I used to be bored by the Sims. I assumed that it was a computer game like any other, and unconsciously treated it like one. I looked for a goal, an end boss, or something of the sort. There is nothing of the sort in the Sims. There is no endscreen, no roll of the credits. Even if you manage to kill every single one of your Sims, they do not show you your score and play the music.

No, the Sims is not an adventure. It is not a simulation. It is not even a game. The Sims is a doll house. And in order to enjoy yourself, you must first admit that you are playing with what amounts to advanced Barbies, Skippers, American Girls and GI Joes. But you’re doing it the easy way. No more cranking stiff plastic limbs, no more fumbling to overcome the scale barriers between your favorite characters, no more chopping off six inches of unpleasantly frizzy blonde hair to regret it instantly. No more clumsily stapling together new clothes that will never look right. The computer does it all for you, and does it better that you could do yourself, with a few exceptions.

The biggest hole in the Sims is the lack of mesh-editing. In the Sims 1, we could change the 3d characteristics right out of the gate, albeit with a lot of fumbling on our part as modders. Maxis brilliantly released the Sims Body Shop before the release of TS2, which is an excellent import/export utility for skinning. Unfortunately, skinning is all you can do. Eye color, skin color, hair color, makeup, clothes and shoes are all up for messing around, but they have not given us a way to change the actual shape of these things. For example, I’m SOL if I want to make an EGL costume for the Adult Female Sim, because there is no full-skirted mesh to paint and I can’t make one myself. The skin forums are full of comments to the effect that we are “waiting for Maxis to release the new meshes.” I don’t think I have to tell you how much this sucks the Big Bowonga.

That, and there are conspicuously no pets, magic, or any of the options released in the TS1 expansions (none of which I played), with the exception of being able to throw parties and go out shopping and etc. This was a problem for me when I made the obligatory replica of my own living conditions, including my roommates and their Sphynx cat Poppy. Poppy had to be represented by a bald and extraordinarily ugly baby, who quickly grew up into a blonde and extraordinarily ugly little girl which I intentionally starved until CPS came and took her away (only because when I put her in a shed with no door and waited for her to die, she cried so much that I couldn’t take it any more and let her out. This says something either about me as a person, or about the programming itself). This is not an acceptable solution. Pets should have been a no-brainer, but of course they’re holding out for the expansion market. Bastards.

That being said, the character creation tree is really excellent. Despite the lack of fun clothing meshes, and the inclusion of shoes in the pants category (IE, shoes cannot be chosen separately from pants or skirts {and most of them are sandals, for chrissake}), the rewards of having a completely 3d, customizable face almost make up for it. Those of you who payed EVE Online (yawn) will some idea of what I’m talking about with all those facial sliders and whatnot they let you play with for portrait creation, except that in the Sims the faces are completely animated as well as just being good to look at. Gone are the days of painting doll-faces onto your sims. You now sculpt them entirely, or you can pick from dozens of pre-made faces in tons of different shapes and ethnicities, including a very fetching Asian base face-sculpt, and what is either a Vulcan or an Elf, depending on what kind of nerd you are.

Generally, one will choose a basic head shape and then adjust it accordingly. This system has some strangely obvious flaws, such as the ability to adjust everything about a nose except the amount of arch in the bridge. This is a huge DUH for anyone who knows anything about making faces in any medium, so why they left it out is beyond me. One must choose a suitably pre-arched nose from the nose bank and adjust it.

Sims now have distinct facial expressions, which translate to pretty much any face you can put on them with few problems. One must be careful not to suck the lips in so far that the teeth clip through them, for example, and generally the user has to be careful with customization so as not to make a monster (like baby Poppy, although that was intentional).

There are still some pretty inane glitches in the general intelligence of the dolls. For example, if a Sim is attempting to sleep in a room where the stereo is on, he will generally leave the room to find another bed instead of turning off the noise. On the other hand, Sims will make a large effort to sleep in their own beds unless there is a problem, such as them being so tired they faint, or the stereo thing. This is an example of the vast improvement on the stupid AI of the first game.

With all that in mind, I present to you the nearly-sole reason I have been making and playing The Sims 2 beyond my initial curiosity: http://www.elizagauger.com/kissyboys.jpg

Gentle readers, may I introduce you to my current favorite dolls, Cream (of the Filler household) and Zach (of the d’Eath household). Zach is wearing a fetching all-black outfit consisting of BDUs, a black trenchcoat, combat boots, a Zorg haircut, purple lipstick and a curlique thing on one eye. Cream is sporting a fire-dyed mohawk, red wire-rimmed glasses, red lipstick, smoky black eyeliner, a skull choker, black button-down shirt and black jeans. Zach is wearing a custome goth-pale skincolor and has grey eyes and largely European features, while Cream is a brown-eyed Asian with custom pale golden skin and vaguely androgynous features. They are in Zach’s room, which is on the second floor of the d’Eath mansion; there is techno music playing on Zach’s boombox and they have just got done with Dancing a duet. In Sim terms, they are Teen Males, and they are enjoying a Tender kiss before proceeding to Making Out. Later that night, Cream asked Zach to Go Steady and Zach agreed. Then Cream got accepted into private school and I turned the anti-aging cheat off because, by God, my work was done. Also, teenage Sims don’t have sex (in Sim terms, “Woohoo”), and I need them to become adults so I can move them into their own place with a really fantastic bed, make them have wild monkey sex all the time, and take photos of it and post them here.

In closing, I would like to state that I wouldn’t have to do this if my friends would dress like that and make out for me, which I why I think I’ll probably stop playing this as soon as May rolls around next year and I can go to goth clubs instead.