Disapproving connotations are usually placed on the mind-numbing tendencies of video game play; in fact, the term play itself has a lethargic tone to it. However, in his article The Rhetoric of Video Games, Ian Bogost argues that play and work often too commonly segregated. When creating any sort of game to be played, a creator must invent constraints of some sort, giving the game order and direction. Bogost introduces the entailments of game play: that they are procedural models of systems, rules that create particular possibility spaces for play, and make representations of ordinary world that can give players new perspectives on the world they inhabit. Games that yield such outcomes frequently use the method of procedural rhetoric, or the “practice of effective persuasion and expression using processes” (125). Often we overlook the efficiency of modern video games, and how well they are able to change opinions, breakdown operations, and make claims about specific issues. Enveloped in these hypothetical, model environments are arguments about how social, cultural, and political processes work.
Like many simulation video games, The Sims evokes cultural values, or ethos. I played this game regularly in middle school with friends, and quickly became proficient with the game’s “Oulipo.” Bogost describes this term as “the group members invented, revived, or adopted forms for literary expression, each of which changes the possibility space of literary expression.” Like any game, a specific linguistic knowledge is accumulated, such as the word “simoleon” in Sims, which is their cultures form of currency. Simulating a real society, adding monetary regulations is an example of a game constraint or rule. Bogost outlines the steps to inventing new constraints: first being to create a possibility space, then fill that space with meaning by exploring the free movement within the rigid structure of rules. Possibility spaces are general afforded rules of composition, form, or genre; in the case of video games, they refer to limit of change and expansion of a game experience.
A game with a high process intensity, meaning a greater focus of procedure than data, has a greater potential for meaningful expression. The Sims game is all about processes and procedures, and is highly focused on the outcomes of an inter-revolving system. A player creates a family with complex personalities, features, aspirations, and struggles; there isn’t an ultimate goal strived for, or a system to beat- The Sims is an experience in itself. The game creates procedural models of societal systems, and have the potential to modify ones opinions. A primary lesson in The Sims is that of self mastery, and self-monitoring: in this case with the completion of tasks resulting in a personal, beneficiary manner. To be self providing, one must command their sim to find a job, and gain skill points for that job by repetitious action and reading books. With a job, the sim is able to buy food, supplies for the home, and items for personal pleasure- television, computer, games, exercise equipment, etc. There are a multitude of skills a sim can improve upon, such as musical endeavors, art, cooking, writing, physical, and charisma- the higher levels of these fields achieved brings more job and friend opportunities. These importances in the game may mirror the procedural, structured bounds we constrict ourselves to on a daily basis- constantly we are filling our time with task completions.
Another subliminal learning process that occurs in The Sims is the realization through game play that ones environmental surroundings can alter their mood, for example a Sim surrounded by dirty surfaces and smelly trash is more likely to be irritable and stubborn. Like sims, a humans’ ideal productive space is bound to be drastically different from another, for organizational style and relaxation characteristics range greatly. One also gains the notion that relationships, of all kinds, take genuine work and patience. To have a balanced life, one must surround themselves with a series of people, each playing differing roles- friends, peers, mentors, etc. Simply meeting a person once is not enough to create a strong bond, for this takes time and effort, which can come in many forms: phone calls, emails, face to face chats, or dates.
After frequent Sim play, one can easily see that human advancement and capitalism are among the underlying cultural values present within the game. These themes are apparent to players upon studying each Sims’ cultural values, wants, and aspirations- their overall joy revolving on the fulfillment of life goals. Most of these ambitions have to do with careers, friends, or family- yet the games main focus is centered solely on pecuniary matters. There is a mood meter for each sim which fluctuates based on how well and quickly you respond to their wants and needs. One can see that the sims are quite selfish and consumeristic beings, who thrive off of the fulfillment of purchases.Each sim life is spent performing some menial task, in order to buy something, whether that being a home, car, clothing item, furniture, or electronic. To reference Bogost, Sims is a paradigm of our shallow, banausic society, where happiness comes from the best technology, and by being constantly busy or “productive.” The creators of this game are conveying, in exaggerated forms, how spoiled a culture we have become. Through this simple usage of aspirations as a main game theme, The Sims uses modular procedures to form subliminal social and cultural arguments of capitalism and materialism.