Growing up my sister and I would take turns, sitting for hours at a time, playing The Sims and later The Sims 2. While I first considered discussing the possibility for art and the use of art in correlation to ‘Sim-happiness’ in the games, considering space in the Sims in relation to Bogost’s chapter “Transit” is intriguing. I’m wholly unfamiliar with The Sims 3 so I cannot address space in that game.
In both Sims and Sims 2 space is incredibly limited. To begin, you may choose from preset areas in which to build a house or lots already populated with a home. Further, the landscape in which you choose (for example the desert or one with a lot of Tudor style homes) is not infinite. Many houses are built into the game with pre-existing characters or certain areas are simply off-limits, maybe due to the landscape but also somewhat arbitrarily. While this can be frustrating as you increasingly populate the city, village, or desert, what I was consistently frustrated with was the lack of movement in what seemed to be available space. If I remember correctly, in The Sims it was impossible to walk anywhere besides on your grounds. In The Sims 2 one could venture to shops but even then there was no boardwalk to stroll by which you could simply enter and exit a variety of stores. Rather if you decided to visit somewhere the (to me) rather iconic blue load screen with silly phrases loading at the bottom would appear and after a seemingly endless delay, your Sim would appear in the new location. I simply did not understand why, in a game programmed to cater to your individual decisions, a walking scene between places or through a large area was never generated.
What does this say about space? Like the invent of the railroad, transportation in The Sims is not a journey. The space traversed is merely space traversed, not environments or places to be experienced. After the societal revolution the railroad caused, traveling involved only two places, ‘point A’ and ‘point B’. Between these points is the ‘and’, the blank which conjoins the two.
Such rapid transport and blankness between spaces suggests not only the disillusioned and disinvolved movement humans undertake each day in travel but also the entire unawareness of space. Humans traverse their environment continuously – to go to school, to work, to pick up children from summer sports, and to shops – but cannot, by the limitations of driving, instantaneously explore their surroundings. Some people argue that cycling makes one more aware of the environment than driving. However, in the nature of the ‘route’ there is not exploration. While on bike one is closer to the ground traversed than surrounded by the metal enclosure of a car one is still just traversing particular ground. Only in leisurely walking or cycling does the environment become something more than a distance to overcome. The Sims are denied the ability to embrace, explore, and experience space as modern society removes itself further and further from the space surrounding it.