My wife is a huge fan of The Sims, and I have tried to get into it on several occasions but have always given up once I’ve maxed out a career. After all, I’ve “won” at that point, so why carry on? Yes, this is a very classic gamer mentality, and yes, Will Wright has sold about 37 trillion copies of the game and yes, etc., etc.
But it got me thinking about what it would take to get me to keep playing, and I think it should take a leaf out of another very successful game. A Will Wright game. One that has sold about 37 trillion copies – Sim City.
Once you had understood the game rules for Sim City, it wasn’t too difficult to build a super-large city that made you billions of spondoolicks (or whatever the Sim currency was called). However, what made the game playable after that point was that your city would randomly destroy itself, through earthquake, flood, nuclear meltdown (hmm, this blog is getting strangely topical), or alien invasion. Then you would have to desperately save your city from the effects of these Acts of God/aliens.
I think The Sims could implement this very easily – “Oh no, you have caught gonorrsyphillherpalaids, and must treat it with Paracetamoxyfrusebendroneomycin for some outrageous cost. Or your house burns down. Or you catch mad.
As well as these catastrophic effects, you should have crippling upkeep costs (mortgages, insurance, car maintenance, tax, etc.), just like in real-life, and your debt position should directly affect your mental health – see how quickly you can give your Sim bi-polar disorder, by buying him amazing stuff, then having him open the credit-card bill.
Finally, if you do somehow manage to make pots and pots of money, it would be great if the AI could be realistic enough that your children bump you off for their inheritances. Just like in real-life.