The greatest thing about any of The Sims games is that you get to be and do exactly what you want. For example, one of my favourite pastimes is to lock my character in a 4×4 room with absolutely nothing in it and get rid of the doors. It’s then only a matter of time before they eventually die in a pool of their own urine. Chilling stuff, I know. Psychologists in EA’s newly launched The Sims Official Magazine have offered up some explanations for why we play the way we do, and it turns out I might not be total psychopath after all. Which is nice.
According to psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne players like me who enjoy killing off their Sims are merely experimenting. “Players who torture their Sims may not be as much of a subset as we might think”, she explains “people may simply be curious about what happens when they create these situations, and the results can even be seen as funny.” Very funny.
Other psychologists have seen that people love The Sims because it’s a socially acceptable way to live out fantasies. “Studies have shown that people tend to create avatars (in this case, Sims) that are slightly idealized versions of themselves” says Dr. Jamie Madigan, who also speaks of another study that showed how adopting these avatars influenced players behaviour both in game and out. “People who used particularly tall avatars tended to be more assertive in negotiations both inside of a virtual world and in the real world immediately after turning off the game.”
Even the more mundane aspects of The Sims, such as going to the toilet, making dinner or climbing the job ladder are appealing to us because it gives us a sense of accomplishment. “Humans like goals, achieving goals and feeling a sense of progression or making something bigger or better” Madigan explains, “I think that if you took away those little rewards and progress meters, people would be much more likely to abandon the game.”