The Sims 20th Anniversary: Looking Back

Written by Nico Gavino

Graphic by Archerd Aparejo

I have a very distinct third grade memory of yearning to go back home to tend to my very first Sim while attending Catholic elementary school. While other third-graders were concerned with getting their reading level up, I was itching to further develop the burgeoning romance between my 20-something Sim and his Senior aged neighbor.  I never intended for them to fall in love, it just sort of happened. My first Sim was a man, but I honestly don’t remember much more than that.

What I do remember is the sheer joy that playing Sims provided me as a kid. I was on a trip to the Philippines when an older cousin introduced me to the PC game that would define my childhood. I spent several summers after that trip, wasting the long hot days away playing god to the Sims I created. I meticulously formed their physical features and personality traits to my own desire. While I could not understand a word of their gibberish language called “Simlish”, I cared for them like they were my own children. I took pride in the homes I built from scratch for them. I often spent so much energy building their homes that I would dedicate an entire day to the activity. I spent much of my time downloading game mods that allowed my Sims to have trendier clothes and interiors, as well as watching Sims versions of popular music videos like Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. After buying the first Sims quickly graduated to Sims 2, and before I knew it I was playing Sims 3 immediately after its release in 2009. I loved it all.

February 4th, 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the game which has produced over 100 versions since. Love interior design? There’s Sims 2: Ikea Home Stuff. Fascinated by the paranormal? There’s Sims 3: Supernatural. For every kind of player, there is a game. Looking back, I ponder the reason that it appealed to my younger self and countless others to this very day. If escapism is the appeal of the Sims, it probably seems ironic to have played a game with seemingly no objective, in which I simulated the mundanities of life in order to escape the mundanity of my own suburban childhood.

Whatever the reason is, there was something fulfilling creating a virtual life from scratch where navigating life’s obstacles was only a cheat code or fast forward click away. While it seems that almost every player has experienced the tragic death of a Sim at some point, the best part is that you could always start over. I think we can all agree that life would be a million times easier if we lived in the Sims universe.

 Another reason why the Sims was so good was that it was largely popular before the dominance of social media. Rather than being a social experience, the Sims felt meditative at times. I can’t even imagine the mess the Sims would be if it were a social media platform. While the Sims is still around in its current fourth edition, it’s not nearly as popular as it was in the 2000s. In my mind, the game stands as an emblem of a simpler time. As much as I rave about how great it was I haven’t taken time to sit down and go back to it.

While reading up on the Sims history, I stumbled upon the official Sims forums where users still gather to share experiences and offer solutions to their Sim problems. One particular thread triggered a comforting nostalgic feeling in me and even made me cackle a little bit. The thread titled “WHAT HAPPENED IN YOUR FIRST EVER SIMS FAMILY?” perfectly captures the dual nature of Sims that is both wholesomely innocent and hilariously bizarre.

 Here are some of the best posts from the thread: