Revisiting The Sims

Last week, I was accused of making fun of people who play The Sims. I don’t know if this was in jest or not, but I took it to heart, either way. (And perhaps “accused” is too strong a work, but I can’t find a better one.) It’s true that I’ve tried to play variations of The Sims in the past and just didn’t get it. But, that doesn’t mean I don’ think it has value. In fact, I’ve always wished I could get into The Sims because I’ve always heard such great stories from the game. So, I decided I should give it another try. I decided to start with Sims 3 instead of Sims 4 because I already own Sims 3. (More on that later.)

Revisiting The Sims was important to me after this conversation because years ago, when dr. b started talking to me about gaming and this blog, I was a little hesitant for a couple of reasons. The first being that I didn’t want my games destroyed by, um, thinking. I know I’m not alone in this; I hear this argument all the time: “I just want to play the games not worry about the politics.” But, the more I read about gaming and the more awesome discussions I had about gaming, the more I’ve come to want just that in my games. Maybe it’s a combination of my growth as a student and a scholar, but more and more I want to engage in social issues. Games allow me to engage in ways that movies or novels don’t allow (or don’t do as well). Last night, I was playing through a particularly disturbing scene in Dead Rising 3. (I’m finally playing Dead Rising 3!!). In this particular scene, I was initially creeped out by the way one of the women was being treated. But, by the time I got to the part that made me shudder, it was just me (playing as Nick, of course) against a really scary dude. It wasn’t just that he had a more lethal weapon; it was his whole persona. His words and mannerisms freaked me out. And, unlike a movie or novel, I’m sitting there with the controller and I have to engage with this dude in a much more active way. And, I was scared because (maybe spoilers here? But the game has been out for a year…) this gang of bikers had kidnapped my female friend, and they obviously had bad intentions, and I had to face this gang leader who clearly had zero morals. We don’t live in an apocalyptic world, and this is all obviously an exaggeration, but at the same time, it’s still a reflection of the world and the people who occupy the world. I find that fascinating.

The second reason I was hesitant to talk about games at first was, well, because of Dead Rising. I had this sense that “real” gamers were playing certain types of “cool” games, like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Not that I would make fun of people who play those games either, I just have never been able to get into them. In the case of Grand Theft Auto though, I have the same regret as I do with The Sims. I want to play it because I’ve heard a lot about the social commentary in the game. Alas, I really suck at driving those cars. Anyway, years ago, I felt like someone would discover that I really loved Dead Rising above all else and deem me not worthy. This was all before I got to know these awesome ladies, and even though we sometimes make fun of each other’s game choices, I know it’s totally ok that I love Dead Rising.

So, back to The Sims. I decided I would try to play The Sims 3 for at least an hour a day for five days to try to get a real sense of the game. This did not work out for me, exactly. The first day, I tried to reinstall it on my Mac and it wouldn’t work. So, I moved to my (very flakey) PC. I finally got it going on the second day. I got to work making my Sim. She bought a house and got a job. I was learning more about the things that might change her mood and cause things to happen. She was supposed to start her job in 21 hours. I’ll admit I’m curious how that went. But, I guess I will never know because I haven’t been able to get the game to open since that first day. I’ve heard a lot of complaints against Origin over the years, but I’ve never really played there. I guess this is what people mean?

Anyway, I played it enough to both understand the appeal and to admit that it’s not a game I need to get into right now at any rate because I sense it can be time consuming. But the point is: play what you want, whatever games bring you joy. If you enjoy The Sims, play it! If you enjoy Farmville type games, play them! (I won’t because I have enough time management problems as it is.) For my part, I’m thrilled that I finally bit the bullet and got Dead Rising 3. That franchise just brings me joy. (Even Dead Rising 2. I may not love Dead Rising 2 enough to return to it over and over, but it was good for a play through.) At the end of the day, games are meant to be fun. For me, part of the fun has become engaging with the social commentary, and maybe someday when I’m not writing a dissertation and I can get the game to actually work, I might give The Sims another go.

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My “demands”

Recent conversations on our blog, with my friends, in the gaming community, and generally spread throughout my daily life, have lead me to start thinking about what my personal “demands” for the future of gaming are. I put demands in intentional scare quotes- obviously I’m not really in a position to demand that anyone do anything, other than by supporting things with my wallet and my attention. Nonetheless, thinking about the changes I’d like to see in gaming has been a useful activity for me. So here they are: Read more »

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Why It’s Sexist Vol. 1: She Made It Up (For Attention)

**I’ve peppered in real threats women have gotten playing video games, for those who don’t believe it’s a problem**

“u act like ur good u down syndrome cunt ill rip ur ovaries out n make u eat em u mother fuckin spawn killin pathetic whore.”

Today marks my first installment of my new “Why It’s Sexist” series. This series was born out of conversations with folks who I would consider intelligent, reasonable, and not overtly sexist. However, when faced with scenarios—particularly in the gaming industry—like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, they suddenly turn into some head-in-the-ground ostriches that don’t hear reason. Or more specifically, they stop being able to see just how fucking awful and influenced their thinking is.

“I’m gonna find your twitter when this game is over and rape you.”

Again, you don’t need be a bad person to have thought that Sarkeesian or Quinn made up their stories. Lot’s of times, people think they’re good people so necessarily arguments against sexism don’t apply to them. “I’m not sexist, I just logically think Sarkeesian is making up the death threats she is getting.” Often you may feel this questioning is coming from “your gut.” However, “your gut” has been influenced by an incredibly misogynistic culture that programs you to think “she made it up for attention” when you hear a woman has been sexually harassed, assaulted, threatened, or raped. Your knee-jerk response to these situations isn’t necessarily your own response. Don’t you feel violated that someone has taken over your body and forced you to respond in a way you wouldn’t normally?

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Power Hour Review: Hatoful Boyfriend

Last week, the world went to the birds. Or, at least, the world of dating simulators.

Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel developed by Moa Hato and PigeoNation. The protagonist is a female barbarian/cave dweller who is the only human student attending St. PigeoNation’s Institute—an elite, all-bird school. Your goal is to guide your human protagonist through the trials and challenges of high school while building connections with your avian buddies.

Technically, Hatoful came out in 2011 (with good reviews), but the game was only available in Japanese and enjoyed limited distribution. It was liked enough, however, that fans created English translations for wider audiences and, last week, Steam picked it up and gave it a reboot in high definition.
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Come Together Right Now…

Games bring people together. This is something that many of our ilk (gamers) seem to have forgotten. When I was a kid in the 70s we came together over handheld games with little blips playing various kinds of sportsball games. We came together to show each other what we could do, to teach each other the rules of the actual games so that we could better understand why the blips on the screen were doing what they were doing, to challenge each other, and to trade games so that we could master different sportsball games without (unsuccessfully) pleading with our parents to buy us all of the handhelds.

As we got old and our handheld blippy games became home console 8-blippy games we came together in the houses of whoever owned the console that housed the blocky boxers, spaceships, or apes and plumbers that we wanted to play with on that day. And once there we came together on the couch, on the floor, or at the kitchen table in front of big tube televisions that now seem ridiculous in their definition (or lack thee of). We came together over lunch tables, recess time, and anywhere else we could to strategize and share our stories of achievement. Achievements that didn’t pop up on our screens, but were only recognized officially when we mailed in actual pictures of our hi-scores to get coveted jacket patches that we could once again come together over the envelope upon it’s arrival and share the unmitigated excitement that accompanied it.  Read more »


Moving Real World Consequences Into the Game

It was only just a few days ago that I watched NFL athlete and Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice attack his wife in a brutal case of physical domestic violence. I’d heard about the incident in passing but it wasn’t until someone told me about it in detail that I really knew I had to watch it. Its reputation paled in comparison to the shock of actually seeing it happen, even if it was just on a computer screen. I won’t go into the details here but the way that he so flippantly abused her sent a bit of a chill down my spine. Although this was not the first time I’d heard of acts of violence and situations like this but watching it actually unfold certainly made domestic violence a great deal more visceral. And that certainly seemed to be the case for many people across the world as they watched Rice’s act play out on screen. As we’ve probably all come to see this week, this has turned into a (justified) mass exodus from the cult of Ray Rice that ranged anywhere from the NFL placing the athlete on an indefinite suspension to restaurants and bars offering comped meals or drinks to customers who bring in their Ray Rice jerseys.

With all the public condemnation shown towards Rice on both a company and personal level, I sat and thought how well so many people seemed to be responding. Of course this was before I was told that it had been over half a year since the incident had happened and that there was mounting evidence that the NFL was aware of the video before it got leaked online by TMZ and the implication that their action taken against him had only come after the public outcry and flood of negative PR. So when EA announced that they would be removing Ray Rice from the roster of Madden 15 entirely in a recent game update, I was excited by the social statement this could make across the gaming sphere.

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Episode 85: Down the Rabbit Hole and Back Again: More on “Gamergate” and Women in the Gaming Community

Episode 85: Down the Rabbit Hole and Back Again: More on “Gamergate” and Women in the Gaming Community (“Save As” to download or head over to iTunes to subscribe)

In this episode we talk about “gamergate” and community building among diverse gamer populations.

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Live right now! Episode 85!

Check us out live right now at

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LEGO: Don’t let me down!

Last month I wrote about the release of the LEGO Ideas Research Institute set. This set, which is a collection of three female scientists, sold out on LEGO’s website within 6 days. Recently, LEGO announced on their website that the Research Institute would no longer be available online, but (hopeful) purchasers could possibly find one in a retail LEGO store, in October. This is typical LEGO in many ways. LEGO Ideas sets, in particular, are typically short run sets and tend to sell out quickly, leaving the buyer with little option other than to go to Ebay and hope to find the set from a different seller. (The Exo Suit set, released around the same time, sold out in one day.) The LEGO Ideas sets and some of the other more advanced Creator sets are not the sets you typically would expect to find in a mass-market retail store. I would imagine, in part, because they are (typically) expensive and marketed toward a slightly older demographic. I often have friends express shock over the retail price of some of the LEGO sets, advising me to wait for a sale. But, many of the sets I’m interested in will never go on sale. They sell out, are retired, and, from then on, only found from second-hand sellers, often at 3x the price or more. While the Research Institute set is not expensive, it’s also not a set I would expect to see at a mass market retailer. And, I’m seeing its price jump right now as I look for the Research Institute on ebay. The retail price is $19.99, but it’s selling (not just listed, but selling) on ebay at prices from $60 to $100.

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I own the set though; I got lucky. But, when the set arrived, I was reluctant to open it, not because I want to profit on it (I will never sell it), but because I saw this coming (mostly for the reasons listed above.) So, I put the box on my bookshelf in the living room, and this weekend I was looking at that unopened box and wondering what this means for females and LEGO. Like I wrote above, I don’t think this decision is anything other than typical LEGO. Meaning, I don’t think they made the Research Institute such a short run to make any kind of statement. But, LEGO got a lot of attention after releasing that set, as I wrote in my last post on the subject. In the news and comments, I read lots of “yay, finally” type sentiments directed toward the set. But, what’s next? I want more.

The LEGO Research Institute was originally named the LEGO Female Scientists set, seen here. The designer of the set also designed other small sets featuring female LEGO minifigs engaged in a number of other, typically male dominated fields: falconer, geologist, robotics engineer (my favorite!), judge, mail carrier, mechanic, fire fighter, and construction workers. I want these sets, too! (Please, LEGO? The Research Institute sold out so fast!)

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But more than that, I want to see these sets make a difference in how LEGO approaches integrating females into the sets that have typically excluded females. You know, the “regular” sets: the sets on the shelf of any mass-market retailer in the toy aisle. The sets that do go on sale and are played with by millions of children. I want to see these female minifigs equally represented in these sets. I want to see these minifigs in sets other than the expensive, niche sets that are marketed more towards an Adult Fan of LEGO demographic rather than children. I’m not seeing it yet, but I’m hopeful. That set sold out fast. Maybe LEGO has some behind the scenes planning going on.

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Games, Mechanics, Narratives: Can’t we all just get along?

I feel like all of our blog posts lately have started with something along the lines of “in the wake of recent conversations”. Nonetheless, here I go: in the wake of recent conversations, I’ve been thinking again about what seems to be an eternal debate among gamers and in game studies: narratives and mechanics. Which is more important? Which really defines a “good” game. There’s been a fair bit of conversation about gamers who only pay attention to narratives/representational forms (and therefore miss what “really matters” in gaming) or gamers who only care about mechanics (and are therefore miss what “really matters” in gaming). Yes, those are scare quotes on both “really matters”. Read more »