Playing God A Look at Death in The Sims

Gameplay hasn’t always been smooth sailing in The Sims franchise over the years, especially when you find yourself stuck at this loading screen of death:

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But who doesn’t love playing God? Because in a situation where uncertainty taints our every breath, having a little control over some part of our fleeting lives can somewhat be assuring. Power, control and authority is what we want, however harming it may be (read: history of dictatorships), fortunately the people at Electronic Arts found a way to satiate this desire of ours by giving us our own little worlds to rule over – they essentially found a way to let us be God.


Perhaps the most contentious part of playing The Sims is Death itself. Some might say it trivialises a grave issue, but honestly, it’s just interesting to witness the act of dying; watching your Sim go through the process of suffering and eventual death is fascinating, especially when this is such a taboo topic in real life. And in a world where time is just another tangible dimension, so is Death (and its many forms).

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The ethics of our own apotheosis aside, the creators at EA have recognised this increasing obsession with the weird and sadistic and are continually taking things to the next stage. Besides the basic ways of killing your Sim (i.e., starvation, drowning them in pools, and my personal favourite, burning them with the stove in a doorless room), you can now kill your Sims in more creative ways than when the first game launched, with funky coloured ghosts as rewards for achieving each death milestone.

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We first saw these new additions in The Sims 2, with options like killing your Sim from electrocution through a kite to being eaten up by flies. Having expansion packs also allowed the various modes of demise to increase exponentially, introducing brand new ways for “God” to change up life courses inspired by our real world and beyond. The Sims 2 also put an expiration date on the lives of your Sims’ pets, but we know they’ll be alright, because all dogs go to heaven.

“And in a world where time is just another tangible dimension, so is Death (and its many forms).”

But where do dead Sims go? They don’t go anywhere, apparently. Defying our current laws of mortality, The Sims realises the anxieties of the séance-crazed Victorian Age by legitimising the manifestation of ghosts and endorsing the supernatural. These apparitions get an upgrade with the launch of The Sims 3, while those with a penchant for the macabre rejoiced. Sims could now die in a stellar number of ways: blunt force trauma from falling beds, yielding to a 2000-year-old Mummy’s curse, having your existence erased in an instant due to time anomalies. From death by poisonous jelly beans to good old shark attacks, the number of ways to die reached a peak in The Sims 3 gameplay, and it was tough to imagine how the creators at EA could take Death to another dimension.

But they did. The next instalment of the game (while admittedly was a step back in the progression of The Sims franchise on a whole) brought to life the possibilities of dying by feelings.

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Acquaint your Sims with the Grim Reaper by enraging them, humiliating them, or making them laugh till their body physically succumbs to the hysterics. Heck, you can even die by over-exertion from Whoo Hoo-ing, which actually sounds like a pretty good way for your elder Sims to die, you know, after you get bored of them but don’t have the heart to kill them with unbridled savagery. Now they can go out with a bang – literally! Plus with the latest expansion pack “City Living” giving your Sims the chance to live as cosmopolites in lofty little boxes at high fees, one can only wonder why they didn’t include a new way for Sims to die – by severe claustrophobia.

Life-expectancy in recent years has almost doubled since the last century. Thank god for The Sims so we can fill these extra years living in an alternate universe that can’t be worse than our current reality.

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