Recently procrastinating a paper, I stumbled upon Buzzfeed’s article “14 Funny, Sadistic, And Appalling Things Gamers Have Done In ‘The Sims’“. This was shortly after reading a post about phone games. This post claimed narrativeless gaming was not pushing the limits of the industry. It claimed these “silly phone games” were a blast from the past taking us back to the narrativelessness gaming period of pacman. Now let me preface the content of my post by saying I am not disagreeing with the post in it’s entirety. However, I am presenting another perspective and that perspective is that these games are 1) not necessarily narrative free and 2) strongly impacting the gaming industry in a new way.
While everyone may jump to the conclusion that Pacman is narrativeless, asking the same question about The Sims is a little bit harder. Is it a narrative game about life or is it just a simulation with no story? I’d say it can be either depending on the player. According to Google, a narrative can be defined as a representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values. The people who were featured in Buzzfeed’s very entertaining article made the Sims a narrative. They used the simulation to represent a story. They had characters, climaxes, used narrative tools like irony, etc. However, they could have just as easily mindlessly played the Sims solely to fulfill their Sims needs and that way the game now lacked narrative.
Let’s take this logic and apply it to Pacman. While it may be significantly easier to “mindlessly” play Pacman, it is still the player’s choice as shown by this Buzzfeed post. Many people come up with a story for “narrativeless” games that make it not so narrativeless. While this one particular aspect is shared between Pacman and The Sims, I would definitely not say that The Sims didn’t push the limits on the gaming industry. They literally made a life simulation game that sold millions and millions of copies. They managed to make the most mundane aspects of reality virtually interesting. I’d say that is a huge accomplishment which pushed the limits of the gaming industry and even changed the definition of what constitutes a game.