pandemic, I reverted to playing with a dollhouse, a digital one this time. It started when my laptop started going. It wasn’t quite dead yet, but I knew it had six months at best. It had served me well in the past 3 years as I put it though the brutal paces of college life, but a $200 black friday laptop was never going to last forever. So, with stimulus check in hand, I picked up a new one. I wanted something that would last longer so I figured a more expensive one would be worth the investment and decided to go for a “gaming laptop”. It wasn’t that I was a big PC gamer, but if it could handle a few indies as well as the excessive amount of typing that I do, that’d be enough for me. Then I remembered I owned the Sims 4 and a few expansions, things purchased before my old computer started to chug that it never was able to fully handle running without long pauses and stuttering. So, with a computer that could actually run it, I broke back into playing the Sims 4 again. This was the first Sims game that I had really spent an excessive amount of time with. I had the Sims 3 before, but never played it extensively. Now, I was spending whole evenings playing the Sims in a way that I never had before and those few expansions got a few more added to them…
Some People Might not Like it
I know that there are a lot of people who bemoan Sims 4, and for good reason. The artsyle shift was huge (even if I personally prefer the new look) and this game had some of the thinnest content at launch, taking away things initially such as basements and toddlers. However, you would be hard pressed to look at the base game the same way these days as there have been frequent updates. However, the microtransactions run strong, with packs for the games not only being just as pricy, but sometimes having far less content than they used to. There are plenty of reasons to not like this game, or even just prefer others in the series, but I think that there is valid reason to like this one too.
Never before has building a home in the game been easier and I don’t think people talk enough about that. I have never built a house that was not a box in any other Sims game, but in 4? I was able to build a whole Repunzel tower all by myself, something I’d never have dreamed of in prior titles. While the emotion system can make your sims feel kind of same-y, they are still really smarter than the older ones used to be. I don’t feel like they’re going to die if I’m not constantly babysitting them at least. The biggest thing that’s exciting though… it that the modding is easier than ever to implement.
What really excited me about modding was the whole set of subcultures that opened up before me when I was actually really getting into the game. It’s strange that not only is there a community for this game, but subcultures within subcultures. Not only does every type of modding have their own culture around it, but every website does too. The Sims has been around long enough that these sorts of things still aren’t completely centralized, giving that feeling of going to different forums to get different experiences all surrounding the same media property. Sure, there are some bigger websites that aggregate a lot of the content, but there are still also those small aggregator blogs, or tumblrs that are there specifically content curators because they hate how many ads are on some of the larger websites!
New Dress Up
The most common type of modding that you will see for this game is that of the CC (custom content) creators. This is where you get tons of extra things for your game. From clothes, to recolored items, to different hair or fantastical add-ons, you can find just about anything. There’s so many outfits made just so you can make characters from existing properties in your game. I’ve personally had at times outfits for every Disney princess, several anime characters, and even specific recreations of outfits and tattoos from live action tv-shows. It’s all there for the taking. There’s even a blog that to this day, focuses nearly exclusively about creations related to the Sailor Moon series, in both Sims 3 and 4. There’s people even out here making their own “stuff packs” modelled after the official item adding packs of the same name.
Still, within CC creation there is even further division. There’s “Maxis match CC”, which refers to the CC that as closely resembles the style of the base game as it possibly can, and then there is “Alpha CC” which takes more inspiration from the Sims 3 look and tries to replicate reality as closely as it can, down to even putting in whole new textures for skin tones in the game just to give them a more realistic feeling of flesh. There are, of course, those who evangelize both styles and those who demonize. I’m not here to judge, even if I prefer maxis match personally, but I personally have to draw the line at alpha CC for toddlers, which makes these children look like an overly manicured Toddlers and Tiaras performer (just google “alpha cc toddler” to see what I mean…). There’s even some content that blurs the line between the two styles. It’s just downright wild, because I do not think that I have ever personally seen something that has such an intense fanbase on purely a cosmetic level aside from maybe Minecraft texture packs.
Mods Mods Everywhere
Then there’s the actual modding, which has a whole set of it’s own when it comes to the type of modders that you’ll find. There’s things like:
- Fixing problems because something small didn’t work and that’s annoying.
- This thing personally annoyed me so I learned to mod to fix it, download if it annoys you too.
- Prevent the randomly generated townsfolk from wearing bad outfits.
- Here’s a whole new item with new functionality!
- Custom poses and animations for making storytelling videos.
- The XXX variety of modding (an extensive subculture in itself)
There’s so much here and I’ve sampled a good deal of it out of curiosity or purely needing it in my game. For example, I have a mod that adds new spells for the spellcasters in the game, giving them more long term functionality and more room to grow and be different from one another. At one point I had a mod that made sims eat faster because that was annoying. There’s ones that keep sims from doing specific actions unprompted like dancing or singing to themselves. If you need it, it’s likely either out there, or something you could learn to do yourself. The endless possibilities are just facinating.
Creation and Play
Then there are the people who do nothing but build buildings, remodel buildings, or design sims characters. The gameplay is less important to these folks than the creative aspect of the game, which is really cool. I’ve personally downloaded plenty of buildings off the gallery. I mean, if I’m having a wedding, I want it to look good! I don’t think many people realize how much of a backbone that these people can be when it comes to the game. The gallery is there for a reason and makes it so easy that I think some players forget the handmade aspect to what they’re downloading. I mean… I wasn’t going to make a family of a bear suited man and his three vampire triplets myself but now that sounds interesting because someone else did.
The opposite end of the spectrum are the people who engage in the gameplay more than anyone else, those who make the challenges or play the challenges. This is a culture all its own with their own discussions and strategies and a knowledge of the innerworkings of the game that can be fascinating to watch unfold. There’s the challenge to start as a teenage runaway, or play ten generations of the same family, or to push a sim to try and have and raise 100 babies in as little time as possible. I’m dipping my toe into this with my own attempt at a 10 generation family, but already at only my second generation I have a lot of respect for those who have managed to complete any of these. It’s a huge effort to do, and one that those who mock this game as a casual one don’t seem to understand.
The community around the Sims 4 is an interesting one, and one that I have loved diving deeper into the more that I explore what it has to offer. There are so many facets to it, much like any subculture, but even then, the layers nearly demand to be peeled back, like one of those iceberg memes. I haven’t even gotten into the way that the games have a lore to them that I still don’t fully grasp because I haven’t gone there yet. There so much to explore and it just keeps getting bigger with each addition the game gets, even if those additions aren’t always official.