A Month from Release, Modders Are Already Sinking Their Teeth Into The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (16)

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's good news for Sims players who have been worried about the number and variety of mods that will be available for The Sims 4 come September. Fans have already started modding the Create-a-Sim Demo released earlier this month, and you can download and install a plethora of new and tweaked content. There are custom animations, new eye textures, skins, clothes, and my favorite of the lot: A lightweight program that will let you recolor just about any piece of content from the demo to your liking.

If you want a complete list what's available, fan site SimNation is regularly updating theirs to include the latest and greatest custom content. These mods are built for the demo and it's hard to say how things will change once the full game is releases a little over a month from now, but even so it's absolutely a good sign for anyone (including myself) who was worried about how long it would take modders to fill the gap left by The Sims 4's apparent limitations.

(Hat tip: Kat Nye)

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Forget the Map: Gaming With a Brain Injury

Minecraft
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

"KEVIN. WHY DO YOU EVEN LIKE VIDEO GAMES. YOU ARE SO BAD AT THEM.” That's what a friend asked Kevin Simpson, the author of this piece, as he fumbled through one of that friend's favorite games. It's unclear whether or not Simpson's brain injury was diagnosed before or after this encounter, but he'd been feeling the injury's effects on functions like logic, time and direction for a while -- both in his gaming and his life.

Simpson recently shared his experiences as a gamer with a frontal lobe disorder and, much like the IGN article about gaming while color blind that I shared earlier this month, it's a very interesting read if you're looking for a different perspective on worlds and experiences many of us take for granted. He writes:

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Hot Pepper Game Reviews Are Merciless, Just Not in the Way You Might Expect

Hot Pepper Gaming Anthony Carboni
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I'll preface this by saying that it's not like I enjoy watching people suffer 90% of the time, but Hot Pepper Gaming fits harmlessly into that remaining 10%. The premise is pretty simple: YouTube gaming personalities review a recently released game... Immediately after devouring a single hot pepper of their choosing. Every episode has a predictable arc: The early moments of calm, followed by the first real hit of the pepper's heat, then the mounting desperation, and finally a soothing glass of milk when the review has been delivered in its entirety.

This week it's congenial science-lover Anthony Carboni's turn, and whether or not you're interested in his thoughts on extreme off-road trucking simulator Spintires, you'll probably want to watch:

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The Best Things in Life Are Free, Including The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection

The_sims_2Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Just shy of ten years after its initial release, EA announced that they will no longer be offering support or patches for The Sims 2, the second installment in one of the most popular gaming franchises ever. In an interesting twist, they also announced that The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection, which includes all of the games expansion packs, would be available for free to anyone with an Origin account. 

This is good news for a lot of players. For some who bought The Sims 2 on disc way back before digital distribution had gained the foothold it has today, it's a chance to revisit a game we remember fondly. For others who lack experience with the franchise, it's a cheap and easy way to see what all the fuss is about before The Sims 4 is released this September. 

No matter which camp you fall into, here's what you need to do:

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Shape Every Side of the Story in Indie Adventure RPG Unrest (For Better and For Worse)

Unrest city bhimra
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Pyrodactyl's Unrest, released this week, tells the kind of story that very few games are willing (or able) to tell... And there's no one thing I can point to to explain how it does this so well. It all seems very straightforward at first glance; an ancient Indian kingdom in the midst of a brought and on the brink of upheaval, where players are faced with moral choices and consequences and also snake people. Just another weekday.

But there's something very different about Unrest. Something that kind of sticks in my throat. Now maybe that doesn't sound very pleasant, but I'd rather play a game that sticks in my throat than one that I can swallow in one easy gulp any day.

So with that in mind, let's break down what makes Unrest stand out: 

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No Skin Thick Enough: Don't Miss This Eye-Opening Article About Online Harassment in Gaming

No Skin thick Enough
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

An interesting piece about gender and harassment in the gaming industry was posted in Polygon's opinion section today. Written by game developer Brianna Wu, the piece cuts right to the quick with a series of case studies from other women in the industry, each one debunking a specific myth about online harassment. If you've ever caught yourself saying "everyone gets harassed online" or "you just need to grow a thicker skin," please carve a few minutes out of your day to read it. 

It's a phenomenal piece, but one quote included from games journalist Carolyn Petit really resonates:

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In the Least Surprising News of the Day, The Sims 4 Will Have Premium Memberships

Sims 4 Premium
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Sims fans have caught sight of something alarming in a recent 20-minute Sims 4 gameplay demo posted to the series' official YouTube channel. A banner advertising "The Sims 4 Premium" popped on screen while the hosts were en-route to check out community content sharing features, promising discounts, early access, and exclusive items. The comparison is being made to the premium memberships offered for the Battlefield series, in essence a subscription fee that provides a good deal for players who plan to buy all or nearly all of the DLC content released -- and a good deal for EA if subscribers who planned to buy decide to abstain. 

But when it comes to this particular community and this particular franchise, I don't think the issue is quite that simple...

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The SIM-ple Life: Here's Why I'm Looking Forward to Losing Everything in the Transition to The Sims 4

Sims 4 CAS Demo  (11)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Fans of any series are surely familiar with the excitement leading up to the release of a new installment, and likewise the concern that somehow, at some point, the developers will mess it up. Maybe it won't be as good as the previous games. Or maybe it will be a million times better. It's an emotional push-and-pull that many Sims fans are experiencing right now, but with an added layer almost unique to them.

Between the base game, the expansions, the stuff packs, the store content, the mods, and of course the sim lives created, every game in the series can be a tremendous investment of both time and money. And then the new game comes out, and you're back at square one. Even though it is a brand new game, even though the older game doesn't go anywhere, it still feels like (and is most often described as) a loss. It's a huge mental hurdle for many players to get over, and one that I personally struggled with when The Sims 3 came out back in 2009.

But this time around, I'm not. I'm actually, strangely enough, looking forward to losing it all. Here's why:

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People Paying $200 Million a Year to Live Kim Kardashian's Virtual Life -- Just Wait Until an Oculus Rift Version Hits

Kim Kardashian Mobile Game 200 million

An analyst estimates people are will pay $200 million a year to live Kim Kardashian's life in a mobile game, and I didn't believe that figure at first, but App Annie confirms that "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is a top grossing game across the world, currently among the top five grossing apps in 46 countries.

What are people paying for? Stuff like this:

While the game is free to play, the goal is to get users hooked on in-app purchases such as clothing or a burst of energy needed for traipsing through Hollywood. Users can spend as much as $99.99 for 175,000 virtual dollars. A trip to Beverly Hills costs 4 game “dollars,” while 400 will buy a necklace. Kardashian’s voice guides the uninitiated through casting calls and parties, while users dodge surly tweets from rivals.

Because mobile games are relatively cheap to develop ($1-3 million is typical), a lot of that forecast $200 million is going to be pure profit for the developer and Ms. Kardashian. So expect many more virtual celebrity experiences like this in the future. Expect them to get even more immersive:

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Assassin's Creed is a Franchise Built on More Than Just Violence (But You'd Never Know it From This Trailer)

AC Unity Trailer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Earlier today Chris Plante shared his thoughts on the latest trailers for Assassin's Creed Unity over on Polygon, and if you're an avid gamer his post should give you a lot to think about. Obviously AC fans aren't strangers to gorey gameplay, but it feels like Ubisoft's marketing material is trying to take it to a new level, and Plante's not interested. Frankly, neither am I. He writes:

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