Ludification of Life: The Sims
One particular part of the reading this week resonated with me:
The player for example is both part of the ordinary world and immersed in the world of the game: this is where the ludic experience matches the aesthetic experience. When we play we plunge enthusiastically into the world of the game, while at the same time we maintain a certain distance in relation to our own behaviour in play; this is why we can call that behaviour ‘playful’. This duality allows us to maintain less or more critical distance with respect to the rules; it allows us to see those rules as just the rules of the game which are always open to adaptation.
Ludic Experience = Aesthetic Experience
I think The Sims franchise is an extremely good example of ludification of life in a game. The premise of the game is very simple. A simulator of life that injects humor into the everyday activities of the digital people. Since the topic is on life, there is a very strong theme of “normal-ness”, where we are familiar with the elements of the game since we live them out everyday.
The Needs vs Wants mechanic of the game is a very good example of ludification. I picked up a little basic psychology over the years and a pretty common model to think about human motivations is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Pretty simple but also quite boring.
This is where the genius of The Sims comes in. At every moment of the day, it becomes important to keep a close lookout for your needs. Basically, the needs that must be satisfied in the game is exactly like the needs reflected in Maslow’s bottom 3 levels.
Why should you keep your needs satisfied? So that you can better achieve your wants, reflected in the top 2 levels of Maslow’s. In reality, these higher level needs/wants are things like a good career, a big house, a happy family. Long-term things that grant you greater satisfaction.
And this is where the challenge comes in. We are all usually much more excited at fulfilling our greater goals in life, like having a nicer house. However, if we only focus on that while neglecting our basic needs, it becomes very difficult to actually achieve those wants. This becomes a challenge of time management and decision making, trying to balance our needs while trying to work towards our wants. Suddenly, everything in the game seems to make sense. In fact, everything in LIFE itself begins to make much more sense!
Distance in relation to own behaviour
The interactions in The Sims are actually very simplified. The complex intricacies in reality are definitely missing from the game. The avatars in the game also always react in highly exaggerated and humorous way, not like in reality. The portion on going to work is also always skipped. There are many elements of the game that are poking fun at various aspects of our lives. Unlike reality, we can skip the ‘boring parts'(Working and moving things around) and focus on the ‘fun parts'(making decisions about social relationships).
Because of this, there is a great mental distance between reality and and the game world, allowing one to be critical about the experience.
Rules open to interpretation
Mastering the rules and mechanics of the game allows the player to succeed and attain more things in the game. Whether or not one takes these rules into real life really depends on the individual. For me, after spending hours of my youth on this game, I find myself naturally categorizing my feelings and urges into wants and needs. This helps me to make better sense of life and my feelings. For most other people, life probably appears far too complex for them to use the simple mechanics in The Sims.