The Sims vs Reality TV
I watched the first episode of The Sims: Spark’d so you don’t have to. Here’s the full run down.
The Sims team announced a few weeks ago that they were partnering with Buzzfeed Multiplayer in producing a Sims 4 themed reality game show. My interest was piqued to say the least, especially since some of my favorite Sim YouTube personalities were competing (I’m totally here for team Plumbella).
The episodes are about an hour long and the first episode aired on TBS, a common destination for gaming-related programming. The episode was released for everyone on Buzzfeed Multiplayer’s YouTube channel the following Monday. I don’t have the “Night Owl” trait in real life, so I wasn’t awake to witness the show when it premiered on TBS and instead waited for the episode on YouTube.
There are 12 competitors broken up into four separate teams competing for the grand prize of $100,000. Each team has a Stylist (who creates the Sim characters and dresses them), a Builder (who creates the houses and sets), and a Storyteller (who outlines and tells a story using the Sims) to compete in challenges. Every episode has two challenges: the second one being an elimination round where a team will be sent home.
The judges are Dave Miotke (or SimGuruNinja), Kelsey Impicciche from Buzzfeed, and Tayla Parx who does some of the voice acting in The Sims. With a broad array of experiences and backgrounds, the panel is able to bring different perspectives to their judging style.
The four teams are Team Gnome with Plumbella, Simproved, and The English Simmer; Team Cowplant with LittleSiha, Doctor Ashley, and Steph0sims; Team Freezer Bunny with XUrbanSimsX, SpringSims, and DeeSims; and Team Llama with XMiraMira, SimLicy, and DrGluon. I personally am rooting for team Gnome because Plumbella and The English Simmer are some of my favorites on YouTube, especially in their storytelling and humor.
In the first episode, it is made clear that the players were not told exactly what they were in for when they were asked to be on the show. This certainly adds tension to the game, but also leads to some confusion for the audience later on. There was very little information given about the game show not only to the contestants but also to viewers.
When the teams are picked (randomly to make it all good and fair), host Rayvon Owen announces the first challenge. Each player is to grab an item off a display across the room and the items have to tell a story within their corresponding teams. Items on the table included VooDoo dolls, a fishing pole, bubbles, and boxing gloves, among many others. Each team came back together to show their items and brainstorm on storylines for their combined pieces.
While I think the teams being randomized played a role in fairness, I do think that some of them got the short end of the stick and others got fairly lucky. Team Gnome and Team Cowplant all get along and work together very well, whereas the other two teams fall a little flat in their communication.
XMiraMira, in particular, disagrees with just about everything DrGluon says in their deliberation. In her talking head interviews, she speaks about how he doesn’t seem to understand that they are a team, not just him. SimLicy doesn’t comment throughout this challenge so it’s unclear if she agrees with DrGluon’s over-taking. She goes on to say after their presentation that their story could have been better.
Each team had 90 minutes to create a family, a set, and a quick storyline to present to the judges. Up first was Team Cowplant, and unfortunately, Steph0Sims fell flat with her storytelling. She forgot what she was supposed to say and got overwhelmed on stage but overall the judges seemed to be impressed with the outcome. The judges gave comprehensive criticism and compliments for each story.
Teams Freezer Bunny and Llama got some heavy criticism from judges in the end, and it was announced that Team Gnome won the round. They were given an advantage in the elimination round.
The elimination challenge involves creating a four-Sim family in a house in the Willow Creek neighborhood. Contestants were required to also write a storyline to explain each Sim’s relationship within the family. They were given five hours to create the world and story, as well as work with an editor to make a short film to showcase the family.
Once again, we see the tension in Team Llama between XMiraMira and DrGluon. They butt heads a little more obviously now, with DrGluon openly shooting down some of XMiraMira’s ideas. SimLicy doesn’t seem to react; the camera just pans to her face when the other two are arguing.
Around the first hour mark, Rayvon tells each team that they must also incorporate a rival family into their story. Team Gnome had the advantage, so they got to pick which neighborhood each team’s rival family would be from. Because Team Gnome has sweethearts like Plumbella and Simproved, they assigned the opposing teams neighborhoods that they thought would be useful and helpful, rather than sabotage. Plumbella says “If I go out at least I’m going out being nice, you know?”
Team Freezer Bunny seems to be having a lot of issues on their side of the stage. SpringSims gets visibly overwhelmed and stops building for a minute because his other teammates are talking to him. He says “It’s a lot…It is definitely hard when you have two such strong people [speaking at the same time] and you just don’t know how to speak up for yourself…”
The drama really sets in when teams present their short films. Each team had an objectively good storyline. I was personally invested in each of them and thought the videos were a cool idea. But when it came down to it, only three teams were going to continue. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, Team Freezer Bunny didn’t make the cut. For a minute there, the judge’s lead the audience on to think it could be Team Llama, but in the end, SpringSims, XUbranSimsX, and DeeSims go home.
I tried to do a little research prior to the first episode airing to find a plot or an outline, but The Sims website gave little to no information about the show besides the release date. So I think it’s safe to say that no one knew what to expect from this.
I still feel pretty neutral about the whole thing; I wasn’t crazy impressed but I’m certainly going to keep watching to see how it pans out. Team Gnome won both challenges in the first episode and even get to put their Sim family into the game as NPCs. If you really love The Sims or are interested in seeing competitive gaming outside of the world of esports I think The Sims: Spark’d could turn into something really cool.
I am mildly disappointed that they are partnered with Buzzfeed for production, but beggars can’t be choosers.
The second episode of Spark’d airs on July 24 at 11 pm EST on TBS.