Older and wiser: How The Sims has evolved

EA's popular life-simulating video game franchise, The Sims, turned 10 last week.

Over the past decade, The Sims experience has undergone a lot of changes, and not just in gameplay enhancements. From the way the series deals with death and sex to the way it handles Chinese culture, we look at 10 ways The Sims has evolved in 10 years.

I've been playing games in The Sims series for almost as long as its ten year lifespan and in that time I've seen and done some pretty spectacular things. I've built and destroyed hundreds of lives, climbed to the top of countless career paths, and once I even found a workaround to the code that prevents incest. In all my Sims-playing time, however, what mattered the most to me were not the things I did for myself in-game, but what the game itself did for me. Here are the ten things that made The Sims matter to me more over the years with each new expansion and game.

1 Going to Work

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The jobs your Sims could have in the original The Sims always sounded interesting (Policeman, Professional Athlete, etc.) but you had no control over your Sim once they'd left the house. Sometimes you'd get a random Chance Card at the end of the business day, telling you your Sim had been fired or promoted; but that was about as fun as work got. Nowadays, Sims players are spoiled with multiple Chance Cards (not all of which lead to firing), special Job Opportunities where clicking one option instead of another can earn your Sim extra money while they work, and even Job Tones where you can tell your Sims what to do and how to act while they're at work. For example, I can send my Sim to work with a Work Hard option and monitor her mood while she's there. If she starts to get stressed out, I can chance the Work Hard Job Tone to Take It Easy and she'll be totally relaxed by the time she gets home. Even better, I can set Job Tones for Sims kids in school with stuff like Work on Late Homework; which is totally how I rolled in real life when I was in school.

2 Picking Fights

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I love making Sims fight, but in the first game, this interaction could totally go awry and cost me a Sim I really liked. For example, it took a lot of work to bring down the relationship statistic between two Sims to the point where they could slap each other and eventually brawl in a little cloud of dust. Once that happened, there was a chance that the Sim who lost would leave the household and the neighborhood, effectively being gone forever. So I had to hope, while lowering a stat with negative interactions like Shout and Poke, that Fight showed up in my interaction list before it popped up in the other Sim's, or else things might get out of my control. Things have gotten much better on the fighting front in the Sims series, though, with subtle new interactions like Criticize Appearance or Complain About Dirty Dishes.

3 Making Love

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What can I say? I've got a dirty mind. Sadly, though, I'm also a cheapskate, so I hated having to pay Simoleons in the first Sims game to get it on in a vibrating love bed. Also, I thought it was weird that you had to rub a Sim's shoulders a hundred times to get the Flirt interaction. So imagine my relief when they made an expansion pack entirely dedicated to real dating -- The Sims: Hot Date made Woo Hoo-ing both free and totally possible in public places and hot tubs. One thing I do miss, though, is how the Sims in the first game would have a post-Woo Hoo interaction. For example, one Sim might slap the other Sim or point and laugh at them. One time I even had a couple stop mid-Woo Hoo to the sound of the Rejection Spring and then get out of bed to cry. What happened there?

4 Protecting Children

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I produced a lot of babies in every Sim game, but I wasn't always so good about caring for them. The first Sims game made it especially hard because I had no way of knowing when the baby (represented by a bassinet) would burst into tears and what it wanted when it did so. If I wasn't able to stop it from crying fast enough, I'd get one warning and then on the second instance, the Social Worker would show up and take the baby from the house. Mind you, it didn't take any of the other children from the house, just the neglected one. I was sort of put off by this because in real life, no social worker would willingly leave a child in a house where the parents are unfit. Thankfully, Sims 2 updated the Social Worker to take all the children from a household where there's proven neglect, even among older children and teenagers.

5 Family Planning

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In the first Sims, having children was a random Chance Card that occurred whenever Sims would Woo Hoo or when the phone would ring (because the adoption agency would call you in that game, not the other way around). This created all kinds of turmoil for me, since I wanted to produce babies at an alarming rate in some households and in others I didn't want them to have any children at all (and declining the baby Chance Card might lower the relationship stat between two Sims). Thankfully, Sims 2 introduced the Try for Baby option in the Woo Hoo interaction menu, supporting my maniacal overpopulation scheme and reinforcing the principle of safe sex.

6 Growing Up and Growing Old

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The Sims 2 introduced a proper aging system to the game where Sims could start life as an infant, and then grow to a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult and then eventually reach old age. The Sims 2 University expansion and later The Sims 3 both added young adult phases of life, too. Before that, the closest the first Sims game ever got to aging was the Making Magic expansion that contained a spell to turn a child Sim (or a Sim pet) into an adult human. I consider this a less-than-perfect way to handle aging. One time when I magically grew up a child Sim into an adult, she immediately began making out with her mother. Ew.

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