Tag Archives: The Sims

The Grumpy Cat says NO.

As a kid, we had a family computer. All games got installed on this computer and played in a public setting. We didn’t have that many games, but the ones we did have were awesome.

One of those games was SimCity. I don’t remember which version, but it was pre-2000, and on Windows 97, so it was in that era.

I loved SimCity. I loved building my town. I loved growing it out to a huge metropolis. I loved being told I needed to buy a bulletproof limo. (I have no idea why it always did that. I had a ton of roads.)

When the Sims hit, I was on board. 100%. I love that game. I bought the Sims. I bought the Sims 2, and all it’s stuff packs. I bought Sims 3. Loved it. I didn’t get any of the Sims 3 expansions after the first one because it required Origin, EAs answer to Steam.

So when I heard a new SimCity was being worked on, I was stoked. I couldn’t wait. City building at it’s finest.

Then I found out it would be always connected. I got a tad worried. It’s not the always connected that bothers me. I don’t pirate games, as making them has made me acutely aware that if you want someone to keep making awesome stuff you have to support them. Generally I play games connected to the internet. I have no problem with WoW requiring a connection all the time. BUT I also played Diablo 3. I played it as a single player game. I saw error 37 just like everyone else. I had connection issues. And that was Blizzard, who of all video game companies likely has the most experience with servers and connectivity. And they had *issues*. For DAYS. Well I thought, I won’t be getting this game day 1. (Look how RIGHT I was. The game is still unplayable 2 days later due to server issues.)

While discussing it on Twitter, something else occurred to me. I would have to install Origin to play the game. CURSE YOU EA. I HATE hate HATE games that require me to install a program, just to install a game. WHY? Why do I need this useless program on the outside? You are just adding bloat to my pc. DO NOT WANT. Hey PUBLISHERS. PAY ATTENTION. I accepted Steam. I don’t like it. I am not happy with it. But I deal with it because it allows me to get tons of games super cheap. I deal with it because it allows me to re-download games I already bought. I deal with it because over the past 10 years they have managed to make it a fairly decent program. It works fairly well in offline mode. But I still consider it a VIRUS on my computer. I deal with it because I have no other option.

But Origin… Origin is alot like Google+ trying to come along after Facebook (although the analogy doesn’t hold up when you consider that G+ is arguably better than Facebook). I already HAVE a third party program that I have to use for digital distribution. I already have a ton of games on it. I do NOT want another one. I would rather just use the one I already have. I would rather not have to use another program at all. What a novel idea!

I accepted Steam because I had to. I needed to use it for class and so I was forced to use it. I couldn’t NOT play Skyrim, so I kept accepting it. No offense EA, but ONE game is not enough to convince me to install your spyware virus program. At least Steam has games from all kinds of publishers. Your virus only lets me play EA games. I am NOT going to have one of these stupid programs for every publisher.

So I voted with my wallet. I didn’t buy Sim City 2013. I wanted to. I STILL want to. But I am not going to. I am NOT INSTALLING ORIGIN. If you want me to buy your games, you HAVE TO MAKE THEM ACCESSIBLE. Origin is NOT ACCESSIBLE. Think about all those Sims 3 expansions I could have purchased. And I would have. Think about that $60 sale you lost on Sim City 2013. I am not giving you one penny for a game on Origin. I am not going to do it. I want to. I want to give you my money and let you keep making Sims games. But I have to draw the line somewhere so here it is.

It occurs to me though, EA will never know. There is no good way to calculate how many sales they lost because of Always Connected and Origin. On my Twitter feed, it’s at least 5, with about 15 having bought the game. So that’s about 25% of people who WANT the game. Who have the money, and are willing to pay $60 for the game. But didn’t because of these stupid choices. But EA will never know.

Which hurts them more? Piracy or lost sales? Is it better to have 20k people pirate your game or 100k never buy it in the first place? Does Origin add enough value to the people who deal with it to make up for the lost sales from people like me? Is it really that hard to code a version that doesn’t require Origin and can be played offline?

How do I tell EA they lost multiple sales from me? How do I tell them I am not going to budge on this? How do I tell them I want to play their game but I won’t until they change their practices?

Children in Video Games

To begin, the Article.

Go read it. I’ll wait.

All done? First and foremost – I abhor violence against children. I think people who hurt children should be subjected to all the pain, violence, and abuses they subject on children. I pray for swift retaliatory karma against these people and hope the rest of their lives are miserable, equal to, if not greater than, the pain the child felt during the abuse.

Now, violence against children in video games is a wildly controversial thing. So why does it show up at all?

1. More and more game designers are parents.

Just look at Heavy Rain, Nintendogs, and Mario Galaxy. More game designers that started in this industry as young adults in their 20s are now reaching the age where they have children. Anyone with children will readily admit that it is a radically life changing experience. So logically it makes sense that as these designers have this experience it will reflect in their work. 10 years ago an RPG wouldn’t have considered including having children as something the player can do. Children aren’t adventurous and heroic. But now, as in games like Fable 3, children are becoming a part of the game. Because the game designer parents are able to say “This is an adventure. This is a compelling reason to radically change the way a player plays the game.”

2. The social mores against things in video games are falling, just as they did for other mediums.

Do you remember the brouhaha over Fred and Wilma being shown on TV in bed? It was a huge deal that a cartoon would depict people in a bed together, thus implying sex. Now, it is common to see women in their underwear, sex, and violence on TV. Sex is coming to video game mainstream. So will all the other things like drug use and children. These are the things that define our humanity. Our successes and our failings. That is why they create drama and evoke emotion. Video Games will continue to attempt to elicit emotion from players and drama is a part of that.

3. Why even have kids in the game?

Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is. I am willing to bet most of the answers involve something with their children. The Sims allowed me the joy of having a house full of children, something I will never do in real life (I mean like 6 kids, seriously). The terror that I feel at the idea of having a game where I can gain a child, then possibly lose them… *shudder* The article brings up Bioshock as a violence against children example. However it is notable that in Bioshock they are always Little Sisters, in-human. The NPCs in the game even back this up, saying “Those aren’t little girls anymore.” But when given the option it is always Save vs Harvest. That is an intentional distinction. Despite the fact that the player knows that Harvest will kill the Little Sister, it doesn’t say Kill, it says Harvest. The interesting point is that this is a moral choice presented to the player. And at the end of the game it is revealed that the player is rewarded for choosing the “correct” path of saving the Little Sisters.

In Dead Space 2 (I haven’t played it, I am going off the article) it sounds like the designers needed a small fearsome enemy that was hard to hit, could move fast, and needed to scare the player. As a secondary effect of their story choice they even created the feeling that the player *shouldn’t* be shooting this enemy. Despite the fact that you should. That moment of hesitation can lead to the players death.

It is also worth noting all of the games mentioned are arguably Horror games. The designer’s job is to elicit horror from the player. What could possibly be more horrific and want you to bring down the whole thing than something that harms children? It never occurred to me that Andrew Ryan in Bioshock wasn’t a bad guy. Despite what the designers tried to twist into the story, here is a man willing to exploit children to further his own ends. Once that is made clear, the player no longer feels bad for tearing through this ruined city and destroying it’s people. They allowed their ideals and beliefs to lead them away from the inherent compassion and sense of right. At this point, I no longer wanted to just escape Rapture, I wanted to punch a hole in the wall and allow it to flood. To destroy it completely for the failure to retain it’s humanity.

4. But why have violence against kids in the game?

To evoke the parental emotion and all the messy feelings that come with it. In Heavy Rain I WILLINGLY took a vial of poison, knowing that the probability of it killing my character was high, knowing it was likely a trick by the designer to set me back. But I could chose no other option. I had to save my kid and if this was the hoop the serial killer wanted me to jump through, then by God, I was going to jump through it. My life for my child’s? In a heartbeat. The designers were exceptionally clever with their choices of trials. How far could they push the player to save a child? And push the player they did. It even sparks the thought that while yes, this is a game, would you really do such a thing? If this were real, what would you give up? The designer held up a mirror to the player’s soul and that is definitely going to make people uncomfortable.

5. Games are all about fantasy and being the hero.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band did so well because they MADE THE PLAYER A ROCK STAR. World of Warcraft makes me feel like this powerful and amazing hero that literally saves the world over and over again. Games are about fantasy and being the hero, and what is more heroic than saving a child? The catharsis of saving the child in Heavy Rain is sufficient to have made it a critically acclaimed game despite iffy controls, ambiguous choices, and uncanny valley.

I will admit as a designer, I am uncomfortable with the idea of putting children in harms way in my own games. But that doesn’t mean the question shouldn’t be asked or the situation explored. I am wildly uncomfortable with rape and yet I accept it’s inclusion in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a required event to bring me closer to the protagonist, despite her alien responses and behavior. Did Dead Island create the trailer with the express purpose of sparking the discussion to get press? Of course they did. Should they be vilified for doing so? No more than any other game like Call of Duty that does such things to spark discourse and free publicity. After all, movies have been doing this for years already.

Now, take a moment to imagine the Dead Island trailer, which I will admit is marketing at it’s finest. Everyone has a strong emotion about it, despite the fact it doesn’t show one second of gameplay. But imagine if the story the player is stepping into is this family’s story. The player assumes the role of the parents or even the child at various points in the game. The goal of the game is to get them out alive, as all survival horror zombie games are. Through a single short trailer they have given the player all the motive and drive to not only play the game, but play it at their best. To seek, to strive to save this little girl. The trailer shows the worst possible outcome, one the player should stop at nothing to change. That is a powerful emotional response. That is a powerful story over a standard and common game type. Much like movies set themselves up for Oscars, this game appears to be setting itself up for the art and story telling in video games debate. Will it succeed? I can’t wait to find out.



As it turns out, the trailer was in fact, pure marketing hype. It’s a shame, to use something so artistic that could have been the stepping off point for a truly spectacular story. Ah well, back to hacking zombies to bits.