Why I build ugly houses in The Sims

First I’ll have you know that I’ve read that majority of Poles consider Polish architecture pretty. Yes, I’ve read that and at first I couldn’t believe, but then the second thought came to me – a second that’s often present with me – that, and here, I don’t know if it’s true, I’m not a geneticist or anything, but a lot of Polish intelligentsia were killed in World War 2, right? And the lesser attention paid to higher education in postwar Poland and focus on menial labour meant that Polish people had significantly lower chances of obtaining higher education than people did e.g. in Western Europe or North America.

I wrote “ugly houses” just so that you know that I don’t speak about any or some houses. I mean specifically Polish houses that I see on a daily basis, walking or cycling around town. When I see something that strikes my attention, I try to recreate it in The Sims (usually The Sims 4). I know perfectly well that recreation is not always entirely possible, but that’s also the point of making them. I test the game to see how often it fails to allow the recreation of real world buildings and to what extent this is caused by the game’s focus on American-style infrastructure.

The Sims (2000) and the later renditions (the base games of The Sims 2, 3, 4 released in 2005, 2009, 2014 respectively) were always essentially American games. This is most importantly because of the basic structure and visuals of the base game neighbourhoods. Pleasantview and Strangetown in Sims 2 are like the vanilla suburb and an Arizonian settlement in the USA. Most towns and cities in Sims 3 are USA-nian-ish (Isla Paradiso from Island Paradise is a separate topic). Willow Creek in Sims 4 is like New Orleans, and Oasis Springs is the Southwestern United States (the desert parts). That the game’s America-centred is also demonstrated by the locations and styles added with the travel-themed expansion packs, such as The Sims 2: Bon Voyage (2008), The Sims 3: Island Paradise (2013) and World Adventures (2009), and The Sims 4: City Living (2015), Jungle Adventure (2018, game pack) Snowy Escape (2020). City Living adds ‘multiculturalism’ and apartments in tall housing blocks, where ‘cultural foods’ include Mexican, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, and Filipino cuisines. It’s a typical case of presenting non-Western cultures as ‘exotic’ and ‘cultural’, where the American or Western standards become the ‘default’, the ‘normal’.

(You can read about the process of creating San Myshuno by The Sims 4 developers here).

I build buildings from where I live to see how we can change the Buy and Build Mode in The Sims series to be inclusive of various urban (and other) geographies. I’ll keep posting. Also, have a look at my Sims-themed twitter – twitter.com/ecotersey – where I tweet about Sims (DUH!) and sometimes directly from the game, thanks to the cool (though sometimes annoying…) tool built into the game (if you have the Internet connection active while in-game).

Published by kotersey

Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in geography, and from the University of Brighton with a Master's in history of design and material culture. Probably drinking iced coffee and thinking about buildings.

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