Escapism in Minutiae of Daily Life (Published 2009) – The New York Times

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Video Game Review

Most video games build their psychological attraction around an uncomplicated, almost willfully naïve idea of escapism: the chance to play a role outside one’s self. Game designers, presented with the opportunity to transport a player, often take full advantage by getting as far from reality as possible. Distant galaxies bursting with aliens, mythical realms of dragons and demons, zombie-infested postapocalyptic wastelands — these are the milieu of the usual role-playing game.
There is something to be said for that; life can be taxing enough. The rub is that by being so self-consciously removed from everyday existence most games forfeit any chance to speak to the very real complexities of the human condition — precisely the area in which traditional media shine.
The Sims series is different. What makes it special is its exuberant, big-hearted, unabashedly joyful embrace of the minutiae of daily middle-class life. The Sims 3, to be released Tuesday for PCs and Macs, both refines and expands on that concept, one that has proved so popular that Electronic Arts has sold more than 100 million copies of the previous Sims games and their various expansions.
For children, especially the millions of schoolgirls who are the franchise’s most enthusiastic audience, The Sims provides a training and socialization playground. For adults The Sims offers an unflinching, potentially uncomfortable and perhaps almost psychoanalytic view into one’s desires and fears about that real world beyond the computer screen.
In its basic structure The Sims could hardly be more prosaic. An adult could legitimately ask, “So where is the game in this game?” You begin by making a person. It could be a baby, it could be a teenager, a middle-aged person or a retiree. You define your Sim’s appearance, down to the colors of a woman’s hair roots, highlights and tips. (I may have discovered my inner hairdresser.) More important, you define your Sim’s personality. Is your Sim considerate or rude? Sociable or shy? Messy or neat? Intelligent, insane, or perhaps both? An athlete? A bookworm?
Maybe you want your Sim to live alone. If not, it’s up to you to create a virtual family. Or maybe you have a “Three’s Company” roommate scenario in mind. Or perhaps a house full of people who hate one another.
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