The Sims™ 3
The Sims 3 Gaudet Plantation

Since the day the first Sims game was launched, virtual architects have been using its built-in construction tools to create exotic and bizarre monuments ranging from heart-shaped islands to a mansion made entirely out of stacked trailer homes. With the same tenacious ambition but with a stated purpose to do "terrible things," Reddit user BourgeoisBanana presented a project earlier this week of a more sensitive nature: the Gaudet Plantation, a lush colonial farmstead complete with slave workers and affluent white owners. But is it actually a terrible thing to explore the darker periods of history?

On a whim, BourgeoisBanana set out to see how closely he could recreate the living conditions of both slave and owner on a plantation. "I'm a large history and architecture buff, and The Sims is a great outlet for both of those, despite getting a lot of flak for being a 'casual' game," he told PC Gamer. "Being British, the colonial era is of particular interest of mine, and after seeing Django Unchained, the idea sort of came to me. I had the day off, so I thought, 'Why not?'"

A small pile of mods were used to design and model both the slave quarters and mansion. The mods set parameters for reflecting the quality of life (or lack thereof) for the slaves, locking them out from the main building and tweaking the AI to stuff in more Sims per house.

"The general layout of the plantation was of my own design, and several people pointed out that it wasn't entirely historically accurate, but given the tools I think I did the best I could," BourgeoisBanana explained. "The house was more or less of my own design too, loosely based off several colonial plantation houses of the era. My main inspiration for the exterior was the plantation house from a level in Hitman: Blood Money. Django Unchained certainly was a great reference too."

BourgeoisBanana recognizes how his creation's stark depiction of racism doesn't exactly mesh with the game's cheerful suburban innocence. He hopes for a future where more games and gamers explore all facets of history, even where doing so may make us uncomfortable. "I believe that to deny our history is to make it repeatable, and discouraging projects such as this one won't prevent racism in the least," he said. "Not only gamers, but all forms of media should definitely get over this politically correct phase we seem to be going through so we can expose the brutality of our past, rather than covering it up and pretending it never happened."

So, is it really a terrible thing? As the plantation's creator touched upon, ignoring our past mistakes with civil rights won't make them simply disappear. Thus, why shouldn't we reconstruct terrible events from history? If not for the goal of sending a message, then just as a way to satisfy curiosity? How would an in-game replication of a slave ship, for example, look like using Minecraft blocks? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Gaudet Plantation mansion 1st floor

Gaudet Plantation mansion attic

Gaudet Plantation mansion ground floor

Gaudet Plantation slave quarters
The Sims™ 3 - Valve
Save 50-75% on The Sims 3 Franchise during this week's Midweek Madness*!

The freedom of The Sims 3 will inspire you with endless creative possibilities and amuse you with unexpected moments of surprise and mischief! Create over a million unique Sims and control their lives. Customize everything from their appearances, to their personalities and even the home of their dreams.

*Offer ends Thursday at 4PM Pacific Time
The Sims™ 3
StarCraft 2

Warning: If you're currently near a wall, desk, table or any solid object, take care while reading this story. You may be struck with an overwhelming urge to bash your head against it.

A Representative of Missouri, Republican Diane Franklin of Camdenton, is calling for a sales tax on violent video games following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. "Violent," in this instance, really doesn't mean what you think it does. From the proposed bill: "the term 'violent video game' means a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature, or Adult Only"

That means that , if successfully passed, Teen-rated games like The Sims 3, Starcraft 2, EVE Online and Tropico 4 would all be taxed in Missouri on account of how unrepentantly violent they are. Seriously, if my eyes rolled any harder it would cause permanent damage.

If passed, the bill would impose a 1% sales tax to violent games, to be used to finance mental health programs and law enforcement measures to prevent mass shootings. No other form of media is being targeted by the proposal.

KSDK report similar legislative attempts in Oklahoma and New Mexico, both of which failed to pass.

Once again, I'll point to our research on the connection between violent games and increased aggression, which provides ample examples of the faults that can be found in the methodology used to say the link is conclusive.

Thanks, Slashdot.
The Sims™ 3
The Sims Medieval stocks

Over the years, The Sims games transformed from a meta-life experience into a stage for my inner Jigsaw to enact elaborate deathtraps. All the classics made an appearance: disappearing bathroom toilet, disappearing pool ladder, and a slowly shrinking doorless room, all spiraling my Sims into a miserable pile of urine-soaked madness. And as an explanatory article in The Sims Official Magazine reveals, my torturous tendencies aren't alone.

Interviewed psychologists such as Dr. Jamie Madigan stated players instigating an age of woe upon their Sims "may not be as much of a subset as we might think." No, it isn't a mass lapse of sanity—it's simply human curiosity taking its natural course.

"People may simply be curious about what happens when they create these situations, and the results can even be seen as funny," Madigan said. “There are many different ways of playing the game, and these endless choices are what bring about enjoyment.”

Madigan also explained the inclination to fashion Sims approximating "slightly idealized versions of ourselves" that influence player behavior both in-game and in-life, saying, "People who used particularly tall avatars tended to be more assertive in negotiations both inside of a virtual world and in the real world immediately after turning off the game." Hey, it worked for Keanu Reeves.

The Sims' addictive qualities also came under the psychological lens, with Madigan explaining the pervasive enjoyment of goal-setting and achievements keeps us glued to watching little green bars go up and down. "I think that if you took away those rewards and progress meters, people would be much more likely to abandon the game," she said.

Read the rest of the psychology of The Sims for more justification to inflict utter misery upon digital denizens.

Thanks, PCGamesN.
The Sims™ 3 - Valve
Save up to 66% on The Sims 3 and The Sims 3 DLC* during this week's Midweek Madness!

The freedom of The Sims 3 will inspire you with endless creative possibilities and amuse you with unexpected moments of surprise and mischief! Create over a million unique Sims and control their lives. Customize everything from their appearances, to their personalities and even the home of their dreams.

*excludes The Sims 3 Showtime and The Sims 3 Showtime Katy Perry Collector’s Edition

The Sims™ 3 - Valve
The Sims 3: Showtime is now available on Steam in North America! Showtime will be available in more territories this week, please check the store page for the release time in your territory.

Venture into the new world of Starlight Shores and play out a rags-to-riches story with your Sims as they become superstar singers, acrobats, and magicians, or even moonlight as a DJ. Watch your Sims rise to fame—or go down in flames as they perform on stage in front of cheering crowds in all new venues.

The Sims 3: Showtime Katy Perry Collector’s Edition is also available on Steam! This Collector’s Edition includes The Sims 3 Showtime Expansion pack, plus downloadable content including an Ultimate Stage bonus venue, iconic Katy Perry themed items, and an exclusive poster.

The Sims™ 3
The Sims 3 Showtime
It's no small understatement to say that The Sims have had a lot of expansions. A LOT. But there are so, so many that haven't been made. Some ideas never make it past the drawing board, because they'd be too ambitious, too mad, or just too damn outrageous. We caught up with executive producer on The Sims 3, Ben Bell, to find out how Sims expansions are chosen and developed, and to offer a few ideas of our own. Will we ever see Sims 3: Modern Warfare? Read on to find out.

PC Gamer: Are all those pictures on the office caricature wall of you?

Ben: Yes.

PC Gamer: Which is your favourite?

Ben: Any of them that aren't me.

PC Gamer: Your co-workers obviously think you can take it.

Ben: I take it out on my family.

PC Gamer: Your virtual family or real family?

Ben: No comment. I'm kidding!

PC Gamer: Are you one of these deviants I've been told about?

Ben: It's funny, now that I have a real family, all I ever do in the game is model out different scenarios for my family, trying to figure out what to do with my real life. When we were working on the Sims 3, my wife was pregnant, the game was in different states of development and my life was in different states of development and I was trying to figure out what my life would be like with a kid. There's the fertility trait in the game, so I gave it to my sims to make these gigantic families and figure out if it's hard to have lots of kids. And guess what? It's hard to have lots of kids.

PC Gamer: Do they not sleep lots with large families?

Ben: They don't sleep a lot and you can never make everyone happy. That's the biggest takeaway I got. We did tune the game as a result to be easier. It's easier to have more kids in the game than it is in real life.

PC Gamer: You'll have to start sending them to work to pay their way.

Ben: We haven't introduced child labour to The Sims, but any moment now. My friends are crying out for it.

PC Gamer: The Sims: Child Labour?

Ben: The Sims: Sweatshop

PC Gamer: The Sims: Workhouse. Anyway... I understand Rod Humble's moved on and you now have several studios. How is the Sims franchise managed?

Ben: My job is to look after the Sims 3 line of games. That includes the PC and console games. We report back to Redwood Shores. We moved some folks here from the team there.

PC Gamer: What are your plans with the different studios going forward? Or is that not something you're talking about?

Ben: We're only talking about Showtime right now. The team is split up between the two locations, which creates all kinds of challenges and lots of cool opportunities too.

PC Gamer: How do you pick the expansions?

Ben: It's a pretty organic process. One of the fun things about working on The Sims is that you can reflect on your own life and the ideas you find are totally relevant to the game. Very few people have fortunately been at war, so there aren't that many human beings who can relate to that experience. Everyone can relate to the idea of wanting to be a star or basically to being a human being with basic human needs, so the first step is we look inward, at ourselves. What kind of things we want to explore.We look for the absolute ideas, the things that encompass human truths within them, like the desire to be recognised is and have your worth reaffirmed, that's at the core of showtime. Everyone wants to be noticed and be told that the person they are is valuable. That's why celebrities do what they do. There's a little bit of our intuition. The fans of the game have the same intuition and they're pretty involved in the game. It's pretty easy for us to look at the kinds of things that fans are creating on the web and they're saying on the forums and the things they say to us directly, and get what they'd be interested in. We also look at pop culture, those human truths; what are the themes that are interesting on a perenial basis, that people really want to explore more of. All of those things inform our priorities for themes. I would say, we're just scratching the surface of the range of possibilities, I love it.

PC Gamer: Well, it's not restricted in anyway is it?

Ben: Everything's on the table. As long as we can make it funny and personal, it's ours.

PC Gamer: The only other series that's even parallel is the Lego: Film series. They take these franchises and make them accessible to people, no matter the language barrier, location age... quirky slapstick communicates.

Ben: Humour is a great emotion to play with in games. It's really hard to make people laugh every day.

PC Gamer: You've tried a huge amount of different things in your expansions; what have you learned does work and what doesn't?

Ben: We've talked about trying to deal with the absolute truths for people; when we build things that are too esoteric, that are just self-referential, it's hard for people to understand. When we try to tell the joke, it goes over less well than when we give people the three ingredients to make the joke and create the punchline. The Sims contains a lot of ingredients and rarely do we include a recipe.

PC Gamer: How are the changing payment models introduced by social and mobile and MMO games affecting the franchise? Is something like The Sims Social ever going to be integrated into the main platform, do you think?

Ben: So, you know that we have the Store, which is what we call our downloadable content product line. We've been working really hard to introduce downloadable content that add gameplay to the game. We've created objects that add magic and light fantasy to the game; over the summer, we introduced a piece of DLC called the Spellbook, which allows Sims to cast spells that make life easier and allow them to play mischief on other sims. We also launched some gameplay objects that let you accelerate parts of life, so we recently launched a Science-Fiction themed sleeping pod that allows you to train your Sims while they sleep. We're using DLC to add new kinds of stories to the game and really push the boundaries of the game. It's a fun way of doing these small creative experiements and kinda help the fans to unlock parts of the game they might not have enjoyed before.

PC Gamer: Do you think there's an aspect here, not of social engineering, but of social testing. Here you have what a family or community is like and here we introduce a genuine near-future item and see how it affects people.
Ben: We definitely see it to see what our fans are interested in. Like I said, we can take these small creative bets. The kind of benefit for the audience is that there's this huge diversity of content we can do through DLC, we can take the brand into a lot more places. We only do a handful of expansion packs, but we're doing new DLC every few weeks.

PC Gamer: Okay. The question I was asking was more about computer games as social science Petri dishes; with this life simulation, by changing one variable you're producing a 'what-if' scenario for our future lives. Is that something you go out of your way to do?

Ben: What is fun about the game is that any one of those objects can redefine what happens in the characters' lives. If you look at the kind of stories people make in the games, they share stories, they make movies, they tend to gravitate around small portions of content. We have this huge array of possible stories to tell and then people, living like human beings with their personal interests, gravitate towards specific objects or specific ages in life to focus on. So when we add these objects, we create a part of the game that people get sucked into and find uniquely compelling. It is a pretty cool Petri dish for human behaviour, a way to model out things in your own life, this sounds clichéd, to express yourself. I feel it would be interesting to see what would happen if people used The Sims in the same way that they use art therapy. It's a bit of a Rhorshach test. You can put a person with the game and figure out what sort of person they are. They could tell a story about family, career, romance, sexuality... they can really take the game all over the map, do anything I just mentioned or just one of those things.

PC Gamer: It's interesting that because the Sims is so liberated, because you have things in there like homosexual relationships which is taboo is so many countries, allows you to explore all these different aspects. It's not limited.

Ben: Absolutely, it's completely open as a canvas for you to make your impression on it. That's intentional, we really hard to make sure that we address people not a single person or demographic. When we talk about it, we talk about it as both a fun game and a product, but also as a self-expression tool. It's really important to us to make sure that who you are can be found inside the game. You can poke around in there and go “hey, look that's me in there, I just made me, I can relate to that, that's the kind of story I want to tell.”

PC Gamer: So basically, therapy, storytelling, art, science... anything it can't do?

Ben: There's not a lot of violence in there.

Cindy Lum (EA PR Manager): In fact, Charles London chose to work on The Sims because of a moral judgement he made regarding killing.

PC Gamer: Death in it is still a rare thing, like it is in everyday life.

Cindy: It's interesting because you,as a player, can kill a Sim, but a Sim cannot kill another Sim.

PC Gamer: I once brought an expansion back including a voodoo doll home for my much-younger half-sister to play. Now, I wasn't getting on with my Stepmother. My sister created our family perfectly, put the voodoo doll in the house and immediately my Sim walked over and used the doll on the Step-Mum Sim. Cue fist-fight, the break-up of the house and a little sister in tears. She still plays it though.

Ben: I'm sorry! I'm sure it was therapeutic.

PC Gamer: I'm sure it helped her to come to terms with these things.

Cindy; there's nothing like it out there. It's not an avatar game, but it has a reliable predictability, much like life does. You can express yourself but it also takes on a life of its own.

PC Gamer: People don't really grow out of it do they?

Ben: I don't think so. That comes back to the personal relevance that we really strived to enable through the game. It was striking; I worked in the world of action and role-playing games (EverQuest, Gun) a long time before I joined the left-track guards and was initiated into the Sims franchise. It is such a personal mission for so many who on the product and it is infectious. Once you get your head wrapped around the idea that it'sokay to make a game about these subjects, it's infectious. Everyone here is incredibly passionate about the subject matter. It just doesn't get tiring, we keep finding new things to do, new ways to represent the world. I'm really enjoying it.

PC Gamer: Now I'm going to give you the titles of some Sims 3 expansions and you can tell me why you would never do them. Let's start with... Sims 3: Foreclosure.

Ben: It's the next product. It's a big deal here in the states. Lots of family turmoil, short sales...

PC Gamer: Sims: Modern Warfare. Bob Newbie signs up for the army, comes back in a box.

Ben: That's a great idea. Grenades.

PC Gamer: Cindy: Might get sued.

Ben: Is it about what happens after the war?

PC Gamer: A bit like Rambo: First Blood? Bob Newbie comes back from war, can't come with the fact that he's the only Sim who knows how to kill a Sim.

Ben: He's the only one? I love it.

PC Gamer: Sims: Gridlock. They spend all their time in their cars, never leave.

Ben: That would be a true-to-life experience.

PC Gamer: Sims: Sims. They spend all the day spending The Sims. The Sims-sons?

Cindy: What did we talk about at lunch?

PC Gamer: Sims: Salt Lake? Where you never leave the temple and have as many wives as you like?

Ben: You mean you can't?

PC Gamer: Sims: Politics? Where you have to adopt the most extreme policies to get selected as candidate, then refute them to get elected.

Ben: Then you need to have some adultery options.

PC Gamer: Affairs're mandatory, not options.

Ben: Everybody has a sex-scandal in their life. Are you following the US election? Is it like Pop Idol? Do you follow it as an artefact of a strange culture or...?

PC Gamer: We do, yes. The primaries are amazing. I think I'm running low on offensive expansions here.

Ben: There's a lot more.

Cindy: Ben, are you writing these down? The Sims: Modern Warfare I've got.

PC Gamer: Oh, my editor, Tim Edwards, from the UK is just messaging me with an important question; he asks “Can you make girl sims kiss?” That's the only question he wants to ask?

Ben: Yes, you can. You can do it in the Sims 3. Ask him how many copies he's going to buy now.

PC Gamer: Thanks for the time!

Find out more about the new Sims 3 expansion in our Sims 3: Showtime preview.
The Sims™ 3

The SuperMes is a Channel 4 reality TV show about virtual housemates. The series has been created using the Sims 3, with plotlines based on the unchoreographed actions of the house's four inhabitants. Gamasutra mention that the first episode is online now, and you'll find it embedded above.

It's interesting to see a major broadcasting house using taking advantage of procedural storytelling. Anyone who loves the Sims games already knows how good they are at generating ridiculous tales, and the SuperMes feels like a professionally produced after-action report. Chief creative Paul Brennun describes it as "a true collaboration between humans and robots" over on Televisual, adding "this is one of the most exciting projects we have made yet and points to the future of interactive storytelling." What do you reckon?
The Sims™ 3 - Valve
The Sims 3: Master Suite Stuff is now available on Steam in North America! Master Suite Stuff will be available in more territories this week, please check the store page for the release time in your territory.

Home is where the heart is! Whether your Sims relax in a bubble bath in their luxurious bathroom, enjoy some down time in their exquisitely furnished bedroom, or wear new intimate apparel for their special someone, The Sims 3 Master Suite Stuff adds some sizzle to their home life!

The Sims™ 3 - Alice O'Connor

You may never become famous, and so ultimately live a worthless life, but at least your Sims will get to experience that brief and fleeting moment of happiness. Electronics Arts today announced the Showtime expansion pack for The Sims 3 on PC and Mac, which will let you pressgang Sims into a life before the crowds in March 2012.

As a singer, acrobat, magician, or DJ, your Sims can take to the stage, both in your towns and those of other players. New 'SimPort' social features will let you send Sims to perform in your chum's town, or send them on tour.

As one would expect from a Sims game, you can also customize your stage with props and special effects, building the venue of your Sim's dreams.

The social gubbins will also extend to an in-game social wall for tracking your Sim's progress, boasting of their successes, sending gifts and e-cards, and other such malarkey.

Pre-ordering gets you the 'Ultimate Stage' venue as a bonus, though EA generously presents this as a free upgrade to a 'Limited Edition.'


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