Thursday, November 10, 2011

Creating Electronic Marrow

Research-wise, my focus of late is still on videogame instruction manuals. And the most recent one has been the manual for the 2000 videogame classic, The Sims. Certain traits become apparent after you've examined a dozen or so of these manuals. For example, the longer than manual, the fewer images it uses, especially for PC games. And despite having the budget of the mighty EA behind them, The Sims is less an exception to this rule than its exemplar--aside from the cover image, the only images you get are cropped shots illustrating some piece of text. And there is a lot of text: the manual is over 90 pages long (90 very detailed pages, which in itself says something about the real nature of casual gaming--this "casual game" is really, really complicated.) But it does its best to keep the reader's interest, mainly through a constant stream of reasonably well-written, often eye-rolling, and sometimes head-scratching jokes. So, without further ado, here are the top ten quotations from the Sims Instruction Manual.

1. “The tutorial is just an appetiser: To get to the real meat (or cheese sandwich, for you vegetarians) of the game, you have to investigate the Soul of a Sim/Daily Life section of this manual. Hey, you don't think we wrote them just because we love the alphabet, do you? Check out that information and make some Sims your parents would be proud of. And if you make some that they'd be horrified by, tell 'em your sister did it.” I thought I'd start off with a baffling one. What does that alphabet thing even mean?

2. “Remember, if you choose to quit, you have to return to your regular life, where your family members won't do your bidding like Sims do. Are you sure?”
That is the chief difference between my Sims life and my real Life. That, and my real life career as an international jewel thief hasn't taken off. Yet.

3.“However, just as in human life, these are the kinds of challenges that make life interesting. And miserable as well. Here's to interesting misery!”
Interesting misery would make a good band name. For a gothy/hispterish sort of band.

4. “if you attempt the really high household counts (between six and eight), you're probably no longer eating right or bathing in your real home. (You can still tell the difference between your real home and your Sims' home, right?)”
They're very worried about distinguishing the real world from the game world. It's a real problem these days, what with all the plumber on turtle assaults you read about in the paper.

5. "This section... attempts to answer the question Freud would have posed if he were alive today: 'What do Sims really want?'"
Well, someone on the writing staff knows his stuff. Feel free to draw the conclusions you'd like in comparing women to Sims--especially considering that Sims are portrayed as less-than-human, easily controllable versions of the real thing. Yikes.

6. “Click on the High or Ultra speed settings if you want to accelerate game actions to achieve a certain goal, like getting the gal off to work so the guy can play video games in peace.”
And while we're on the subject of gender, here's another crowd-pleaser.

7. “If you want to place a few of the same items without having to return to the panel, just hold down the Shift key after you select your trinket—you can put 20 grandpa clocks in a row, if you've got time on your hands.”
That is an amazing pun, in both its groan-inducing awfulness, and the effort the writer had to go to in order to make it fit.

8. “If you're just beginning a game in an unfurnished home, you need to cover the basics first. Think eat, sleep, poop, and polish.”
This one works in real life, too.

9. “WINNING THE GAME. Don't be absurd. This is a Maxis game! What's to win? You and your Sims can play unto perpetuity, getting them into all kinds of entanglements and trying to get them out. Before you know it, it'll be 3A.M. your time, and you don't even have your teeth brushed...”
You heard them. This game is an insidious plot to turn us all into Sims.

10. “A balustrade always offers a refined touch on a staircase or balcony, and if you use 'balustrade' in conversation, all your friends will think you're ever, so, so---so pretentious, so don't even try it.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

What was your favorite Simism? Do you have fond memories of guiding whole families to their doom? Do let us know in the comments.

Later Days.

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