Years ago, I saw a YouTube video of real-life architects reacting to Sims 4 builds. They mainly had little issues with the builds, IE: You can’t put windows to the east because you’ll be blind in the morning, or, you can’t have a vast open space like that without support beams, etc etc. But the other issue they had really stuck out to me.
Why were these digital builders sticking in the realm of possibility? The individuals reacting to these builds were architects. Building stuff that makes sense in the realm of possibility was their full-time jobs. Why the hell are these gaming dumbasses doing the same crap they have to do for work? At work, they can’t just ignore zoning laws, but these ‘simmers’ can! Why are they building normal stuff?
This amused me for a couple of reasons.
For one, it makes me picture a newbie Minecraft house, someone who’s just logged onto creative mode for the first time. Maybe they messed around in survival for a while, but now they want to see what this ‘creative mode’ is all about.
‘Ha! I’ve got it!’ They proclaim, taking out their first block. ‘I know exactly what to build!’
Thunk, thunk, thunk, they place their blocks. Much like the first dirt house they ever built, a simple structure, but this? This is unimaginable wealth.
This amusing mental image aside, I’m sure these architects were thinking of big, complicated builds that they had to learn in college were impossible. They likely weren’t thinking about solid gold buildings or ridiculous skylights, but far more practical ‘impossible’ things. The thing is, a lot of people who build in The Sims started out by making crazy, impossible things. Just like the diamond Minecraft house, it’s almost a sign of a new player.
I know when I began my Sims journey, one of the first things I did was build a top-heavy house. Three floors of nothing but stairs up, followed by a house on the top of the weird pillar. It was fun, I enjoyed making it, it looked like shit and I didn’t care. The thing is, these architects weren’t just reacting to random Simmers-at-large. They were reacting to talented, veteran builders who were known for making great things.
Random builders do build crazy, silly things that stretch architecture to its limit. Most of the talented ones, though? They know how to build real-life, practical stuff, and make it look awesome. Why?
Real-looking is novel in The Sims 4. In your first twenty minutes of gameplay, a vampire can just, show up at your house and ask to be let in. The houses that come with the game suck by almost everyone’s account. They look bland, empty, and often fake.
What is desirable in The Sims 4 isn’t the craziest architecture or the most impossible house. What’s the most desirable is pots and pans on top of the fridge and cereal left on the table. It’s clutter that makes a place feel lived in because those are the things that are difficult.
I think there is something so fascinatingly human in that phenomenon. A new player in a game’s first instinct is often to do something they’ve never been able to do before in real life, while a veteran player’s instinct is to do something that’s harder to accomplish in the game. It’s easy for people to judge each other’s creations based on what has merit to their particular situation, but both are valid things to do. What is desirable is often determined by what is difficult, not by what is ‘good’.
Those architects weren’t being dumb noobs, they were seeing into a culture from their perspective as architects. But I, as someone who builds in The Sims, have no idea what an architect can and cannot make. I didn’t begin with those limitations, I began with the ones derived from playing a dumb money-grubbing EA game, so what has value to me is different from what has value to them.
It’s a bit like someone who cultivates lawns for a living, watching a game developer intentionally add realistic flaws to their grass. From the game developers’ point of view, the grass having fault makes it look real. From the landscaper’s point of view, all his time is spent trying to fix those faults, why add a patch of dead grass when you can have perfect uniform turf?
So let’s do some Sims building real quick. I’ve been looking for some low-stress projects to keep up the site, and I think the creative process of virtual building is interesting. We’ll start with how I personally build, and if it sparks joy and I have something of value to say about it, maybe we’ll do some other styles and ‘crazy’ designs down the line.
For now, we’ll start with the beginning of my most common process; a house style built anywhere from the 1900s to the 1950s.
The point of this beginning stage, to me, isn’t to make the most practical house, but actually the most annoying to work with. Real buildings have to consider a lot of exterior factors and a lot of limitations, which, in the future, often force weird shapes and rooms that make the inhabitants go ‘why?!’.
I don’t have those zoning laws to work with. I don’t need to think about the budget for materials or if my architect is an idiot. Instead, I have borderline infinite space and money to work with. I don’t need to consider where the electrical wires go or if a toilet can even go in this room, I can just, boop, do it.
So, the best way to emulate those limitations is through needlessly annoying layouts. Future-me can handle it, I’m sure.
Next is to outline a style choice. The Sims 3 had a really great system where you could choose any color for any item. Those days are gone, though, so now we must choose a color palette early on to decide what materials and packs we’ll be using. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a door-window combination only to discover they have no overlapping color palette. Don’t worry though, I will inevitably render this choice redundant by changing my mind along the way.
This feels very much like the trope where an art book will tell you you draw a horse with ‘draw a circle’ and then ‘draw the rest of the horse’. But all I’ve done is chosen a facade color and placed my windows and picked a roof that matches. I am knowingly making later me hate my guts by pre-placing the windows. This is a three-story building, meaning I need space for stairs. Windows and stairs don’t mix totally well, but it’s fine, I’ll just delete some in a rage later.
The goal here is actually a modern-day house, but we’re going to start in the 1900s to consider what updates it would have seen through the years.
The foliage is going to get overgrown as we move this thing into the modern age. But, I find it’s much better to start with an idea of where things started to know how it overgrows. Whoever built this place loves blue flowers, and cares a lot about their landscaping. Man, it sure would suck if future homeowners didn’t give a shit.
Similarly to the foliage, it’s good to have an idea of where things were put up when the building was built. The clothesline likely won’t stay, but it might have an impact on decisions made later. Where the typical walking lines are will impact where things go. Today, a clothesline, but maybe in twenty, thirty, forty years, it’ll be a burn pit. Or, maybe someone will throw in a deck to cover the trodden grass. We’ll see where we end up.
I have no idea how this happened, but somewhere along the way, my carefully chosen front door disappeared. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to…
Redo the entire facade! Oh well! The disappearing door gave me a chance to look through them again, and find other things I liked better, and rabbit hole into an entire redo.
Maybe next week we’ll start on the interior, sure would be a shame if someone redid a kitchen in the 70s…
I’m considering this project like a low-impact sport while I get my bearings and recover. I like The Sims, it’s something I can talk about in a relaxed way that doesn’t dredge up my grief and mental health like sediment in a blender. But at the same time feels like something Dad would have appreciated. I play The Sims with the ‘but what do they eat’ mindset I inherited from my dad, and that’s really comforting right now.
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