The Sims 2 10th Anniversary Special – An Interview with 2 of my Favorite Sims 2 Writers
This Sims 2 10th Anniversary Special keeps getting better and better. Last month, I reminisced about one of my favorite Sims 2 story series at the exchange by the help of the ‘wayback machine’. On the FAQ pages I noticed the author of the said series left his e-mail. It was a shot at the dark but I wanted to ask a few questions about his Sims 2 experience via e-mail. Lo and behold, he replied. I was both shocked and surprised since it was a long shot for someone to reply to my e-mail regarding an old game such as Sims 2 but I was so blessed to have gotten the reply and the chance to interview him. His name is Alexis C., writer of the Fate of Pleasantview and Fate of Alchemy series. Initially I got him for the interview, but then it turned out he also knew the person who wrote ‘Clouds Over Pleasantview’.
So as fate and lady luck would have it, I got to e-mail and ask two of my favorite Sims 2 writers from the Sims 2 Exchange. Below was my e-mail interview with Alexis C. (Fate of Pleasantview/Alchemy) and Ricardo/Dolphinsimo6 (Clouds over Pleasantview) about Sims 2 and other stuff (but mostly Sims 2 stuff…)
Q: What aspects did you like about Sims 2 ?
Alexis: Storytelling, definitely. I’ve always been a storyteller and the Sims was a great creative outlet for me. An often-heard criticism of the game, from those who don’t play it, is that it’s boring to watch simulated people living average lives. For me, playing the Sims 2 was never so much about what was happening on screen, as it was about the story I was building in my head while I was playing and that was incredibly engaging. Eventually, I started writing those stories down and publishing them online. The community aspect of the Sims 2 was another personal favorite. Through the Sims Exchange, I made friends from all over, some of whom I still know today. The community was fundamental in building my confidence as a young writer. Even though I no longer play the game today, it continues to have ripple effects in my life, as it contributed to such decisions as choosing to be a writer, moving to a new country, and what to study in university.
Ricardo: I loved the improvement of the graphics, it was a huge jump from The Sims 1 to The Sims 2, and my sims seemed a lot more real. I obviously liked the storytelling aspect of it. I’ve always liked photography, so to me the ability to zoom-in as much as you wanted was great. I loved the take on the original TS1 families, and the way the pre-mades and their story lines were set up (specially in Pleasantview). I also grew very interested in sim-genetics to the point where all my sims’ babies for the stories had the perfect gene combination of their parents.
Q: Are there any memorable in-game instances that come to mind while you were playing the Sims 2?
Alexis: An enduring memory that I laugh about with friends who also wrote for the Exchange is the photoshoots for stories. By the end of the Sims 2 run, I was well-versed in all the game’s cheat codes and made full use of them to get the shots I wanted. Large events in stories that required many Sims to shoot turned lots into a chaotic mess behind the camera to get everything properly set up. I’d have some 20 to 30 active Sims, rows of dressers and mirrors to go through costume, and it was going to be a long day if I had forgotten to turn off free will. Things could get frustrating with a lagging game that would threaten to crash because I was stretching its limits, but in the end, I remember these shoots fondly, because they were true exercises in creativity.
Ricardo: Oh, there’s a very horrible one. While shooting my last chapter ever, I had the awesome idea of having a huge fire in the story. So I downloaded “fake fire” that wouldn’t burn my sims and would let me use buy/build mode. As I was taking the pictures I noticed the smell of burnt plastic, but I didn’t think much of it and continued taking pictures. It wasn’t until the next time I tried to turn on my computer that I realized it wasn’t working anymore. I burned my NVIDIA graphics card, and had to settle for an Intel basic. The “epilogue” pictures were taken with that and I did all kind of things to make them look as good as possible, but I wasn’t completely pleased.
Q: Any favorite chapters/story arcs in your respective series that come to mind when you reminisce about it?
Alexis: Plenty! For my first series, The Fate of Pleasantview, I most remember the storyline that started with Angela Pleasant’s murder and the consequences that was going to have for the story, most importantly with her sister Lilith, who was always a favorite character of mine. I stopped writing FOP the chapter after Angela’s murder, so unfortunately most of the storyline never actually appeared in the story, and it’s the one I would most have liked to finish.
For the reboot series, The Fate of Alchemy, it’s a little harder to pick something out. I kept on working on the story outside of The Sims, after I published the seventh chapter, and the content that went up on the TS2 Exchange often feels like a prototype of a story that I’ve revisited several times over the years. The TS2-specific storylines are not necessarily those that stick out the most for me in this whole work. That being said, I think my favorite was the very long sixth chapter, which explored Bella’s past in depth. Though in retrospect, I find the chapter filled with too many unnecessary theoretical explanations on alchemy, I still really like the mood of the settings and characters I introduced in that chapter, and that set the tone for a lot of later work on the story.
Ricardo: I think I really liked the second season of my story, to me even the pictures and the colour palette in the chapters seemed more serious and grown up. I am very happy with the relationship between Cassandra and Don, the mutual respect for each other and what they had been, the forgiveness of the bad times, and them forming a team to raise Cassandra’s son, Ronald. I also liked the epilogue of my story, how my characters’ lives ended up after another ten years. I kind of showed how Pleasantview has a new set of “protagonists”. The premades are older and settled and their kids are around their twenties. I even added similarities with the originals, like the Caliente twins (Lauren and Alexandra) living in a condo next to the neighborhood casanova, Pedro Lothario, etc. My favorite characters to write where Brandi, Dina and Cassie, and I think it kind of showed throughout the story how I cared more about them and their character development through the years.
Q: It has been mentioned earlier but how did Sims 2 (through it’s ‘storytelling mode’ album and other aspects) cultivate your skills AND love for writing?
Alexis: Telling stories with the Sims was a great way to learn a bunch of things without realizing it. I think what’s important is that the Sims community didn’t take itself too seriously, which made it a very comfortable environment to experiment in. When I started writing stories, I didn’t consider it a literary exercise, so much as it was a cool way of engaging with the community I was a part of. It was only after several chapters that I actually started thinking more critically about the writing I was doing. As a teenager who was constantly being asked to figure out what he wanted to do after high school, the Sims community became an important source of validation that I could actually be good at something and create work that was interesting to other people.
I was very motivated to do the best I could with my stories, so I worked a lot on my writing and, since Sim stories also had a picture component, on my graphic skills. Thanks to my photo editing trials with the Sims, I later got into a year-long art school program, and now produce graphics work on commission. As for the writing, it became my most important passion, pushing me to pursue an English degree in Canada, where I now live, and to continue writing across different media. Though the depth of these life choices might seem inadequate compared to the simple amusement of a trendy video game, I often see The Sims 2 as being a catalyst for a lot interests, activities, and choices, that out to be defining later in life.
Ricardo: I think, and I talked about this a few months ago with Alexis, it’s impressive how into the making of the story we were, and how we cheated the game to such an extent so we could get what we wanted. I haven’t written that much since, but I guess I am still looking for ways to tell a story. I am a digital animator, and I’ve moved on from writing to “body language” to tell a story. Writing stories in the Sims and trying to make them better with every chapter, and having Alexis’ critique and support really pushed me to learn new skills of telling the story not only with my words but also visually, unconsciously following rules that are used in film. As of today, I think storytelling is a constant in my life, whereas if I am animating a character, or if I’m just “people watching”, or lost somewhere in the wilderness, or taking pictures when I travel, I am always creating a story.
Q: Did you ever play Sims 3 after it was released? Also, do you have any plans on buying Sims 4? (Author’s Note: This was asked a few weeks before Sims 4’s release a few weeks ago)
Alexis: I did buy TS3 upon release and played it for a while. As an active TS2 community member, I had actually been very excited and involved in the hype surrounding the game, years before it was released, and even formally announced. Unfortunately, by the time TS3 was coming out, I had started to outgrow the series and to move on to other interests. As I’ve said before, what was always most exciting about The Sims 2 for me was its storytelling component. There came a point when my storytelling abilities were being hindered more than they were enhanced by the game. I tried TS3 to see if the new game would provide more options that would renew my excitement, but the opposite was true. The Sims 3 was designed to be more focused on gameplay than previous editions, and that was a step in the wrong direction for my tastes, so even though I played it every now and then, I never really got into it. It was certainly never a big focal point of my life like TS2 had been, and I never played any of the expansions.
I’ve heard of the upcoming TS4 title, and I’ve briefly looked at some of the promos. If I get the opportunity to play it, I’m sure it’ll be fun, but I expect I’ll feel about it similarly as I do to TS3 now. I’ve moved on from the series.
Ricardo: I did play The Sims 3, and I remember installing it with my best friend. We both screamed when the loading screen came up. But I wasn’t as attached to the game as I was with TS2 for two reasons: I missed the relationship between the pre-mades, there wasn’t a good story set up. You could kill all of Sunset Valley except probably The Goths and Bachelors, and nothing would really change. There were so many characters but no story binding them together. I also started college around that time and had no time for playing TS3, sometimes I would just open play for the fun of it during holidays, but I ended up downloading a TS3 Pleasantview and recreating the families I loved.
I will definitely check The Sims 4 out, my best friend is getting it so I’ll see if I like it enough to buy it for myself. I like how stylized it is, I feel like it has a TS2 vibe to it, with all the ridiculousness the characters seem to have. I think sims from TS3 where very bland and serious…
Q: Outside the realm of The Sims series, what other video games are you guys playing these days? Or what are your other favorite video game series in general?
Alexis: I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like to, to get experiment with new video games! As a whole, simulation games have always been fascinating to me, so I do also enjoy The Sims’ sister game: SimCity. I’ve had a lot of fun with the most recent installment, even though it does have a number of flaws that I find frustrating and I think it has lived its course with me. I’ve also owned GTA IV on the XBox for the past year and a half and still haven’t made it through the whole game (I only play every now and then) so that one’s been keeping me entertained whenever I find the time to play. I’ve always been a fan of the Tomb Raider series, though I haven’t played the most recent reboot and look forward to getting around to that.
Mostly, these days, I don’t have a lot of time for large industry immersive games, so I tend to play smaller things like mobile games (my favorite is The Room series by Fireproof games) webgames (the Boxhead series, though repetitive is entertaining) or indie games (a few good titles: Slender, Papers Please, and the recent Mini Metro) which have a lower time commitment.
Ricardo: I am not much of a gamer really. The Sims 2 and writing stories for it was literally my life back when I was 13-17, and though I don’t regret it, and I made a great friend on the way, I did miss quite a few things of being a teen, because I’d rather play than go out with friends during the weekend. I had Alexis to talk to anyway. So I’ve kind of stepped out of gaming, though I do love The Legend of Zelda games and I am a very easy opponent in “social gaming” occasions, like when I play Smash Bros or Mario Kart.
Aaaaand that concludes my brief interview with Alexis and Ricardo. I’d like to once again thank both of them for their time and inputs regarding the tenth anniversary of the Sims 2. But most of all, I thank these two for inspiring me and other people on the exchange (or to those who read their stuff somewhere else) to write their own sims 2 stories during that time period. 😀
FOA Photos by: Alexis C