Welcome to the New Dollhouse

by on May 7, 2006 at 6:29 pm

The New York Times has an article on what they are terming ‘the new dollhouse’ — that of games like The Sims, where children can now play with pseudo-living dolls that can have eerily similar lives to their own, instead of the typical rag doll or barbie doll. From the article:

As the small animated characters move through their daily lives, they evoke living dolls.

As far as we know, children have always played with dolls of one sort or another to act out variations on their own lives, or lives they observe or imagine. Today, a vast and growing number of kids are doing the same thing — but with a very new tool. Instead of dolls, they are using video games. And perhaps most of all, they’re using The Sims.

Some video games let players battle aliens or quarterback a pro football team; The Sims drops the player into an even more fantastic environment: suburban family life. Each Sim, as the characters are known, is different — one might be an old man, one might be a young girl; one is motivated primarily by money, for instance, while another may want popularity — and it’s up to the player to tend to those needs. As in real life, there are no points in The Sims and you can’t “win.” You just try to find happiness as best you can.

They also note that young girl’s especially are gravitating towards the Sims and have a few choice quotes from Wil Wright (creator of The Sims and upcoming highly anticipated title Spore):

Why might The Sims take girls where no other video game has gone before? Will Wright, its creator (and long one of the luminaries of game design) has a few theories. “To start, I think women are much more discriminating in general than men in their choice of entertainment experience,” he said. “Men will do the same stupid thing over and over again and be happy. Women tend to want a more complex, creative experience. And The Sims appeals to that.”

“Also,” he said, “if you look at movies and books and television, many of the most successful properties are set in normal contemporary situations. And I don’t really understand why we don’t have more games like that. So if you look at boys and men, there are a lot of games that appeal to them, but it seems like women have fewer choices.”

While I’m always happy to see people mention how limited games for women can be, I also want to caution these folks. Women are as diverse (or more so) as men and we cannot be categorized into a specific game genre. Part of the reason of The Sim’s success can certainly be attributed to a marketing campaign that targets women. Imagine that. It works — any marketers listening?

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