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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Computer games make you think thoughts that you wouldn’t otherwise think. What else do they make yo


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My master’s degree is in Sociology, and even as an old sociologist I have a responsibility to observe and comment on society. No sitting around in a rocking chair for me! Therefore, and although it would be much easier to obliviously play along, here is my take on Sims FreePlay*, which I played on my Kindle Fire HD8 in the winter of 2017-2018.

Sims FreePlay can be played for free as advertised, if you are willing to go really slowly. To play at a normal speed would cost a lot of real-world money because the packs of game money, which are stylish, glittering, gold simoleons (§), sell for 99¢ to $99, and they do not go far. My ethics and senior budget would not allow it. So I settled back with Sims FreeSlowPlay for a few weeks, and this was my take-away.

Sims FreePlay started by letting me create cartoon characters, called Sims, so I chose an assortment of skin tones, facial features, and clothing styles from the limited free selections. As I played, I aged my Sims from enfant, to toddler, to teenager, to adult, to old. (I did not get into the dying part, either here or there.)

I sent my Sims to work on a regular basis and they made simoleons so I could play on in the game. I attended to my Sims needs, both social (talking, arguing, joking, hugging, kissing, woo-hoo’ing) and physical (feeding, bathing, sending them to the toilet and avoiding vomiting—was that level of verisimilitude really necessary?) I (my Sims) bought houses, married, and had children. It felt a lot like real life, only much, much easier, and I got to do some things as a Sim that I had missed out on doing in life. That was a very attractive feature of the game.

As a Sim I bought pets, a dog, a cat, a puppy, a kitten, and five horses. Again, much easier to care for these virtual pets than in real life, and the animals’ styling and movements were very doggy, catty, and horsy respectively. I built a stable and cleared training rings for the horses. My Sims won equestrian medals.

They say not to look a gift horse in the mouth but here are some complaints about Sims FreePlay for the record. There are too many clinches in the Sims game from previous centuries. It is no longer funny to do chicken wings while scratching your feet, the same for sticking your fingers in your ears and waggling them derisively. Electric shock hand buzzers are passé, and leg lift farts are gross, not funny to anyone over twelve. There are many tedious and unproductive tasks in the Sims game, for example, I had to use all of my Sims to do a bake-off for an entire (real) day, to earn enough simoleons to buy a cat which supposedly would dig up more simoleons for me, and then the cat never found more than a couple, and I still needed hundreds of thousands of simoleons for my next game play of buying a house.

I got good jobs for my Sims just by tapping a button, fireman, police officer, scientist, teacher, athlete, etc. I made the rounds visiting my Sims’ many friends in two different cities, all in just minutes. I had never played a computer game like this before. It was really FUN! In fact, I stayed home to play the first week, carrying my Kindle wherever I went in a pretty little wicker basket to keep my neuropathic old hands from dropping it. I tapped the screen for the Sims to work, tapped to cook, tapped for gardening, tapped for socializing, and so on. A hundred years ago people played with bicycles, dolls, and cards. Now I played demigod of the Sims on a twenty-first century toy, the Kindle. I wondered how many other people in the world were playing Sims FreePlay, and what their reasons were. The answer in 2017 was 200 million downloads, probably for about 200 million reasons.

Then as I got further into Sims FreePlay it deceived me more often. It appeared to have me on a random reinforcement schedule, which is the most difficult to resist. It pulled repeated bait-and-switches on me, it called me a cheater and then forced me to apologize for the cheating that I did not do. As I have already mentioned, the Sims game would not let me progress fairly because I refused to pay real-world money, and now the game play got slower and slower. The Sims game required me to incessantly tap at symbols that were not meaningful to me, so after about a week of non-stop play trying to get past that, I deinstalled the Sims game. But I re-installed it a week later, for “research” purposes, and because it was an absorbing pastime that let me forget my assorted physical pains for a while, and because I wanted to know more about how the game unfolds. The game is addictive. Even though glitches in the game like, “Some modification failed to validate”, made it slow going, I whiled away many evening hours playing the Sims game. In years past I would have spent that time watching television.

The Sims game is synced to your time zone so as night falls, it becomes night in your Sims game also. It has weather: rain with lightening, snow, and sunshine. Those are nice touches. It has attractive play environments, such as a park with barbeque pits, a community swimming pool, private swimming pools, outdoor movie screen, an island, a snow chalet, camp grounds, a Disneyesque ice castle, and more. These lovely things draw you in, but once there you can only stay if you accept or at least ignore the darker things that exist side by side in the Sims game.

You can furnish your houses however you like to the limit of your simoleons. I played to level 30 out of 44 levels, and built and furnished about twenty houses. Marriage between Sims is celebrated and is required before you can have Sim children. The Sims game advertises that you can pay to adopt children if you buy VIP status, but I do not know how this works. On-line I have seen video clips by Sims game players who have houses full of as many as fifty toddlers (that must have cost a lot of real world money, and why do it?); another on-line player showed off his “prison” house where Sims are confined in cells instead of rooms, and he controls all of the doors. Sims FreePlay offers one starkly designed house model with a “secret” room featured. Eeew.

Sims FreePlay is designed around an assortment of human vices, gambling, sex in public (for example by police officers in the police station, which is blatantly disrespectful) drinking (but surprisingly no drunkenness, at least at level 30), vampires and their paraphernalia such as tubs of blood (the fact that vampires do not exist does not make the concept less mind polluting), and civil disobedience. The Sims game play required me to have a “protest” in the town park, even though there was nothing to protest, what kind of message is that? And, in order to advance in the game, I had to undertake quests of witchcraft and wizardry. Even though I personally disapprove of magic there was no way to opt out of it. I am saddened/frightened to see magical thinking soaking through the subconscious of our culture. There is a lot of evil that seeps along with it. Is anyone noticing? Western civilization is founded on science, why are we sliding back into magical ways of thinking?

An awful aspect of Sims FreePlay is that “cuddling” a toddler in the Sims FreePlay world consists of grasping a toddler by its upper body and swinging its lower body so that its groin swings back and forth like a pendulum across the Sims adult’s groin, which would give a pervert a frottage of arousal. Everyone knows that cuddling means to “hold close in one's arms as a way of showing love or affection”, it does not mean swinging a child back and forth against the private parts of your body. What is furtherly appalling, when toddlers are transported from one location to another in the Sims FreePlay world, they arrive sitting on the ground, heads hanging down, with their hands covering their laps, in the aspect of a frightened, defensive child. Frankly, these elements of the Sims FreePlay game are enticements to pedophilia, no two ways about it.

(Display captures are not shown here, because I do not want those images on my blog post.)

Sims FreePlay was a glitzy game, every scene literally sparkled, but it went horribly counter to my core beliefs and values; and in that it normalizes pedophilic behavior, it runs counter to the core belief and values of all normal, healthy people.

Sims FreePlay has surprising opportunities and hidden tactics. It is seductive for no obvious reason, just the usual high hopes with low delivery scam-style bait and switch tactics. It has mind-numbing repetition, gambling, witchcraft, and loosened or even corrupted social morals. Will this quirky game have social impact? Maybe. That is why I wanted to understand it. It matters if these computer games are good or bad. They are changing the way we think, shifting our values, which ultimately will effect our behavior.

I am sorry to say that because of Sims Freeplay has such very dark design components, everyone playing it is suspect.

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* Sims FreePlay “is a strategic life simulation game developed by EA Mobile and later with Firemonkeys Studios. It is a freemium version of The Sims for mobile devices and was (first) released worldwide on December 15, 2011...”


Caption: The first Sims house I created.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: The second Sims house I created.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Sims gambling looks innocent,

or is it grooming gamblers for the real world.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Sims game money for sale.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Played Sims FreePlay to level 30,

but never got one SP needed to advance in the game.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Sims police officers woo-hoo in public at police station.

-display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Is this Sim Child provocatively ordering an adult,

as provocation to its own abuse?

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: What is this secret underground room,

where the Sims game requires me to perform in front of a camera?

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Sims witchcraft-mummies and spells.

display capture from my Kindle 2017

Caption: Sims witchcraft-tub of blood

display capture from my Kindle 2017

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