« Play Money | Main | Gosh darn Euro-peens »

Sep 22, 2003



That may explain why The Sims Online (TSO) didn't take over the world and cause productivity of developed nations to plummet.

Watching your sim (in single-player The Sims) do stuff that parodies you in real life can be very amusing. Watching yourself (in TSO) perform stuff that you also perform in real life is just plain boring.


Fascinating train of thought. Add other people to the game, and your avatar changes from object to subject. It's a risk: if the avatar's life is more fun than yours, it's better to have him personify you. If his life stinks, it's better to keep him at arm's length.

I do see a problem with Frasca's distinction, however, in that it assumes that people who watch things are conscious of irony while people who do things are not. I suspect few Sims players, online or off, are aware of the mockery alleged to be inherent in the game. And because of that, I've always been hesitant to buy into the idea that the Sims are a form of cultural criticism.


I suspect Frasca has never attended a SciFi convention that maps into a gaming convention. Parodic games are not exactly unpopular. In fact, it can easily be argued that many role-playing games are de facto parodic. Some unintentionally, others entirely intentionally. The most obvious ones that spring to my mind are the Games Workshop games. Reading the manual to WFRP is plain fun, with all the Pythonesque humor layered into the text.

Yet for all the humor, it's a real game.

It's been ages... but I think Cosmic Encounters might fall into the class of parody too.


Another computer "RPG" leaps to mind as I hit the post button: wasn't the Leisure Suit Larry series massively popular?


"Another computer "RPG" leaps to mind as I hit the post button: wasn't the Leisure Suit Larry series massively popular?"

Yes it was. It was a lot of fun too. But it was really a story with puzzles that made a parody out of being a bachelor.

The difference here is that whereas in LSLLL (Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards) you participated in the unfolding of a story, in The Sims and TSO your Avatar's life are the story itself. In a sense, TSO gives you too much freedom, so much it's not as fun as The Sims or LSLLL. The fun of the parody is in mucking about with the virtual itelligence's environment, nudging it in different directions, then watching it react and take a life of it's own - Creation. *Unexpected* reactions from either the surroundings or the virtual intelligence (or story) are what is amusing; the unexpected is what makes you laugh. When you click "kiss" in TSO you already know the three of four outcomes it can have. Contrast that to LSLLL where you certainly didn't know what kind of horrible death you would suffer as a consequence of that "kiss" command.

I believe we generally have the preconception that if its a fun parody, then it has to be funny, otherwise its 'dull'. And if its a simulation, then it has to be somewhat realistic, otherwise its 'broken'.


I firmly believe that games are at least as capable of parody as storytelling, and that game players are at least as sensitive to parody as readers or viewers of stories.

Perhaps the critical aspect of Frasca's reading is the assumption that the Sims has to objectively be EITHER a wholesale confirmation of consumerism, capitalism etc.. OR a wholesale rejection of it.
It seems to me that there are many more layers to it and many more in-between positions, internal contradictions etc.. As the case with Monopoly showed, reading the ideology of a game can be quite hard.
(Monopoly - which we all learned promotes capitalism - is a rip-off of the earlier "The landlord's game" which was created to show how problematic it is when a few people own all the land.)


People have wondered about those ludologists before. Here from the DAC conference in Melbourne, 2003:

who are those ludologists: http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/blog_archive/000228.html

games and other things: http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/blog_archive/000245.html

reading texts, reading theorists: http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/blog_archive/000248.html


I feel like Marsha Brady with all you *dreamy* folks helping me grok what I've grepped...


Dr. Mortensen: Thanks for the heads-up about the terminology debate. And thanks for TWMF -- been there frequently over the past year.

(Soon to be Dr.) Juul of "The Ludologist": I agree there can be multiple and nuanced readings of games as texts, and a simple binary approach is silly. A simulation of capitalism or war, e.g., isn't an endorsement of capitalism or war. But I wonder if Ted is right that insofar as The Sims might be parody, the parody is too subtle for many to detect.

Re parody in VWs: What I got from Frasca was that because simulation is more interactive, this reduces the potential for parody, because the "reader" must, to some extent, perform as the parodied object. Frasca, I think, wondered if that could work. I suppose it can in some instances, but like Dan and DS noted, in an MMORPG as opposed to a more structured narrative like the LSL games, it might be a tough sell.

Dan and DS: Thanks for the ideas about LSL and conventions... both data points are worth pondering. And what to make of the following (paper) games?


Product plug: these are some great (and cheap) games. A personal favorite: "U.S. Patent #1 (2001): Everyone is a scientist and you've all invented time travel. Not all at once mind you, but it doesn't matter who did it first. It matters who makes it to the Patent Office on opening day."

The comments to this entry are closed.