Dumb People, Smart Objects: The Sims and the Distributed Self

Will Wright's The Sims series is one of the most widely distributed commercial video game franchises ever created. This paper explores how the digital huminoid protagonists of The Sims are not representations of autonomous thinking entities, but rather managers of competing impulses broadcast by their commodified environments. Each Sim becomes an emergent node in a distributed cognition system: a being constructed by how it responds to the affordances produced by the material elements of its surroundings. Using The Sims as a lens, it is possible to view humans as dumb responders in increasingly smart environments, a depiction that seems appropriate in a progressively networked, digitized, and commodified culture.