Playing god has long been reserved for doctors: Dr. Doom, Dr. Dre, Dr. Pepper—long have we mortal men been held captive to their whims. Circa 2000, game developer Will Wright decided to grant the common man a chance to mold the lives of your average working folk, and The Sims was born. Fast forward nearly a decade, and the series has sold millions of copies, spawned numerous spinoffs, and made Wright and publisher EA enough cash to buy and sell your entire family a dozen times over.
The latest addition to the franchise, The Sims 3, does little to shake the series' longstanding tenets—good news for long-time devotees, but bad news for those hoping for something more from their world-building games. The similarities to its predecessors are evident from the moment you start The Sims 3: Seemingly, little has changed from The Sims 2. You're still tasked with running the life of a virtual person, your home is completely customizable, and basic human needs—like food, regularly emptying your bowels and meeting a pretty virtual girl—are still the key goals.
But the big difference between The Sims 3 and previous incarnations is in the game's scope. Instead of wandering your home or a small neighborhood, The Sims 3 lets players interact with an entire (albeit relatively small) city. Gameplay in the larger setting remains essentially the same as ever, but giving players new diversions like fishing, and growing one's own garden only makes the classic series more addictive.
I'd like to recommend The Sims 3 to everyone with the proper computing power, but there are those—like my roommate—whose id simply can't reconcile the idea of virtual Barbie dolls. Still, it says a lot about The Sims 3 that he's been glued to his laptop for the last five hours, forgoing practice with his hardcore band in favor of flirting with fictional ladies and climbing the ranks of the SimCity government.