(CNN)A few simple directions would make life much easier. For example, a status bar could serve as a reminder to take care of yourself. Possibly a few hints as to what the motives of others are. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a location to try it all out without worrying about the implications in the real world or the awkwardness of making the wrong decision.
For more than 20 years, the life-simulation game “The Sims” has been delivering that experience pixel by pixel. One of the most popular PC games in the world since its initial release in 2000 is “The Sims.” Neither has time tarnished its lustre.
Building elaborate homes and attempting crazy challenges like having as many babies as they can or putting their Sims to Kafka-esque psychological torture, “Sims” creators on Twitch and YouTube put the game through its paces (all in good fun, of course). Some early “Sims” developers even role play on Instagram, showing off their Sims’ flawless lifestyles for their other Sim pals to adore and covet.
Neurodiverse players, some of whom grew up with the game and continue to play it well into adulthood, find “The Sims” to be a haven as well. There is no right or wrong way to play “The Sims,” as it is an open-world game. There are no expectations other than those the player sets for themself, whether they are to speed-run the end of the world or simply assist their tiny Sims with some laundry. That implies that some people with autism, ADHD, or other disorders can modify the game to be whatever they want: a haven in a bewildering world, a kind of social road map, an alternate reality where they are in control, or just a lifetime hobby.
The idea that “The Sims” presents a more organised and simple representation of our own world is ingrained in the game’s design. When the Oakland-Berkeley inferno hit California in 1991, game inventor Will Wright lost his house. He was inspired to think about what life was really made of as he was reconstructing. Several requirements that must be fulfilled? items to possess? To adore someone?
He stated to Berkeleyside in 2011 that “when something like this happens, you get a big picture.” “Where would I like to reside? What kind of items do I need to purchase? You almost think of your life as a work in progress.”
People with autism or ADHD who spoke to CNN found this approach particularly appealing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “neurodivergent is a nonmedical term that characterises persons whose brain grows or works differently for some reason.” Such circumstances offer both opportunities and difficulties in equal measure. It’s sometimes “a project in process” to complete daily tasks, take care of one’s fundamental physical requirements, and comprehend social situations—aspects of life that others might find simple or automatic.
When Helen Ashcroft, an autistic video game editor and Sims player, was 20 years old, she began playing the first “Sims” game. She has found solace and inspiration in the game’s open-ended play throughout various life phases.
“Human behaviour has always captivated my attention. I also adore games that let me construct and make things. When The Sims mixed these two, “She says to CNN.
Naturally, you don’t have to be neurodiverse to find solace in come-as-you-are, low-stakes games like “The Sims.” However, organised social interactions and the capacity to construct many scenarios work almost like a testing ground for real life for individuals like Ashcroft.
“Depending on how I feel, I can play in various ways. Sims have their own feelings that I can learn about, and I can role-play various scenarios in a secure setting. Players with various brains can explore relationship aspects that are unfamiliar to us “she claims.
Benji, an autistic video game journalist and “Sims” inventor who prefers to go by his social media handle, claims that playing video games helps him escape reality.
He tells CNN that “The Sims'” lack of “punishment” is one aspect that makes it unique. “So to say, it’s a pretty good oasis. Despite the demanding demands of my daily life, I get to sit down and spend time with those tiny kids however I like.”
Setting goals for his Sims and planning out their narrative, according to Benji, is how he finds the game to be the most satisfying. And even though he is a very social guy, he doesn’t often relate to the game’s emotional elements, but there have been instances when he has felt shockingly noticed.
“The creators once added a new attribute, allowing a Sim to be a “overachiever.” So when I gave one of my Sims the trait, he would become bored and restless when his life went dormant. He felt so content and delighted when he took on difficult activities. And I said, “Wow. Never throughout my life have I had such a connection to a Sim.”
Life simulation games like “The Sims” have been shown to be helpful not only for neurodiverse groups but also for people with brain impairments and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to educators and psychologists. According to University of Pittsburgh research, “Sims”-style video games assisted a group of kids with cognitive difficulties develop their problem-solving abilities and understand how different personality factors influence behaviour.
According to research from the University of Kentucky, playing simulation games can assist people with ADHD practise executive functioning skills by helping them emulate them.
Others besides those with autism and ADHD also enjoy living in a world that they have created. Other marginalised identities have come to understand a similar significance as communities have organically grown around “The Sims” and its numerous extensions and variations. LGBTQ “Sims” gamers said that the game aided them in pursuing their authentic selves. Characters from “The Sims” have always been able to date any other adult Sim, irrespective of gender.
Polish “Sims” user DOTSim told “The Sims” publisher Electronic Arts, “When I recognised I was gay, I couldn’t share it with others.” “I believe that having the chance to express myself freely in the game’s secure environment has given me the courage to finally come out.”
People can completely personalise their appearance, race, cultural identification, gender identity, and sexuality thanks to a number of updates that EA has issued over the years. Benji, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, claims to have occasionally seen updates that incorporate cultures other than American culture, such as music created by foreign musicians in Simlish, the language of the Sims.
This inclusion highlights the primary motivation behind why neurodivergent gamers of “The Sims” continue to launch it year after year, across all stages of life. It’s a relief to be able to construct one for yourself when the world doesn’t seem to be built for you.