The Sims creators on Twitch and YouTube put the game through its paces, build intricate homes, and try absurd challenges like having as many children as possible or subjecting Sims to Kafka-type psychological torture (all in good fun, of course). Some of the leading “Sims” creators are role-playing on Instagram, showing their picture-perfect Sim lives to their other Sim friends to praise and envy.
But “The Sims” is also a haven for players of neurodiversity, some of whom grew up with the game and continue to revisit it well into adulthood. “The Sims” is an open world game, which means there is no right or wrong way to experience it. Whether one wants to run the apocalypse quickly or just help young Sims do some laundry, there are no expectations that the player himself has not set. For some with autism, ADHD, or other conditions, this means that they can design the game to be whatever they want: a place to rest in a confusing world, a social roadmap of some sort, an alternate reality where they are in control, or just A lifelong personal interest.
The idea that The Sims offers a neater and easier version of our own world is embedded in the game’s DNA. Toymaker Will Wright lost his home in a California firestorm in Oakland-Berkeley in 1991. While rebuilding, he was moved to consider what real life was like. A series of needs that must be met? Items to own? people to love?
“I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior,” she told CNN. “I also love any game that allows me to build and be creative. The Sims combined those two things.”
Of course, you don’t need to be nerve-wracking to find comfort in low-stakes games, which come off as if you’re like “The Sims.” But for people like Ashcroft, the organized social interactions and the ability to create different situations act almost as a real-life laboratory.
“I can play in different ways depending on my mood. Sims have their own feelings for me to discover and I can play different situations in a safe environment. Diverse players can discover relationship dynamics that don’t come naturally to us.” Says.
“One thing that makes The Sims so special is that it’s not ‘punishment,'” he tells CNN. ‘It’s a very good oasis, so to speak. My daily life demands a lot from me, and I just sit and do whatever I want with these little guys.”
Benji says he gets the most satisfaction out of the game by setting goals for Sims and drawing what their story will be like. And although, as a very social person, he doesn’t identify much with the emotional aspects of the game, there have been times when he suddenly felt like seeing him.
“At one point the developers introduced a new trait – now Sim can be ‘over-achievement’. So when I applied this trait to one of my Sims, he would get bored and restless when his life would fall asleep. And when he took on challenging tasks, he was So happy and earned. And I thought, “Wow. So much for Sim in my life.”
People with autism and ADHD aren’t the only ones who feel good about living in a world of their own design. As communities have naturally formed around “The Sims” and its many expansions and modifications, other marginal identities have realized a similar value. Some LGBTQ Sims players say the game has helped them on their way to living their true selves. (Sims have always been able to have romantic relationships with any other adult, regardless of gender.)
Over the years, EA has released several updates that allow people to fully customize their appearance, ethnicity, cultural identity, gender identity, and sexuality. Benji, who is from São Paulo, Brazil, says he has noticed occasional updates that include cultures outside the United States, such as music by international artists recorded in the Simlish language.
This inclusion underscores the real reason why hardcore gamers keep replaying The Sims, year after year, through all stages of life. When the world doesn’t seem built to you, it’s a relief to be able to build one yourself.