The Sims, a computer-based simulation video game published by Electronic Arts (EA), is a perfect example of produsage. I have been an avid Sims player since the original came out in 2000. Throughout my discussion, I am referring to The Sims 3, as it is the newest available version of the game, and is the most produsage-friendly.
In The Sims, the player creates characters, houses, and neighborhoods to fit their fancy. The game comes pre-loaded with a ton of material to work with – everything from black high-heels to green refridgerators. Players create their own Sims (the people) who wander around and interact with a world they’ve created for them to play in. It is nearly impossible for any two player’s games to be exactly the same, as there are so many options to work with.
How The Sims becomes a product of produsage is with its online community. This community allows Sims players to upload their own content to share with others. This content can be everything from photos of their Sims cooking, to a whole family storyline.
Even bigger than that though, is the community’s download center, known as The Exchange. This is where players can upload new objects to be used in the game. This really opens up the produsage aspect of the game. Regular, everyday users are creating new items, hairstyles, furniture, artwork, etc. etc. to be used by other players in their games.
If playing as Mortimer Goth (one of the classic pre-loaded Sim characters) isn’t turning your crank, how about try Marilyn Manson instead? Well, you can either try to create a Manson character yourself, or simply go to The Exchange, he’s there.
All the content in The Sims is completely customizeable, and if you spend a little extra time, you can create new pieces that don’t even exist yet. For example, if you wanted your Sim to wear your favorite AC/DC t-shirt, you can create it. Or maybe you prefer to recreate a stunning dress from the Oscars.
Here’s how The Sims fits Axel Bruns’s four key principles of produsage:
- “Open participation, communal evaluation” – Anyone can add content to The Exchange or to their own Sims game. The evaluation part comes in the download process, the more downloads a particular object has, it will rise to the top of the list.
- “Fluid heterachy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy” – The Sims allows for users to get in and play with objects in a form that is normally only available to those creating the video game.
- “Unfinished artefacts, continuing process” – The Sims community is always open, and new content is always being added. Plus a player’s individual game is constantly in a state of rebuilding. Moving families, adding rooms to houses, putting in a new diner across the street. Its always changing, never complete.
- “Common property, individual rewards” – The Sims is not owned by one person, neither is the online community. Instead, each player can contribute to it, giving them each a piece of the pie.