Release: June 2, 2009
Genre: Life simulation
Developer: Electronic Arts
Now, I know that many of you may scoff derisively at this recommendation before even reading what I have to say, as directed in The Official Hardcore Gamers Handbook: Vol 3, but I believe that would be a mistake - and here's why. The Sims 3, like its predecessors, may have the most simplistically genius premise in the history of video gaming: life.
We all know what The Sims games are about. We build a home, build a family, create a life, then live it as mundanely as if it were all real. The Sims franchise has its fair share of haters who all cry out that we shouldn't be wasting our time on such petty gaming and that if we want to experiment with life, we should experiment with our own. This, of course, makes absolute sense - yet somehow the game has managed to find a way to be so addictive that some waste away before it, taking sick days from their actual jobs in order to make sure that Mr. and Mrs. Sim get their promotions and can afford to comfortably buy Timmy his very own desktop computer. But why?
What makes it so hard to stay away is that everybody can relate to what these simulated people go through. The achievements in the lives of the characters we create give us the same feelings of accomplishment that are lacking in our own lives; the game strokes our egos and fulfills the fantasies that we are perhaps too scared to pursue for ourselves. Whether this be a high-flying career or a sexy life partner (or even both!) does not matter, it allow us to live vicariously through the people of our own creation. We are in control, we get to play God - and best of all, we get to do it without any moral compass because at the end of the day, the computer is turned off and it does not affect our real lives one way or the other. It is the video game equivalent of writing a novel; creating characters, growing attached to them, and sharing in their laughter and pain.
Like a good novel, The Sims 3 can make people feel on a deeper level than a lot of the games on the market. It's not flashy, you don't kill zombies or hookers and you never see one drop of blood of any colour. But when you have a Sim, old and grey, who has lived a life that you yourself can only dream about and you watch the last of the life leave their eyes, it serves as a bittersweet if not depressing reminder that one day, everything and everyone becomes obselete.
And that's why I recommend The Sims 3.