Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Becoming Viral with The Sims 3

I don't know how I missed this until now, but I just stumbled upon some of the best video game-related writing I have seen online. Written in blog form, Alice and Kev by game design student Robin Burkinshaw is, on the surface, nothing more than a record of what is happening to two characters she created in EA's recently released The Sims 3. But start reading from the beginning, and you'll soon find you can't stop!

The concept is something that was apparently done in previous versions of the game:
This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. It’s based on the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3’s living neighborhood features.
I am totally flabbergasted at the story that unfolds from there. I haven't played the game yet, so I can't say whether it's some kind of coincidence that the characters have evolved the way they have, or if the artificial intelligence is really that realistic. (I'd love to get into the guts of that AI engine.) Of course, most of the credit goes to Robin, who really brings the characters to life with her words and carefully selected game screen shots.

I don't want to give the plot away so far, so you'll have to go read it. But I do want to comment on the concept. Some comments on the blog entries wondered whether this is actually a viral marketing campaign on behalf of EA. Although I doubt that was the intention, this is certainly having a similar effect. I know I sure want the game now!

Beyond that, this is turning out to be a viral marketing campaign for Robin herself. This is exactly the kind of publicity anyone with aspirations in technology usually only dreams about. If there aren't a dozen game design companies, big or small, that are now wondering when Robin graduates, I will be surprised. Kudos!


Go Cat Dave said...

Hey Gail! Alice and Kev rocks! I read it everyday. I've been working on one of my own that you might enjoy. It's called, Martian Martian Martian!


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