To describe the game's central thesis - you create people, then watch them pay bills and get promotions and do other people things - is to make it sound completely pointless and boring. While I'll freely grant you the "pointless" charge, I have to argue that it's always been a very interesting and very weird game. Early thrills could be gained by devising mean-spirited ways to kill your Sims. You could put one in a swimming pool and remove the ladder, for instance; or put a flammable item in front of the fireplace and block the doors.
|Stupid enough to set a rocket off indoors, but smart enough to ID a fire.|
In the original, these Sims would have cartoonishly spectacular death scenes, usually throwing their arms in the air and screaming gibberish. (The creators, perhaps predicting and punishing the sadistic impulses of their uses, endowed guinea pigs with a death scream as well. I promise I discovered this by accident. I didn't think the entire room would go up in flames like that.)
The Sims 2 brought slightly more humanized Sims, as well as some completely outrageous possibilities for death. These possibilities included: getting consumed by flies, being scared by a ghost, getting crushed by a Murphy bed, and getting crushed by a goddamn satellite.
I just love how disdainful Death is.
I found all of these hilarious, and maybe sometimes went out of my way to make them happen. I will neither deny nor apologize for this behavior.
The problem now is, The Sims 3 has gone too far in humanizing its Sims. For instance, back in the day if a Sim caught her partner cheating on her, a sad trombone would play, she'd probably slap the offending parties around a little, and that would mostly be that. Now, Sims hold serious grudges and develop trust issues that can only be solved with lots of conversation and mutual kindness. You know, like real people. And their real people behavior makes killing them awfully hard to do, let alone enjoy.
I "aged up" one Sims's geriatric wife, so she would just die of natural causes and not have to suffer the indignity of a satellite to the face. Big. Mistake.
The surviving Sim, Grundtal (named, as was the rest of her family, after a random IKEA product) was a complete sodding mess. She wept constantly, even stopping in the middle of an activity to do so. When her friends visited, she threw herself sobbing into their arms. When she slept, she dreamt about tombstones, the Grim Reaper, and her broken toilet (which I had replaced, for chrissake. I'm not a monster). Her reaction felt excessive, for a Sim, until I remembered that her entire family was also dead. Her family tree - her grandmother, parents, and two sisters - was completely grayed out. She had even watched her mother die on her very porch. In past Sims iterations, this wouldn't affect Grundtal at all; but in the Sims 3, I can't discount the idea that she was responding not just to an isolated death, but another in an unfortunate series reminiscent of the Kennedys. Putting it in that context, which her prolonged and realistic grief forced me to do, made me feel less like I had made a move in a computer game, and more like I had actually made something/someone suffer.
Now, I can't argue that making humanoid characters more human is a bad thing. But it does bring us into some weird territory that's kind of the reversed 'uncanny valley' - instead of being too computerized to be relatable, they're now too humanized to be expendable. That, or I've grown out of my conscience-less adolescent phase.