Of course, The Sims is not the original software toy, nor is it even WillWright s first. His first success with the software toy genre came with SimCity . It too simulated a sophisticated system and allowed players to truly control their city s destiny. Though SimCity is an excellent , entertaining title, The Sims is more compelling still. A lot of this has to do with the fact that players of The Sims are controlling humans instead of a city. In other words, it follows Chris Crawford s insistence that games should focus on people not things. In general, most players will find people to be much more interesting than things, and players will be able to form an emotional bond with a simulated person much easier than with a simulated city. After playing The Sims for a while, players will feel sad when their sim s amorous advances are rebuffed or when their house burns to the ground. Though certainly not as smart or interesting as actual humans, the simulated people in The Sims are close enough to being plausible that players will want to believe in their sims virtual existences and will fill in the simulation s deficiencies for themselves .
Furthermore, almost all the players who play The Sims will have an intimate knowledge of the subject being simulated before they start playing. They will feel that they are something of an expert on this suburban life subject and think they will be able to play the game better as a result. For instance, players know by instinct that they should set up a bathroom with a shower, a toilet , and a sink. If the job were to simulate an alien life-form s daily life on another planet, players would have much less of an idea how to proceed and would need to figure out the life-form s culture before they could expect to succeed at the game. Because players already know so much about the subject matter of The Sims , they are that much more drawn into the game. From the moment they start up the game, players feel good because they are putting their real-world knowledge to use in creating these simulated lives. WhenWillWright made SimEarth , he created a game involving systems that players knew very little about, and this may explain why so many people found the game to be quite difficult. For SimCity , players had a better sense of what was going on; while they may not have been experts on urban planning and dynamics, players at least thought they knew how a city should be laid out and were familiar with problems such as traffic, pollution, and crime. With The Sims , most players know infinitely more about the topic than they do about city planning. Hence, the game is that much more compelling to play. Its very familiarity draws players in like nothing else can.
Of course, simulating a subject many of the players will be familiar with can be a challenge as well; if the designer gets it wrong, players will know instantly. In the alien-life simulator, who is to say what is accurate since the world and creatures are made up to begin with? This grants the designer more artistic license for how the world is constructed . However, in a reality simulation like The Sims , if the designer makes the wrong choice about what will provoke a sim to do what action, players will see the error and their suspension of disbelief will be shattered instantly. Working with a subject that players are intimate with may serve to draw them in, but if it is not done correctly it may drive them away as well.