those players who make The Sims their ideal world

For more than 20 years, The Sims has allowed Internet users around the world to create houses and homes, but also to imagine a life, their own or that of others. A way of inventing a dream life that questions the relationship of the players in the game. Besides being a means of escape, The Sims has now become a tool for psychologists and specialists to study the human species in depth.

To have a better nose, a dream villa or simply to be rich: many dream of it, The Sims has done it. Since its release in 2000, the EA Games game allows you to create another life, to imagine, to change, to explore and to discover more about yourself.

In this iconic saga that simulates everyday life on your computer, you can create avatars, build and decorate houses and above all bring this virtual world to life through interactions, jobs of all kinds and meeting place. Last innovation: the possibility of choosing the sexual orientation of its Sims, as well as their pronouns for more inclusiveness.

Innovations that follow the evolution of society for more than 20 years and allow players to multiply the adventures of life. Some choose to create their own, others to create completely invented characters, caricature or all the same inspiration in real life. The Sims then becomes a laboratory that allows you to imagine your life, which is often dreamed of.

A self-discovery

Highlighting different possibilities in terms of sexual orientation in particular allows some players to understand who they are at a young age. This is especially the case of Gabrielle *, 27, who has been playing The Sims for almost twenty years. The young brunette appreciated these moments of discovery that the game gave her, especially when she was young.

“With The Sims 2 I understood that two women or two men could get married, at a time when the representation of homosexuality was not so developed.”

A way for the young woman to learn more about herself, even in a slightly hidden way: “I already know that I don’t admit to myself that I’m bisexual and The Sims is a little bit of my hiding place” he said.

“I had a computer and during the holidays I was locked in my room and I just played on that” he recalled. “My mother did not come. And suddenly I made women marry other women, I saw that it was strange”

The Sims also allows you to add a few more physical qualities. Gabrielle admits to especially respecting her hair color and her hairstyle, but perhaps not her morphology. “I will also get a little kiff by changing the color of my eyes” laughed the young woman.

“We look at each other looking at each other”

Similar adjustments for Elodie, 22, blonde with blue eyes. For him, changing his appearance is always de rigueur: “I always make Sims with better features than me and a haircut that I like.”

The game is also a way to change his relationship with others: “I noticed, in different types of interactions, that some of my actions in real life are interpreted in a certain way, depending on the category where they are in the game. .”

Every action in The Sims is actually categorized according to its method. So there are five types of possible interactions: “Friendly”, “Love”, “Funny”, “Bad” and “Evil”.

“Some of my behaviors are categorized as Malicious or Nasty, for example,” he joked.

Interactions between Sims can be different in nature: Love, Evil or Villain.
Interactions between Sims can be different in nature: Love, Evil or Villain. © Screenshots

And these different actions are not due to chance. “The Sims is an outsourced theater of the self,” explains Vanessa Lalo, clinical psychologist specializing in video games and digital practices. “Play is a reflection of our internal world that allows recognition and projection”.

“Thus we have a mise en abyme in the way we see ourselves. We see ourselves looking at ourselves” continued the psychologist.

Michael Stora, a psychologist who has worked in the game for a long time, agrees: “There is a projection phenomenon that is very powerful in The Sims. to others and to oneself.

The Sims Therapy

It is hard to imagine that a simple video game can become a real therapeutic tool. And yet The Sims over the years has solved many psychological and mental problems. In the 2000s, Michael Stora especially established therapies through games. According to him, The Sims has the same contribution to the classic projection tests known throughout the world, such as the famous Rorschach test and its analysis tasks or the TAT (Thematic). Apperception Test).

During these tests, the psychologist asked the patients to play games to learn more about them. “There are two types of players: players who create an avatar that is very similar but who, during the game, behaves differently from them, somewhat violating and grazing the limits of reasonableness. On the other hand, we are going to have players idealize their avatar but do the same thing as they do in real life “explains Michael Stora.

Vanessa Lalo was also able to use The Sims to answer some questions about patient behavior. For example a 10-year-old child who has great personal suffering but whose origin no one understands. “He built a hotel in the game with many rooms and told me that it is useful for his friends but at the moment he is not. I understand that he is suffering from harassment.”

Addressing dysmorphophobia

However, some problems can be difficult to explain or solve, such as anorexia or eating disorders (ED). Xavier Pommereau, psychiatrist specializing in children with difficulties, used The Sims extensively between 2009 and 2011 to understand the vulnerability of young women. They need to create their avatar to see how they represent themselves, especially in terms of morphology.

The interface
The “Create Sim” interface allows you to choose your morphology. © Screenshots

“My starting point is that teenagers are children of the image. So instead of constantly criticizing this practice of self-emphasis, I might as well try it. When working with The Sims, I want support from the projection outside of selfies ” explains the psychiatrist, who noticed more dysmorphophobia today, mainly because of social networks.

“Today, 1 in 4 young women suffer from obsessions related to their bodies. And almost 90% of teenage girls have problems with their bodies” says the psychiatrist .

However, the result was somewhat disappointing. “Due to poorly developed graphics at the time, the result obtained did not correspond to reality. It was not a self-portrait” complains Xavier Pommereau. But the therapy is still appreciated by the young teenage girls consulted, who are often very interested in working on their image.

The limits of a dream life at all costs

But wanting to create an ideal life, even in a virtual life, sometimes has its limits. So eager to go for perfection, luxurious homes and perfect features, some Sims enthusiasts may feel uncomfortable returning to real life.

This is the case of Céline, 28, who has been playing The Sims for 15 years. “Being able to create almost perfect characters adds to the sense of inferiority that I’ve had for a long time. You create a perfect world, or almost, unattainable in real life. The fact of being able to create the a dream house, and realizing that you can’t do the same thing in real life, always creates a sense of failure for me.

Luxury homes are common in The Sims 4.
Luxury homes are common in The Sims 4. © Screenshot

And this feeling is not abnormal, as explained by Julie Escurignan, researcher at the Paris School of Management and specialist in the links between fans and cultural industries: “There is this dream aspect of life in The Sims but in the end it quickly becomes boring. you get your big house, the game becomes cathartic.”

The researcher goes on to also explain how The Sims doesn’t need to have a vocation for projection: “You kill people you don’t like, you kill your boss… It’s an outlet. Want to there is a test of the type “What if I had made a different choice? The goal is above all to try something else, to be different, to do something that we cannot do in real life. “

Without limits or judgments, The Sims thus became for two decades a means of self-expression. A closed space related to intimacy, discovery and delivery of impulses without stopping to evolve to follow social trends. And with the dawn of a possible fifth opus, the game seeks to maintain its status as a laboratory of life. “The universality of creating a life does not change, explains Julie Escurignan. We do not know how it will evolve but we always want to create an equal life.”

* First name changed

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