"Real" and "Simulated" Communities in "The Sims 2:" Blurring the Lines

Or something like that– that title is my first pass at what I would call an academic article about the new computer game, “The Sims 2.”

Not that I’m going to write that article; I have too many other things on my plate right now as it is. However, having bought and played the newly released The Sims 2 a bit, I can say with some authority that it would be a good article.

Now, in my practice of keeping this “official” blog (where I try to keep to things that have to do with academia, scholarship, teaching, and the like) seperate from my “unofficial” blog (where I write about things that have to do with the rest of my life), I’m not going to write here about the ups and downs of actually playing this game. You can read what I’ve posted about playing The Sims 2 (so far) by following this link; all I will say is that I have been reasonably effective in rationing my game play to times I would be sitting around watching TV, meaning it hasn’t cut into my work. Yet.

Anyway, I am serious that someone ought to write an article about the role of electronic communication in this game. There have always been elements of communication among player’s characters (referred to as “Sims”)– they obviously talk face-to-face, and they also talk on the telephone– but the new version has Sims communicating (and thus developing friendships and “community”) with their computers with email and chat. For at least one Sim I have created, chat seems highly addictive, too. Problematically (at least for me), the level of “social” satisfaction this particular Sim gets from chat is the same as he gets from face-to-face interaction.

Perhaps the more interesting communications though is among the players of the game as facilitated by The Sims 2 web site, particularly the community section of the site. Again, this has always been a part of the game because players have always had fan sites and they’ve had the ability to exchange different items from the game (house designs, Sim skins and clothes, furniture and other objects, etc.). This new version of the web site supports a BBS forum, a chat forum, and– if you follow the “MySim” link— blogs. I’m pretty sure you have to register your game with the site (probably a pretty good way to keep down on the illegal copies, too) and my guess is that all of this is “moderated” to the point of censorship. I doubt I could create a blog on the Sims 2 web site that speaks badly of the game. Even with these limitations, I think it’s interesting.

I don’t know what else I would say about all this in an academic article– yet another reason I’m not going to write it. But it seems to me that there are some interesting and potentially problematic blendings between the real and the “sim”ulated here.

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