So far, I've been a total SimSucker.
In concept, I was intrigued. I really liked the various SimCities and SimFranchise games... this sounded like a big zoom-in on the wieldy overworld that this genre always preferred. Micro-management as the entire game, if you will. And for a time, The Sims was nicely addicting. Building a house is easy yet deep enough to satisfy an HGTV fan (although the original Sims was lacking in certain household object categories.) I enjoyed breathing life into the paper doll people... and I giggled at the nonsense verbal and non-verbal language. In my first household, I worked two girls up to the top (or near top) of their professions; I even spent enough time there to uncover all the daily meet-the-staff secret text boxes.
But after a few weeks, it occured to me that I was having a different kind of fun than I was accustomed to. A kind of SimFun.
Maybe it's because I prefer a fixed end to my games. The open, non-goal oriented structure of The Sims forced me to apply my own unconscious wants on my Sims... and I ended up playing the game in the most boring way possible. You see, I wanted my girls to succeed in their chosen fields; I also didn't want anything bad or different to change their lives. As such, I refused all marriages and children. I kept them from dying or getting fired. I put all resources into their job studies. And every SimDay became a chore... mainly a balancing act of maintaining the obnoxious amount of neighborhood friendships.
And that's when I stopped playing. When it got to the point that I was just constantly calling over the same dumb neighbors, having the same dumb conversations, and running out the door to the daily grind. I had unknowingly put my Sims in a rut... and I was right there with them.
When I picked the game up again (after the first expansion, Livin' Large, was released), I decided to loosen up a little. I built a new family, using the new "wacky" objects from the expansion. Obviously I wasn't the only person to succumb to SimBoredom; Livin' Large seems purposely designed to add stupidity to your Sims' lives. Now I had a mad scientist Sim who turned himself into a Frankenstein's Monster. A genie-in-a-bottle to grant wishes, although he mainly sets things on fire. There's a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, a vibrating bed... a whole bunch of junk that will turn your "realistic" household into a sketch from Laugh-In.
Livin' Large also adds multiple neighborhoods, which is nice if you want to create/download lots of new houses without having to toss the older ones. The second expansion, House Party, adds even more neighborhoods (this is one of the top selling games of the past year plus, after all.) So really, it's worth it to grab the expansions. You also end up with three times the amount of items and abilities. This translates into more opportunities to keep from getting bored while playing.
Counting the original game and two expansions, we've finally got a very nice selection of textures, clothes and objects. But holy shit, getting here has cost you $100 plus tax! That's a crime, folks. It took them three separate titles to complete one nice, full-featured game. (And I'll bet there's more to come.) From now on, every time I have a Sim placed in a "software designer" career track, I'm going to make sure he gets electrocuted.
But back to my rut. Despite all the cutesy additions of the expansions, there's still a basic tenet that puts money at the root of everything. If you want to see/buy all the great new items (mechanical bull! rocket launcher! antique bed!), you need lots of money. To get the money, you have to keep at your job. To improve your job, you have to keep adding friends and build your skills up. Which means a endless non-game grind of the exact same actions every time you play.
Yeah, there is some nice fun stuff here: Building a yard full of wooden lawn gnomes. Having the radio play your own MP3 collection. Making a pair of hot women fall in love. When one Sim pulls out a guitar at the campfire and everybody starts to chant a Simmified kumbayah. The automatic webpage feature. And there is some irritating stuff: When you try to expand your house and find that your whole lot is one level off from the sidewalk base level. Having to start out in poverty. No weekends or sick days. No way to control multiple households at the same time. No way for Sims in different neighborhoods to meet. No sex, violence or nudity. And where are the pets?
It's an interesting diversion for a couple of weeks, particularly for the casual computer owner. (Notice I didn't say "casual gamer.") But I'd feel a lot better about it if it wasn't so overpriced. For $100, I'm not getting a lot of game here.