a blog & design space

how games change the art of storytelling

Will Wright has developed an empire out of a simple concept: having players tap into their inner divinity to create endless, manipulative possibilities. His games have sparked interesting discussions about the idea of consumer related behavior to the ideas of social Darwinism and evolutionary ecologies.

It’s safe to say that The Sims (and subsequent platforms) have spawned an entire world on its own (including custom content sites, machinima artists and hack specialists).

Additionally, hardcore gamers and occasional players have found a common link when it comes to using The Sims as a showcase to express ideas about some heavily adult issues. The Sims is not just for kids, nor is the subject matter that is broached by its Sim “filmmakers,” artists and storytellers.

Talent Showcase

Decorgal’s site Adventures in Dating trails the lives and loves of two sisters, Ellen and Emma. One struggles with the inner turmoil of an unhappy marriage and the complications of commitment. The other grapples with coming to terms with what true love and marriage definitively mean to her.

It’s powerfully directed, painstakingly organized and displays the enormous talent one must use when not having the “luxury” of working with human actors (or real objects, for that matter).

Artccgrrl implements a surrealistic setting to introduce viewers to a philosophizing and moody artist (recovering from clinical depression) and his mysterious blue-eyed muse.

There’s even room for an intricately plotted situational comedy in which director, Serenity, details the intersecting lives of 3 “newly” dead souls charged with ensuring love connections for the living on “Cupid’s Arrows.”

All this in a computer game?

Yep. And, there’s only more. Sim directors have taken their talents to be broadcast on YouTube, The Sims 2 web page and a host of other sites dedicated to Sim movie makers. One can find themed promotional contests challenging filmmakers to develop the scariest, funniest, weirdest Sim movie to date or reinterpret japanese folk tales.

Anything goes.

What’s the Connection?

The innovation of these directors and artists is only fueled by their devotion to showcase the merits of machinima storytelling (as well as using “Sim-tech” as an increasingly valid form of animated storytelling).

As such, Directors have to be opportunistic when it comes to exhibiting these productions while accessing an otherwise inaccessible or unexplored audience (non-sim players, inexperienced computer gamers and film/media enthusiasts).

This only lends itself to “branding” Sim presence through the likes of social media and the web.

Lovers of all things Sim can download special animation hacks, “buy” custom created fashions and furniture, or be entertained with various films of all genres. The ROI on the purchase of a Sim game is beyond tenfold.

Such an extension of virtual worlds and computer/games is not solely limited to The Sims, but by far, Will Wright’s invention has one of the most well rounded reaches (with the exception of virtual world phenom Second Life).

Learning Models

Machinima directors are beyond the individual sociological experiments a casual Sim gamer may implement (what will happen when the introverted, creative genius falls in love with the extroverted, dumb slob? Oh, the drama!).

Enthusiasts can learn how to create their own movies and, through trial and error, learn about hacking and creating custom content. Thus, players increase their own familiarity and effectiveness with Sim gaming and the gaming experience.

This kind of complexity within a complexity creates a multi-tiered web of connections. In other words, new techniques and innovations revolving around this expertise are developed, learned and taught by a virtual community of gamers – all linked by their passion for the Sims.

Apparently, perhaps, this is the natural progression of all learning as more and more people come to depend on the instant access of information (as well as the overwhelming amount that is readily available).

Of course, there are other sorts of virtual communities with similar learning models. The Sims, however, is of particular interest beause gamers are using the medium of “film making” to express ideas about human behavior and connections in the world at large while redefining artistry in every sense of the word.

So, in the end – what?

The Sim community, gamers, artists, story tellers and film makers are paving ways for creatively crafty methods of storytelling. The web and social media is their marketplace for imaginative exchange as well as garnering opportunities for quick (and enthusiastic) feedback.

Hobbyists and professionals alike can easily collaborate on projects while enriching the “brand presence” of Sim movie making and developing its ever growing fan base.

As a (not so casual) observer, I can’t wait to see what else those quirky, funny and immensely talented “Sim Artists” cook up next.