This is part 26 of a month-long look at the games of 2004. To see the other parts, click here.
You know, I really wish this was a retrospective on The Sims rather than The Sims 2.
Why? Because I’m feeling lazy today and, if you’re feeling lazy yet are slightly obligated to continue a retrospective column, there are few games easier to dwell on than the original Sims.
It’s a treasure trove of easy nostalgia and mind-blowing figures. Not only do many gamers have fond memories of the title, but as it was quite a few people’s first taste of emergent gameplay (i.e. Make your own fun gameplay in a world without many borders), those same memories have that unique quality of being both personal to each user, and culturally shared by everyone else who experienced The Sims.
More than anything, it was an innovator, and there’s nothing more interesting, in historical terms, than an innovator. A game that comes along and does something truly different is perhaps the rarest beast in the industry wild, making the appearance of such a title a notable event you’re not soon to forget.
The Sims 2, by comparison, was not an innovator. Instead, its role was closer to that of fixer. Or, more specifically, a fixer assigned to the most beautiful home in the world that has become weathered and torn with age. It is up to them to make this home presentable in a new age, while maintaing the timeless beauty that serves as the foundation of the home.
Fixer is not nearly as sexy a role as that of innovator, but as time goes on, I’m not so sure it isn’t more important. We live in an age of constant innovation in gaming (thanks in large part to the indie market), but not nearly as many games take the time to go back, look at those innovations, smooth out the rough edges and make them work as they really should, as opposed to how they may.
That is exactly what The Sims 2 did. As fun as it is to talk about the original Sims and admire it, actually playing it reveals a game that too often hints at the fun to be had, as opposed to actually providing it, or providing it in the way you remember it.
The Sims 2 doesn’t have that problem. Instead, it’s the game you go to when you want to remember how great The Sims experience truly is. Sure it did introduce some series innovations such as an expanded aging and legacy system, a more objective based mode and all that, but what I really love it for is the things it improved. I can’t go back to the original Sims anymore, and that’s thanks to The Sims 2‘s graphic improvements, A.I improvements, customization improvements, navigation improvements and every other improvement it made on the original game that simply needed to happen.
Ultimately The Sims 2 did what it was expected to do. That may not sound like high-praise, but when you are expected to improve on one of the most beloved games of all-time, and somehow recapture that magic feeling that fans everywhere got from playing the original, meeting those expectations is a feat worthy of admiration greater than that of most beloved innovators out there.
But hey, there really is no need to defend The Sims 2. It’s the best-selling PC game of all time, and still has the power to turn minutes into hours, as you live out the virtual life of your digital creations, and explore everything that this beautiful, expansive world allows you to do. Replaying The Sims 2 isn’t a trip down memory lane, but rather the continuation of a journey that never really ended.
10 years later, The Sims 2 reminds us that there are few feelings greater, than when it all comes together.