Where Are the Life Sims?

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sims.pngI'd like to quickly draw your attention to an article by costik over at Play This Thing about a game called SpaceStationSim. I haven't had a chance to play the game, but the article's point about how the life sim has pretty much failed to develop as a genre caught my attention. It's true. Since the Sims was released in 2000 some of its design elements have found their way into other games in other genres, but the past seven years have produced very little in direct competition with that series. As costik mentions, Playboy Mansion is one counter example. I'd suggest that the Animal Crossing series contains something along much the same lines, although arguably it is not the focal point of the game. And The Movies certainly took a cue from The Sims, but at heart it is still, apparently like SpaceStationSim, a tycoon game.

So what's the deal? After the success of The Sims, why haven't other designers rushed to create new games in the same vein? Is the industry biased against this genre for some reason? Or is it not a genre at all, but just an unusually successful niche game? Is The Sims really such a tour-de-force that there's nothing left to be done to explore or expand the space it inhabits? Or, alternatively, have social-creative MMOs like Second Life exceeded The Sims in all of its unique qualities, effectively subsuming the genre? I have very little experience with The Sims, so in all honesty I can't answer that question; in all honesty, in fact, I have no answers for any of these questions. I suspect, however, that we will see more out of this genre in the future, and for whatever reason it is simply slow to grow into its own.

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Jamie Antonisse Author Profile Page said:

I would posit that people are just plain afraid to compete with Will Wright directly, because the "Sim" game is demonstrably his and no one has ever beaten him at it. Who knows what Spore will bring? Hopefully people will start to loosen up and explore the "domestic life-mirror" territory that he opened for mass-market business.

P.S. Subsuming is your favorite word.

ndef Author Profile Page said:

That's an excellent point. Will Wright as a personality certainly exerts a hell of a lot of influence on the industry. Maybe the history of games is but the biography of great developers.

P.S. I just wanted to use the damn thing correctly.

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