The Sims 4 is actually kind of fun

A critique and a review

My Xbox controller and I, ready to cause chaos (in the Sims). Photo by Abigail Faulkner.

Few games get made fun of more than The Sims 4 does. Granted, some of it is definitely deserved. If you are a part of the gaming community, especially a part of the cozy games community, then it’s likely that you have seen memes about this iconic video game. The franchise itself is over 20 years old, and is beloved by so many people around the globe. Part of why it’s so easy to make fun of is that it’s so old and the game has changed so much time. 

If you somehow haven’t heard of the Sims, I’ll explain it to you.  It’s part of a genre of game called “life simulator,” which is the grown-up version of playing with dolls. You can make “sims,” which are what the game calls your people, and you can pick out their outfits, give them all unique personality traits, build and decorate homes for them, and play them from the time they are born until the Grim Reaper comes to claim them. The Sims is well known for been a quirkier and kookier version of real life. 

In theory it’s a super fun idea, in execution… one might say it’s been a little messy. 

In my opinion, the Sims has gotten better with each generation of the game. The graphics improve, along with some game mechanics. The Sims 4 build-and-buy system, the process by which you build your sims’ homes, parks, and other community buildings, is the best it’s been in any game. There is so much creative freedom in the Sims 4 when it comes to building.

That being said, there are some elements of the Sims 4 that are lackluster. The game play from the Sims 3 to the Sims 4 feels significantly flatter. It’s a game that can be really easy to hate. 

Gamer boys tend to really hate on the Sims 4, to the point where even though it’s a literal video game, if you introduce yourself as a gamer and say you play “The Sims 4” it’s not considered a real game, ergo you’re not a “real gamer.”

Now, I could write a master’s thesis on how games that tend to have female players are often treated with less respect and not given the same amount of funding or resources as other games.  A lot of people see gaming as a male dominated hobby, and thus, almost every game panders to a male audience. 

However, this is a massively outdated and sexist view of gaming as an industry. In 2024, Gitnux reported that “46% of gamers in the United States are female”. From a capitalist perspective. if you produce games with only men in mind, you’re missing out on a massive potential audience and thus potential earnings. 

Games that have predominantly female fan bases are generally taken less seriously and perceived as less serious than other games. They are more often the butt of jokes. For example, it’s not uncommon to see Tiktoks making fun of girls who have thousand dollar PC’s and then use them to play the Sims. Well, let me tell you, if you play the Sims it takes a thousand dollar PC to run it, but we’ll get more into that later. 

However, when it comes to truly hating the Sims 4, no one hates the Sims 4 more than Sims 4 players. I am sorry but it’s true! While the Sims 4 does have some better elements then previous Sims games, one can not ignore the Sims 4’s gaping flaws. 

When the base game was released, it was lacking many of the iconic features that made the franchise so iconic. Ghosts, pools, genealogy trees, and the toddler life stage were all missing upon the game’s launch in 2014. Not only was it lacking many features later included in the Sims 3, as a stand alone game it was missing many things upon release that would have improved the game. 

Even as the base game has been improved over the nearly 10 years it’s been out, there are still many elements that are still missed and there have been some scandals that really rocked the communities since its release.  If you all want some real drama, one scandal that got the Sims community in an absolute uproar was the release of the stuff pack “My First Pet Stuff.”

In case you don’t know the tea, in 2017 The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs released with cats and dogs, as well as a cute east coast town with a Cape Cod aesthetic to build in, plus the veterinarian career. Shortly thereafter, “My First Pet Stuff” was released. 

The first problem with this pack was that many of the items were only usable if you had the Cats and Dogs expansion pack. The second problem was that it was obvious that they had removed items from the expansion pack to sell separately as a stuff pack. Many of the furniture items between the two are actually part of the same furniture set, just sold separately. 

It was an obvious cash grab, and it was seriously disrespectful to the players. I guess the game developers thought no one would notice their sneaky little trick but to my knowledge, no such shenanigans have gone on since. 

While we are on the topic of downloadable content, or DLC, let’s talk about that a bit more. Sims 4 is super well known for the sheer quantity of DLC available for purchase. As I write this, there are 15 expansion packs, 12 game packs, 19 stuff packs, and 25 kits. To put all the information into perspective that means to buy every piece of DLC you would have to spend 1064.45 dollars. You read that right, over 1000 dollars. 

Now since the concept of the Sims is so broad and can apply so widely to different groups of people, you would think that having such a variety of DLC would be awesome, because that means that there are so many ways to play and you can really customize the game to reflect your personal play style. In theory.

In theory, this also means that the base game that you can purchase should itself be a fully enjoyable game. Yet, as I pointed out earlier, this is far from the truth. Compared to previous games, the Sims 4 base game lacks a lot of features that the other games had. And to make matters worse, sometimes when Electronic Arts (EA) releases fixes that make the game feel fuller, they are hidden behind paywalls as DLC. 

Now, I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about the problems the Sims 4 has. The glitches, the lack of customizability, the lack of gameplay,  etc. However, the point I have been trying to get to is the idea that no one loves to hate on the Sims 4, more than the Sims players. A brief glance at Twitter’s discussion around the game will confirm this.

Usually, like most of Twitter (and no, I will not be calling it “X” because that’s a stupid name),there is a cesspool of negativity surrounding pack releases and trailers. As stated earlier, this negativity is not always unwarranted. The Sims has a tendency to make promises it can’t deliver on. Yet, I find that all the negativity rarely results in the outcomes we most want and desire. There is a difference between advocating for the changes you want and becoming a part of a cycle of negativity. 

However, even with all of this in mind – the sexism, EA’s greed, the negativity of the community – the base game of the Sims 4 is actually kind of fun. The game has such little direction and such a variety of ways you can approach it that it can be an awesome creative outlet and a fun way to relax on the weekend. 

I enjoy making my friends in create-a-sim, building the apartments we have lived in, and micromanaging every aspect of my sims’ lives. Overall, it’s fun and I don’t think you need to waste 1000 dollars or more on DLC, nor do I think that for most players that will make the game more enjoyable for you. 

I think you should consider getting a few packs that will make your gameplay feel more well rounded, like “Seasons”, but since the base game is now free and there are often sales on the packs, the bar for floor of entry to start playing isn’t as high as you might think. By choosing which parts of the DLC you buy, you can really customize the way you play. 

Also, while I did rag on the community a bit earlier, they are actually some of the most creative, genius, and cool players you’ll ever meet. There are endless customer content options for your sims, for your builds, and for your gameplay. The best thing about the Sims is you get out of it what you put into it, and when it really comes down to it, it’s fun to play. 

If you are on the fence about playing the Sims, and you’re not sure, I would say give it a try. I bet you will have a lot more fun than you might think. 

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