Architecture and the Sims: Building Homes and Lives

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Most of us spent a good portion of our childhood playing video games. It’s frowned upon because it’s not good to spend a lot of time holed up in bed or our couches. We gained terrible eyesights for staring at bright computer or TV screens for hours on end. But we couldn’t help it. We were hooked.

The Sims was one of the games that enamored us. Through that game, we labored over building our dream houses. We reveled in the limitless money made possible by the cheat code, “motherlode.” We weren’t skilled in drawing. We didn’t have basic training in design. But it felt like we were architects in our own little worlds.

It’s no secret that the Sims and other world-building virtual games influenced architecture and design industries. In a way, it also impacted our self-discovery. We’ve built houses in the game. Thus, we’re encouraged to aspire to become homeowners in real life. Here’s the Sims relates to architecture, design, and players’ perception of their selves.

A Brief History of the Sims

Electronic Arts (EA) released the Sims in 2000. Will Wright, the game’s creator, envisioned it as a “virtual dollhouse.” The Oakland firestorm in 1991 ruined his home. But it inspired him to “rebuild” his house through a game.

The game became a commercial success. It sold almost 200 million copies around the world. It sparked four versions. It also led to various spin-offs set in different worlds. Examples were vacation islands, universities, and the medieval era. Versions of the game were also developed for PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo DS, and smartphones.

Building Houses and Self-Discovery

In real life, buying a house prompts a whole new chapter in our lives. It serves as a clean slate. The same virtue is true for playing the Sims. Players start by building a home. Then they build virtual lives that occupy that home. Building houses is a way for us to express ourselves. It represents the kind of lives that we strive for.

Wright shared his sentiments on the relationship between his game and architecture on Psychology Today. He said that the creation of houses is the major reason why people play the game. When he was creating the game, he was also inspired by an actual architect, Christopher Alexander. He believed that the environment influenced people’s dispositions and relationships with each other.

Fixing roof

Wright did some research before he started developing the game. He found that architecture and interior design software was commercially popular. People simply loved designing for leisure. He described the Sims as “a laboratory for understanding not only our personalities but also our personal spaces.”

In the film, Inception, Ellen Page played as a young architect. She was recruited by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character for an odd job: an architect of the world of dreams. But the job opened her eyes and challenged her extensive knowledge and skills. She was able to build infrastructures and entire cities with unfathomable possibilities. She defied the laws of physics. It was an act of “pure creation,” she said.

This act is similar to designing houses and cities in the Sims. In real life, we’re restricted from building out of “pure creation.” We’re controlled by financial capacities, science, and the law. But in the game, we’re free.

Impact on the Architecture Industry

Many players of the Sims aren’t architects. They have different professions. But they turn to the game as a means of escape from reality. The game also inspired other players and encouraged them to become architects in real life.

Many architecture and design firms are using virtual games for designing and presenting to their clients. An example is Fletcher Studio. They use the Witness, a world-building game similar to The Sims. Jon Brouchoud, the founder of Arch Virtual, also believes in the effect of world-building games on architecture. He stated that the ability to design in 3D revolutionized the practice.

This impact goes both ways, too. Architecture also inspired the gaming industry. It created unique jobs such as virtual architects. Game developers hired these architects to design and help develop the virtual worlds in video games.

Sometimes, there’s nothing more gratifying than designing a whole house even if it’s only in the Sims. There’s something about the sheer freedom in it. It reminds us that our homes are a significant part of our lives. And the best thing is that it inspires us to make it a reality. We are encouraged to become homeowners as well. We find ourselves scanning real estate websites and surveying which locations best suit our needs.

We address our financial concerns by reaching out to mortgage brokers. By seeing what good home life has to offer in the Sims, we are encouraged to achieve that in our real lives as well.

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