Self-Portrayal in a Simulated Life: Projecting Personality and Values in The Sims 2

This article, found in Game Studies, an international journal of video game research, describes a psychological study based on observations of using oneself as an avatar in the Sims games. The Sims is a computer game with various different modifications (Sims, Sims 2, Sims 3, Sims Pets, etc) that allows the player to create a person and control their lives. The intended object of the game is to build your Sim a nice house, have them succeed in their dream job, maybe get married, have a family, and then eventually die. This article explores the tendency for players to project themselves into their created avatars.

This study was conducted while observing 30 undergraduate students’ behavior while playing Sims 2. Out of this study, two different hypotheses were created. The first hypothesis was that “personality characteristics will relate to gameplay”. For example, if a player is a more organized person, their natural tendency for efficiency will be reflected in the game, or perhaps players who are extroverted will make their Sims more social. The second hypothesis predicted that players pass their personal values to their Sims. As an example, a player who values wealth will make their Sim achieve a high paying job. These theories are based off of famous self-projecting tests, such as the ink-blot Rorschach test.

The results of the study produced many different correlations in several different tables and graphs found in the article. There were many real-life/video game social correlations found depending on the players. For example, women players were more likely to make their Sim have a baby. Players with married parents in real life were more likely to keep their Sim families together than players with single parent/divorced households. This, along with many other observations, prove that players project their values and experiences on their avatars.

For me personally, I definitely relate to this article. When I play the Sims, I sometimes just create myself and pick personality traits that I apply to myself. I can make a dream life and a dream house, and it can feel good to achieve something, even if it is fake.