"The Sims franchise is the 4th most popular video game in the world, but do you know its origins? Well, it all started with the 1991 Oakland firestorm. " --Lilah Aparton, Sixth Grade
The Sims franchise is the 4th most popular video game in the world, but do you know its origins? Well, it all started with the 1991 Oakland firestorm.
On October 19th, 1991 the air seemed smoky. Will Wright, the creator of the Sims, noticed this so he called 911 concerned about the amount of smoke. The smoke was increasing at an alarming rate so he called again. By that point, everything was out of control, fire was everywhere. He fled, taking his wife and neighbors with him. As he was driving out of the fire, there were walls of flames surrounding him. After that, he lost his home and all of his belongings.
“Well, we lost pretty much everything we owned in the fire,” he remembers. “After that we had to rebuild our lives from the ground up. First you need clean underwear, clothes, a place to stay, a toothbrush, those sorts of things. Then later larger stuff like a car, a house, appliances, furniture. Luckily we had lots of friends in the area that helped us get back on our feet during all this,” said Wright.
This experience inspired him to make the Sims, a game where, just like he did, start a new life from scratch. After much coding, tuning and polishing, the game was eventually released in 2000.
Prior to the firestorm and the creation of the Sims, Wright created SimCity in 1989, also a virtual sandbox game but you build an entire city or even manage real life ones.Several SimCity sequels and spin-offs were created due to the success of SimCity including SimAnt (1991), SimIsle (1995), and SimCopter (1998) the last one released being SimCity BuildIt (December 16, 2014).The game very popular selling over 300,000 units for personal computers and about 2 million for the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System).
There was a lot of hard work put into The Sims according to Wright. “Of course I played it A LOT while developing, tuning and polishing it. For almost every game I worked on (SimCity, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCopter, The Sims, Spore), as soon as I finished it then I had basically no desire to ever play it again, ”said Will.
Surprisingly, Wright wasn’t that upset at the loss of his home and belongings. Instead, this experience got him thinking about the value of possessions, according to a berkeleyside
article this got him immersed in analyses of shopping behavior.
“It was interesting to me how we always end up buying all this stuff because we think it will make us happier or our life easier,” Wright recalls. “At some point though, the opposite starts to happen. We end up with so much stuff that we need to maintain or repair or store somewhere that our possessions become time sinks for our life and we become slaves to them. That was one of the more subtle messages I tried to embed in the Sims,” he stated. A huge part of The Sims was to repair and maintain objects, just like in real life, eventually like he said, “becoming slaves to them.”
On a happier note, The Sims always had a sense of humor and sarcasm just randomly pulling something out of nowhere ignoring boring reality.
“I like how they talk (Simlish). I also like how whenever they need something small and trivial (like a cup) they just reach behind their back and seem to basically pull it out of their butt,” Wright said. Sims have always spoken a language called simlish (A gibberish language they came across during recording sessions)
The Sims have always been progressive. During the launch of The Sims in 1999, two female sims shared a kiss. At first it was just a glitch but Wright decided to implement it in, long before gay marriage was legal. Turning the slideshow into a headline grabber and validation for the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex marriage would later be implemented in The Sims 3 and 4.
Over time, the Sims got more and more interesting as it evolved with better graphics, expansion packs, gameplay, and more. There was even a pack in Sims 3 with Katy Perry.
“I never imagined The Sims becoming as popular as it eventually became. There are so many versions of it and expansion packs that I never would have thought it would go so far. There was even a really lame reality show with players competing in it. I’m personally just glad to be done with it,” said Wright.
Ever since the Sims was released, it’s been one of the best selling computer games. Continuing to evolve and adapt going from a simple virtual dollhouse to a (somewhat) realistic game and always remaining innovative. And to think that this amazing game all started with the loss of a home.