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Sims 3, Whovian Challenge Day 7: The Whovian Challenge Sucks

Even with a dog and an alien waifu running about Dr. Whom's swank mansion, this Sims 3 game has largely boiled down to being ridiculously simple.  I've all the marvelous accommodations I could want to keep everybody in the household elated at all times.  (Granted, all the puppy does is run around, eat, pee, and sleep so all she needs is a dog bowl, bed, and an encouraging word from time to time.)
One of the most literal Easter eggs to be found in gaming.
I begin to see that there's there's three things that make Legacy Challenges truly challenging that the Whovian Challenge lacks:
  1. Standard game length and everybody dies.  You're not allowed bring them back from the dead with the science opportunity or by feeding ghosts ambrosia.  You can't carry around a death flower to ward off unexpected deaths.  You're not even allowed to extend their lifespan one day by eating a life fruit!  So death is inevitable, and every dead sim can no longer be leveraged in terms of the skills they've learned and job income they made.
  2. You have to birth and raise kids to continue the legacy.  Part of what makes this challenging is the current heir has to go find a mate, and the other part is the actual child rearing itself.  Kids aren't as expensive to raise in the Sims 3 as they are in real life, at least as long as you already have the necessary equipment, but they're still just mouths to feed that don't provide income for quite some time.
  3. People might move out.  Sims 3 can only support so many sims a household.  Anyone extra you must "feed to the time stream" by having them move out.  However, a very important factor behind this: if they move out, they take a significant fraction of the family's money with them.  This is hard-coded into Sims 3, you don't have a choice!  It creates a pretty powerful incentive to keep families small enough that you can have the bare minimum number of people move out.
Compared to that, the Whovian Challenge has none of that.  Well, people die, but the good doctor does not.  No kids need be raised.  Nobody moves out, all of Dr. Whom's potential soulmates stay on the lot.  So basically, though I was attempting to make Sims 3 more challenging in order to make it more interesting, I was doing it wrong.  

Yet, even if I were to do a "by the book" legacy challenge, there always reaches the point in The Sims 3 where the family is so comfortably well off that there's not a whole lot of challenge left anymore.  The accumulation mechanic of simoleans is always weighted positively, it only goes up over time, with no danger of inflation.  Even if I were extremely careful to only make as much money as I had bills, the second I start a garden or pick up a valuable rock, I'm making money again.  Winning is inevitable, the challenge is not in survival, only in meeting arbitrary goals you set for yourself (a "challenge" game) and the Sims 3 is coded to facilitate wish fulfillment to the point where even that is rarely ever impossible.

I'm back to my original complaint about the game: this game just isn't challenging enough to be interesting.  In hindsight, this strikes me as misguided because I realize that The Sims 3 is not about being a challenging game.  Oh, there are certain scenarios you can run that would be quite challenging, perhaps impossibly so, such as being a single parent trying to raise 7 babies and not have any of them taken away by social services.  However, this would be missing the point of what Sims 3 really does best.   

The Sims 3 is primarily a sandbox game.  As such, is primary goal is to promote nonlinear gameplay, fully enriched with emergent gameplay features.  (Put that way, suddenly I'm quite proud of having spent a lot of money on this game: that's a feature set I want to vote for more of with my dollars!)  The details of this are too numerous to mention, but nearly everything that happens in the Sim 3 is emergent, the only linear factor the game has is the relentless march of time, and even the reaper can be put off indefinitely.  It's a brilliant design in that regard.

So my problem with Sims 3 should not be about how challenging it is because that's just me trying to make the game interesting in ways it's really not designed to be.  No, the problem I'm having with Sims 3 is actually that there's too few things left in Sims 3 that I would enjoy that I have not already done to death.  In other words, I've exhaustively played in this sandbox until I'm good and bored of all the sand and toys the creators of the sandbox had put in it.

Actually, even that assertion is not completely true in that there might yet be some new and interesting sand or toys to be found, but what is true is that there's a lot of core gameplay I'll have to go through in order to get at the bits I've yet to bore of.  Primarily the activities that go into meeting my sim's need meters which make up the greater bulk of the gameplay.  I've done those essential, never-ending activities to death and the core gameplay has become a grind.  Grinds simply are not worth my time because I've learned long ago that there's no reward a game can give you that can justify time spent not enjoying yourself.

It's probably time to take a little break from the Sims 3, giving my brain some time to forget what it's good and sick of so I may be able to come back and enjoy it later.  The Whovian Challenge has been a good thing in that at least I got another week of enjoyment out of The Sims 3 to justify the ridiculous expenditure of buying all the expansions.


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