The reason for the success of Sims Social? Forget the franchise, it’s all about getting close and personal.
THE RISE OF SIMS SOCIAL
Over the past weeks, I’ve been following the astounding growth of Sims Social, the latest installment of the Sims franchise, developed by Playfish and published by EA. The numbers are quite astonishing, something unheard of since the rise of the social games.
How did this happen? The first thing that comes to mind is the brand. The Sims is the most successful franchise in PC history, with more than 150 million copies sold worldwide. Hence, it’s natural that the fans of the previous games would flock to the latest version of the franchise. However, that is not enough to explain the skyrocketing success of a game in a market where the target demographic is – at least as of last year – comprised of middle aged players – the majority women -, many of which are not “real” gamers and did not play the original Sims.
So, again, how did this happen? Let’s try to think social and find the solution.
I AM (AND AM NOT) MY SIM
In Sims Social players take the role of a Sim, an avatar (a kind of surrogate) that lives a simulated life resembling real peoples’ lives. Eating, sleeping, dating, building a house, tending the garden, making money, increasing the value of their property: they do what we do. So, where’ the difference with games like Adventure World or Magic Land or scores of other social games, where I have a character to develop, and also a land to tend to and make more valuable?
The difference is that the Sims are people; they are us, but not fully. In Sims Social I am a person, not a fantastic character, and I meet other people, other surrogates, and we do together what we could conceivably do in real life, but with virtually no limits in variety and frequency. We chat, fight, flirt, dance, date, have sex, split, hook up again.
If a Sim flirts and makes a pass and the system decides the other Sim is receptive (to be frank, the game’s relationship parameters are quite easy to game), their relationship bar moves right, towards the next level of closeness. If the Sim behaves nastily, the bar moves left.
The relationship types are many: “Acquaintances; Friend; Good Friends; Dating; Going Steady; Ex-Lovers; Awkward Friends”. Also, players – and their Facebook friends too, if they so wish – are notified of big changes in their Sims’ relationship status.
Through my Sim, I can “play human” and “play life” with other surrogates of real humans. We are our Sims, but we are also not. It’s personal, but it’s also safe. The Sims’ life is a life with no strings attached.
THE POWER OF WOO-HOO!
This key gameplay element includes that most eminently social activity: sex. The Sims Social, thanks to its excellent design and balanced tone of voice, introduces online dating and sex to a social game in a safe and fun way. Since the Sims don’t meet in real time and everything is asynchronous and done with people known to the player (her/his Facebook friends), there is no sense of stalking, no awkwardness.
As a player, I control how much I want to reveal to the owner of the Sims I flirt and do things with: a personal notification; a notification to all our friends; or nothing at all – in which case our Sims had sex, I received points and goods (yes, that mechanic persists), but only I know about it.
It’s for these reasons that I believe Sims Social is a game changer on the social gaming panorama. (Also, it probably hits a different target demographic than the traditional Villes, but this is a topic for another post).
It’s the first truly social game. A game that – with all its flaws and sometimes oversimplified gameplay – connects people through the thrill of simplistic, but effective, simulated human relationships, among which are prominent the sexual ones.
Sex. The oldest social game. Sims Social, the first truly social game.
Do you agree that Sims Social is more social than other social games? Is it for the reasons described above, or for other reasons? Let’s discuss in the “Comments” section.
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