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Why you can kill your Sims, according to the game's executive producer

Since the year 2000, The Sims have taken the gaming world by storm. The popular game lets you play puppet master to Sim families you create. With this power comes the power to kill your Sims. We spoke with Lyndsay Pearson, Executive Producer of The Sims, to see why players are given that power and why the Grim Reaper is part of the game. Following is a transcript of the video.

Lyndsay Pearson: Something important about the world of the Sims is the Sims cannot directly hurt each other. So it really has left any sort of injurious interaction of the player choosing to do something to the Sim. And in most cases, you cannot directly smite a Sim. You have to set up a situation in which they end up having to meet the Grim Reaper in one way or another.

The reason it existed in the first place is it really is a game about all these different aspects of life. And dying is part of life. It is part of that cycle. In the original Sims, because they didn’t age and time didn’t pass, death was more accidental. And it actually provided an unpredictable pushback to your otherwise normal routine. The, I’m making breakfast and now I’m on fire, was sort of an unpredictable problem to solve, right?

As we introduced ageing in the Sims 2, it became a time pressure for you to try and accomplish the objectives or the aspirations that your Sims had for themselves. And you’d say ok, your Sim is becoming an elder now, you really need to work to try and achieve what they want to achieve before their time has come. And as we talked about with money cheats, there are cheats to set age lengths to longer or turn off death.

There’s features that let you play a game of death to win back your life. There’s lots of ways to play with it. And honestly, it unlocked a new type of gameplay where your Sim could be a ghost, or your Sim could have a friendship with the Grim Reaper or play chess with him, and so we tried to turn it into – we took this dark notion of the fact that people die and tried to turn it into this kinda gamey mechanic with a little more whimsy to it.

Why are there so many ways to die? It’s just funny, is really what it comes down to. ‘Cause it’s just like, they’re not even that normal half the time. We let your Sim die of old age in Sims 2, and your Sims can starve, but it’s really hard to do, honestly. So most of the other deaths are accidents, and it’s being hit by a meteor, or being electrocuted when you’re trying to fix something, or something that surprises you, and that really has more to do with the kind of interrupting the flow of your game. And you’re trying to do this, and then all of a sudden this crazy thing happens and now what do you do?

Death by pool is pretty classic. We made it harder in Sims 3 when we let them climb out of the pool by themselves, so you just had to get a little more clever in how you trapped them. You’re like wow, we’ve introduced this very morbid notion to a whole generation.

Where did the Grim Reaper come from originally? Well, the way things have normally appeared in the Sims is we’re trying to take what some might call mundane concepts of going to work, having a job, playing out these boring parts of life, and add something a little bit whimsical or caricature-like on top of them. So rather than just having a Sim sort of fade into nothingness and just die off in a dramatic way, introducing a character gives you something to play off of.

If you’re playing a household with two Sims, and one of them got electrocuted and the Grim Reaper shows up, that lets the other Sim have someone to interact with to say, “Hey, actually, I’m gonna bargain for their life.” So it’s a way to take this kind of abstract idea and turn it into a character that you can then interact with, it can do funny things. It really was to try and make something that was otherwise pretty devastating, especially if it’s a character you spent a lot of time with, that now is just gone, try and give it a little bit of lighthearted humour to make it feel gamey rather than like, punishing.

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