The Ideology of The Sims 3

Since its release in the year 2000, Will Wrigth’s The Sims has been a topic in a large number of discussions in the field of game research. The reasons for this interest can be summarized broadly in the fact that The Sims intended to be a social simulator. More than a game, maybe even beyond a “software toy”, as Wright has sometimes defined his other products (such as Sim City), The Sims wanted to be a toyful representation of life. A medium to express ourselves, to dream and build consequently the life conditions we desire. This game proposal attracted the attention of all kinds of cultural researchers for its possibilities and ambitions. The Sims it is a game, but a serious one, so to say. Therefore, new possibilities are open for topics of research inside computer game studies. It is not a risky to say that this game is probably the most famous ludical product in the academic world. Even though the games mechanics have been described thoroughly in the recent tradition of “sim papers”, and despite the fact that is the world’s best selling game according to Electronic Arts (EA), I will describe it briefly.

In The Sims there are several layers of gaming. The first one consists in the design of the avatar. As players we have a certain number of skins we can combine to create our avatar(s) in the game. Besides, we can download form the Internet a large amount of skins that make the number of combinations almost infinite. The next step is to insert that avatar in the neighbourhood, buyingsome land and building a house, or directly buying a house. Only then the second phase of the game starts. This virtual landscape called “neighbourhood” is the place where we will take the traditional game decisions: where to go, what to do, with whom we want to interact. We will meet our sim-neighbours and we will play with the environment and the items placed in that space. Finally, the third level of gaming is defined by the possibility of buying needs and constructing items. By clicking on some buttons of the display, we pause the time of the conventional game and we gain access to the purchase/construct section of the game. In it we can decide about the construction of our house, about its furnishing, and even about our avatars hobbies. These basic premises already show one of the interesting characteristics of The Sims: it is based in purchasing virtual items with virtual money.

If we add this fact to the game concept, that is, the simulation of social interaction, or even the simulation of life, the questions that originated this paper arise: what kind of society is The Sims depicting? How is it described? What is, finally, the ideology that lies beneath The Sims? The goal of this paper is to describe The Sims’ ideology as it is shown in the gameplay and in the game structure. The basic questions are: is The Sims an ideological game?, and if so, how is that ideology reflected in the game design? The framework of this investigation is the works on ideology and late capitalism written by Louis Althusser and Fredric Jameson. In order to describe more precisely this interpretation of the game’s ideology, Charles Taylor’s concepts on the “ethics of daily life” will be added to this framework.

The goal of this article was to suggest a reading of The Sims’ ideology within a post Marxist framework. As it has been argued, Will Wright’s game can be considered an ideological simulator of the late capitalism societies. Using a computer game structure, The Sims is a revolutionary attempt to represent society in a playing digital environment. Its success, both as a game and as a business, is undeniable. This research intended to cast some shadows on that success. The Sims can be understood as a subtle system for spreading the ideology of corporative late capitalism. Even though this is just a possible interpretation of the game, the questions that have emerged during this research suggest, at least, a more cautious approach to The Sims.

Maybe not everything is perfect in this sophisticated doll house. Or, what is even more dangerous, maybe actually the game has a deeper meaning than the merely ludical one. Besides suggesting this caution, this paper also intended to introduce a definition of ideological games. Going beyond the analysis of themes and topics, as researchers we must focus in the ludical structure of games (rules and gameplay) to reveal their complex representations of ideological messages. Games can be ideological as long as they are structurally ideological, as long as the player, as subject, is presented to a set of rules ideologically determined that represent a concrete ideological discourse. Games as form of entertainment and art are reaching maturity. As researchers, our goal is to be ready to understand that maturity as part of a complex discourse, like literature or cinema.

The Sims is a social simulator of a post-capitalist society: what The Sims proposes as an ideological game is a simulation of a specific set of values linked with a capitalist culture. Therefore, it can be considered not as a social simulator, but as a simulator of an ideology of modern capitalist societies. Finally, acknowledging that games can actually be ideological expressions broadens our field of research, but also gives us an exciting new horizon, and the duty of developing discourses that can see deep into the core structures of digital entertainment.

Latin Words are unnecessary?

Eric Koch, in his lively blog “Sketches,” posted the following snippet from a talk by William Zinsser to foreign students learning English – he’s talking about words derived from Latin:

In general they are long, pompous nouns that end in –ion – like implementation and maximization and communication (five syllables long!) – or that end in –ent – like development and fulfillment. Those nouns express a vague concept or an abstract idea, not a specific action that we can picture – somebody doing something. Here’s a typical sentence: “Prior to the implementation of the financial enhancement.” That means “Before we fixed our money problems.”

The post has already accumulated a variety of comments, some of which inveighing against those heavy, unnecessary Latin words.

I generally agree with clarity and straightforwardness in language, but one of the glories of a complex language with a large and somewhat redundant vocabulary is that we can set the tone and attitude quite easily and distinctively, and make it clear in a few words what genre a text is situating itself in. We don’t want to toss out the big words altogether; we just don’t want to hide behind them. We should use them judiciously, not reflexively.

And at the very least, any sort of nativist attitude towards English usage is a non-starter (and not just because nativistalso comes from Latin). Although our most basic function words, and most words for the most basic things, are from English’s Germanic roots, no less than 80% of our general vocabulary comes from other languages, especially Latin (often via other romance languages) and Greek. It behooves a person who wishes to make pronouncements and prescriptions for a language to know whereof he or she is speaking.

And, incidentally, not all the stuffy words are Latin –behoove and whereof are both straight from Old English, for example – and (as we have already seen) not all of the plain-sounding words aren’t. But what William Zinsser was really talking about is derived abstract nominalizations. Which is a separate matter from the Latin-versus-English issue.

Incidentally, one language that has managed generally to keep its word stock “native” is Icelandic. When a new word is needed for something – the automobile or the computer, for instance, both of which use Latin words in English (caralso has a Latin source) – they have a sort of national debate about the right word to use; suggestions are made mainly on the basis of adaptations and syntheses of other Icelandic words, and ultimately one prevails: in the cases in question, bill for an automobile and talva for a computer (formed by a merger of an adapted word used for “electricity” and a name of a mythical prophetess, if memory serves)

Is technology taking over our memory?

I can still remember the first it happened

I needed to ring my scatter-brained mum to remind her to bring home some milk. Not a life threatening situation but important enough to raise my anxiety levels. I stood on the spot, fuming with impotent rage because I could no longer remember my mum’s number and had left the repository of the precious information my so-called ‘smart’ phone on the desk at home unfortunately there isn’t an app to remind you that you’ve left your phone on your desk at home.

So here I was, desperately trying to remember the number that would once have been securely saved on my internal hard drive. For most of my childhood and years, I had prided myself on my excellent memory. I could recall, at will, the phone numbers of a raft of distant relative as well as birthdays and anniversaries. Sadly this was obviously no longer the case.

When did we outsource our memories to technological devices? Was it ever a conscious decision or is it one of the creeping insidious side effects of our march towards a world dominated by search engines and technological devices? Whether tech-savvy adolescents or those notorious neophytes, the boomers*, we no struggle to remember to remember the birthdays and phone numbers of more than a couple of our closest family and friends.

Of course this trend now goes well beyond a few dates and phone numbers. The advent of Google means that most of us have lose the ability to recall facts once thought to be the mark of an educated person. Who wrote Romeo and Juliet? No idea; lets Google it! Trivia nights are now more likely to be dominated by people furtively glancing at their hones rather than by the once-respected and sought-after master of the arcane and obscure.

In order to assess the significance of this trend towards the outsourcing of memory, we have to ask a couple of important questions. Firstly, it is inconsequential that we can no longer remember, without the aid of electronic devices, information that we once thought important enough to sear into our conscious memories? More worryingly, will this lead us to become so lazy that we fail to use those parts of our brain required for recalling information and engaging in higher-order thinking?

The answers to these questions may no be straightforward or simple, but they are worth more than the time it would take to type ‘losing my memory’ into a search engine.

Why I Hate The Premise Behind Dark Matter

I want to make this perfectly clear- my argument is not against those who believe in the dark matter theory it is against those who teach and preach dark matter in replace of scientific fact. It is not scientific fact, it is my contention that there is little science involved in the ‘science’ of dark matter.

A little bit of history

It is my understanding that dark matter, in of itself, is a man-made creation- actually more than that an assumption. When scientists examined planets and stars, they found there was insufficient mass to sustain a gravitational attractive force within the substance. Ergo they found that the planet or star should explode, as the particles are not sufficiently attracted to one another. But as we know, planets and stars do not explode at random (outside of a supernova- but that is another matter altogether).

As a means of explaining this, they ‘developed’ (made up), whats known as ‘Dark Matter’. Particles invisible to the naked eye that serve to add mass, and hence gravitational attractive force, without being detected. It seemed like a convenient solution. Science could now explain, why planets and stars remain intact because of this mysterious invisible (and very made up) force.

It’s simply’ guesstimation’

In making dark matter scientists are doing the equivalent of any arrogant idiot trying answer to an question that they don’t know the answer to: “Why is that identical car faster than yours, there is simply no logical explanation? Well…you see there is an invisible force called dark matter that propels the other car forward. ITS UTTERLY STUPID. Scientists are just guessing, making random assumptions based on no evidence. “Well i can’t explain this, lets make up something called dark matter that solves all our problems.” How can this be called a theory, let alone science!

Scientists are guessing and estimating (‘guesstimating’ as I like to call it) and this cannot be the foundation of a theory. Cold hard evidence is the only foundation that can ground a theory.

Why guess?

By making assumptions and proclaiming the existence of dark matter what could scientists give to science? Why make those assumptions in the first place, it will simply lead us down the wrong track. Yes I understand that delving down the wrong path, is the cornerstone for scientific progress, that only by building upon incorrect notions can be understand that those notions were incorrect to begin with. But this is absurd. This is like that kid on the playground, who thinks he knows everything, who proclaims that John F Kennedy is the pope and that Neil Armstrong is the president and we’re all the mindless followers who hang on his every word. Why say there is a Jedi-like force that holds the planets together, why go to all this trouble in the realm of science when you’re just guessing? Why lead us down a path you don’t know is correct? Why not conduct more research, be sure of your options and the evidence for each of them, and then make a decision. I mean its not like there’s any time pressure, the universe isn’t going anywhere (relatively speaking).

In summation, I know that some of you hold dark matter close to your hearts, that some of your live and die by the theory that the universe can somewhat be explained. But be wary and do not believe everything you hear, because throughout your life there’ll be that arrogant kid on the playground who wants you to believe everything he says and it is your duty to consider him, but not accept his point of view.

Flash Fiction

Step-mother

Max met her gaze. She stared; bored down into him like a vulture would to its prey. His heart sputtered into life and began to beat out of his chest. But nonetheless he stared back, eyes bleeding defiance, not this time he thought, not today.

It was a moment like this a few years ago when Max first met her; his stepmother. She had moved into house and rearranged the furniture, perforated the unmistakable stench of perfume, tamed an unrestricted garden –one of the last of its kind- and domesticated an otherwise free ‘Max.’ For the most part she was successful in all those efforts except the last one.

To her max was just another variable and he was one that needed to be controlled so she could effectively satisfy her aim.
As she raised her hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a signed note.

8 Areas That You Can’t Go

From that one room in primary school that was ‘off limits’, to the white house, to a restricted access military base, we all face areas that we just can’t go. At some point in our life someone will tell us that that area is simply “out of bounds” and retreat to the same hobbit hole from which they came from. To us average joes, it seems that there is nothing you can do but let your curiosity design inane ideas of what’s behind that door. So without further ado, here is a list of areas that we will probably never get a chance to visit:

8. Disneyland’s Club 33 – New Orleans, USA

Via en.wikipedia.org

Club 33 is supposed to be a secret Club in Disneyland that only its members should know exists. Opened in 1967 by Walt Disney, this secret club was meant to be the place for entertaining investors, politicians, and celebrities who came to Disneyland. It will be hard finding where the club is since there are no signs giving you directions. Despite the fact that some members of staff will point you towards the entrance of Club 33 while others will deny that it even exists, you can never get in unless you have a personal invitation from a member of the club. Another way the club is keeping people away is with its extremely high membership fee of $25,000, its annual subscription fee of $10,000, and a 14-year waiting list. As fun as it might sound to visit this place, sadly it is almost impossible to get in.

7. White’s Gentleman Club – England

Via simanaitissays.com

The White’s Gentleman Club is one of the most secretive clubs in England, but it is well known owing to its over 320-year existence. This club is open only to elite men in society, meaning that women and ordinary folk are not allowed anywhere near its entrance. The only member to resign from the club out of his own free will was Prime Minister David Cameron, who felt that the nature of the club was not in line with his modern conservatism views. Despite being a gentleman’s club, finding the members gambling or engaging in heavy drinking is not a surprising thing. Gaining membership to this club is as hard as getting the queen to Knight you, meaning that it is next to impossible.

6. Room 39 – Pyongyang, North Korea

Via greattourism.blogspot.com

Almost every government in the world has dirty dealings that it would not want its citizens to know about, and secret organizations undertake those dealings in the shadows. North Korea’s secret organization goes by the name Room 39, which can also be referred to as Office 39, Division 39, or Bureau 39. Numerous sources claim that Room 39 is a secret facility in Pyongyang where the government encourages counterfeiting, the production and dealing in drug, and international insurance fraud, among other illegal activities. Since the money that results from the illegal activities that take place in Room 39 goes toward funding the country’s leadership and supporting its nuclear weapon program, you are not in any way welcome to visit the facility.

5. Mezhgorye – Bashkortostan, Russia

Via unknownworld.co

This town in Russia is one of the most unique towns in all of Europe and Asia, since Russia is the only country in the world existing in two continents. Mezhgorye was closed down by the government but the people living there were not evicted, they continue to live in the town and do some secret work for the government. NATO believes that the residents living in the town are predominantly employees working in Mount Yamantaw, a suspected nuclear facility that Russia does not want the world to know about. This facility came up during the Cold War, and people are still working there regardless of the end of that period full of espionage and its other related activities. You cannot visit this town because it is still a restricted area, and regardless of how interesting it must be to know what goes on inside, you just have to keep guessing.

4. Surtsey – Iceland

Via volcanocafe.wordpress.com

Surtsey is an island that was birthed out if volcanic eruptions at sea near Iceland with the molten and fast cooling lava reaching the surface of the sea in Feb 14, 1963. The volcano underneath continued to erupt for three-and-a-half years and it is now an island 1.4 square kilometres wide, though erosion is reducing its size with every wave. Surtsey seems like a great place to go for an expedition, but that is not going to happen because it is a nature reserve set aside for the study of ecological succession. Since very few scientists have even been allowed to visit Surtsey and conduct various studies related to how plants and animals establish themselves in a new territory, chances of visiting this new land are slimmer than they’ve ever been.

3. Pine Gap – Australia

Via thelivingmoon.com

Pine Gap is a top secret research facility in Australia, that is ran by the Australian and US governments. Although the public does not know much about what goes on in Pine Gap, there is reason to believe that the facility has a direct or indirect relationship with US military drones. This secret facility was established in 1970, and the Australian government does not like talking about its existence or anything that takes place there. This facility is built to be a satellite tracking station and is located far from civilization so that other countries do not intercept its signals. This facility might be the location from where the US controls its numerous spy satellites and listens in on Asia. The area is prohibited and no unauthorized persons can set foot in this facility.

2. Pripyat – Ukraine

Via allwallpaper.in

Ukraine was one of those countries where the harnessing of nuclear energy for development and other peaceful activities was taking place, but the Chernobyl disaster led to huge losses. Pripyat was a modern city that was flourishing before its abandonment within two days of the Chernobyl disaster, leaving it as the shell of what was once a wonderful place to live and work. Today Pripyat is inaccessible because the level of radioactivity that is still present is too high, and even accessing the exclusion zones require escort from armed guards. Going to the heart of the city and even getting close to the Chernobyl plant might sound like a great idea, but in doing so you would land yourself in a lot of trouble.

1. Snake Island – Brazil

Via avanova.at

Since man’s exile from the Garden of Eden, his relationship with the snake has never been that good. Despite some people trying to tame snakes and make them their friends, surely your first emotion when you see a snake will be fear and the impulse to either run away or kill it. Since snakes are not fond of human beings either, the snake island in Brazil is therefore a place that you should not even attempt to go. Living up to its name, this island is host to over 4,000 snakes that snatch birds from the sky and whose venom can melt human flesh and kill you within hours if not minutes. Except for adrenalin junkies who would attempt to stare death in the face just for fun, you should not even desire to visit this island. Snake Island is off limits to any visitors, a restriction that is enforced by the Brazilian government.

Why I hate facebook

Each time you check your Facebook newsfeed, you are confronted with a terrible truth: everyone is having more fun than you. Everyone. They are all self-actualized. They are achieving amazing things. They are living the lives they always dreamed of living because they deserve it. They are in a perpetual state of intense, mind shattering bliss that never ends, but only grows. Meanwhile, you sleep on an air mattress, use your school for internet, and your dinner was dinosaur egg oatmeal and 2 day old coffee (no icebergs of mould, so it’s probably safe). Yes, you’ve always suspected your life was a half-life, a shadow of what constitutes the typical human experience, and Facebook has confirmed your worst fears. Compared to your friends, you are a sad pale Gollum, peering out of the darkness at the bright shining multitudes, doomed to eternal loneliness and mediocrity.

What did you do today? Read a snarky Gawker article about Taylor Swift? Walked to the kitchen, remembered you didn’t need anything in the kitchen, and then walked back from the kitchen? Ate the aforementioned dinosaur egg oatmeal? Everyone on Facebook just published their novels, each one a 900 page magnum opus, and they’re all bestsellers, all complex statements about the American Dream, the ontological state of being, and the struggle against societal tyranny. Where’s your book, huh? You should write about walking to the kitchen and then walking back from the kitchen and then playing Temple Run on the iPad in the dark because everyone is desperate to read about the Sad Banal Life of Mid Teen Male Idiot.

Where did you go today? Besides the kitchen. All your Facebook friends visited Paris, Kenya, and Tokyo, and they’ve posted 14,000 gorgeous photos of their life-changing experiences. They’re all worldly cosmopolitan people now, more cognizant of other cultures and able to speak fluent Cantonese. One of their photos shows them feeding an elephant. An elephant! Today, you fed a dust mite in your sleeping bag your discarded fingernails, and even if you did own an electron microscope capable of photographing it, no one on Facebook would want to see. Subsistence farmers travel more than you; even death row inmates go outside from time to time. Your fantastic voyage consisted of a walk to the kitchen to see the wonders of the broken dishwasher.

How far along are you in your career? Do you even have a job? Everyone on Facebook is a social media director for a prestigious ad agency, racking up six figure salaries, and steadily assembling the components of a stable comfortable life so that as their bodies deteriorate, a trained medical professional will care for their soon-to-be corpses rather than quietly euthanize them. They’re posting statuses about work, posting photos of the new cars they all purchased. They put as much thought into buying a house as you put into whether or not to buy a peppermint long john from 7/11 (‘It’s $1.19, but the iced cheese Danish is $1.29, and the cupcake is $1.65, so how do the good feelings elicited by each pastry correlate with price?’).

Where’s your girlfriend/boyfriend/creature into whom you deposit affection? Are you so emotionally stunted you can’t spark a romantic connection or are you simply repulsive? Those are the only two possible explanations. It’s like all of humanity got together and was like, “That guy? He’s, um, well, he’s more of a friend, and, uh—no, he’s nice! But, uh…” and then they awkwardly changed the subject. They posted photos of the mass party to Facebook and everyone on earth was tagged except you. Everyone’s profile picture changed to a wedding photo except yours. Everyone’s relationship status changed to “is in a relationship” except yours. You, meanwhile, ordered 40 dollars of sushi and perused the party photos while almost crying, but not quite, but then almost, but not quite. And then you cried.

You look at your newsfeed and your life is a stagnant cesspool full of toxic chemicals and dead fish. Click on photo after photo of parties you weren’t invited to, concerts you didn’t attend, birthdays you didn’t know about, and realize everyone else in the world is having fun except you. ‘But is my life really that terrible,’ you wonder, ‘Or is Facebook some kind of platform for people’s idealized, carefully curated versions of themselves in which they’re talented, successful, hilarious, sophisticated professionals?’

‘No,’ you think, as you click through photos of your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend kissing a much more attractive person than you. ‘I’m just terrible.’