Exploring Personal Myths from The Sims

Exploring Personal Myths from The Sims

Vasa Buraphadeja, Kara Dawson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch705
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Many game scholars claim that the emergent authorship opportunities provided within The Sims may lead to positive game play outcomes. This study hypothesizes that narratives told by game players may be similar to narratives told in real life and explores 66 Sims narratives via McAdams criteria of a good myth (1997). Results suggest that most people who play The Sims do not naturally adhere to the criteria of a good myth when developing their narrative, however, over half the narratives met some of the criteria. Our results suggest that The Sims has the potential to serve as a narrative studio for personal myth development but that some kind of intervention or scaffolding may need to be provided. The concept of psychosocial moratorium (McAdams, 1997) is suggested as one possible strategy professionals in multiple disciplines may use to promote The Sims as a narrative studio for myth development. Suggestions for future research are also provided.
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The Sims 2 is an electronic game that requires players to direct a Sims1 citizen over a lifetime. The players set Sims’ life goals (i.e., popularity, fortune, family, romance, or knowledge), create personalities, build homes, organize social lives, and take responsibility for nurturing a Sims from birth to death. The Sims gives players an opportunity to participate in emergent authorship via a story kit, or set of game features, that allows them to craft their own stories through game play (Pearce, 2005). This is in direct opposition to many games integrating spatial narrative in which players reconstruct an existing story via game play (e.g., Indiana Jones series by LucasArts, or Blade Runner by Westwood studios) (Pearce, 2005). Games integrating emergent authorship such as The Sims often provide a deeper level of immersion because players create their own characters rather than taking on the role of a pre-determined one.

Many game scholars claim that the emergent authorship provided within The Sims may lead to positive game play outcomes. For example, some claim it offers rhetorical (Frasca, 2003), narrative (Jenkins, n.d.), creative (Wright, 2006), and reflective possibilities (Jansz, 2005). Some claim that playing The Sims allows players to explore and make sense of life. For example, Consalvo (2003) argues that The Sims offers a wide range of possibilities in exploring sexual orientations while others believe it may be used to help health professionals understand their potential patients (Atkinson & Gold, 2002) or as a therapeutic tool by those who are dealing with addictions or abuse (Terdiman, 2003). Nutt and Railton (2003) believe that playing The Sims helps individuals to examine society because of the way it requires players to develop “understandings of real-life family practices” and “rely on assumptions about shared knowledge and understanding of relationship patterns” (p. 579). There is, however, no research to support these claims. This study aims to investigate them by examining similarities between the narratives told by The Sims players and Dan P. McAdams criteria for a good myth or life story (1997).

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