“Elijah,” you ask calmly, “why the hell are you writing a lore column about The Sims?!” Well, anonymous voice in my head that asks me these sorts of questions with increasing concern, it’s because how could I not?
Ever since I discovered that The Sims boasts an elaborate universe, it’s left me captivated. It’s like finding out someone made a functioning Game Boy in Minecraft. Nobody asked for it, fewer thought it could be done, but here it is, working just fine.
It’s not enough for a Sims story to exist either. No, instead The Sims features a full multiverse of branching timelines, told out of order and across spin-offs, ports, and mainline releases. In fact, The Sims 4 is a continuity reboot akin to Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Strangetown is essentially The Sims’ Silent Hill crossed with Area 51. And you thought keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe was challenging!
Just untangling the story arc of the character Bella Goth is an absolutely maddening experience. If you actually want to follow her life story, you have to start with The Sims 3, then Bustin’ Out, then the original game, then its PlayStation 2 port, then The Sims 2, and then several handheld and mobile entries.
However, parts of The Sims 3 take place in alternate parts of the timeline, like Lunar Lakes, which has a ghost of Bella as a bleach blonde ghost that can be resurrected as a burnt-out, exasperated zombie. This is only after she was abducted by aliens and became their empress, yet somehow the experience left her a pale, depressed husk that died on Earth as a hopeless romantic zombie.
Also, at one point, she and her husband were co-stars on a TV show with a monkey. And there’s a moment where scrying into the future in The Sims Medieval directly hearkens to her role in the future of the Sims storyline like a vision out of Knights of the Old Republic II’s finale.
In the alternate Sims 4 timeline in which she’s returned not long after Bustin’ Out, Bella has no memory of what has happened and basically becomes a glamour girl housewife version of Scully from The X-Files. All the while, we still don’t know if Mathilde Goth is her long lost orphaned daughter or not, and it’s uncertain if we ever will thanks to the timeline reboot.
You know – just perfectly normal life simulation game elements.
I know this probably sounds like I’m pulling at fringe trivia, but I’m not. There’s a guide for how to bring Bella back to reunite the Goth family outside of her appearance in Strangetown. You can use a fingerprint scanner in their house to find traces of her on random environmental assets. Someone had to code that in. Someone had the idea that what The Sims really needed was an elaborate alien conspiracy subplot.
And it’s not simply the Goth Family that has the lionshare of weirdness. There are also alien families, with an actual explanation of how the aliens “pollinate” male Sims. At least in later entries, they only do so consensually – which is a sentence I never expected to write.
You can even visit one of their extraterrestrial worlds, which was established in references in The Sims 3 before becoming a fully visitable environment in The Sims 4. Because sure, why not? Why not hide an entire alien biome as an Easter egg? It’s even a safe haven for vampire Sims due to being so far from its sun!
We’re still not done with the madness. For instance, you can get in a musical boss fight with the Grim Reaper, provided the portal to the netherworld doesn’t eat you first. Also, everyone in the Sims community has been trying to bed the Reaper into a steady relationship. Although at least that somewhat tracks, given the Reaper will always resurrect children as he’s fond of them.
A few more for posterity: There’s Mom Landgraab, who serves as the player’s literal mother in Bustin’ Out and factors in as an important background NPC in other games. Or will.i.am who isn’t the artist will.i.am but is based on the artist of the same name yet somehow never caused a lawsuit. Or the actual Comix. Or the cow cult. Or whatever the hell is going on with the handheld games’ stories.
All of this is accomplished with the absurdly specific level of detail you’d expect from The Sims. This is a series where you can go to the lengths of becoming an award-winning novelist vampire with a dynasty that includes a zombie, an alien, a movie star, and a hobo if you play your cards right. They’ve paid professional bands to do Simlish covers of popular songs. You can push over a cow, milk it, and as a result, get a milkshake rather than milk. I don’t know how any other series can possibly top The Sims developers’ dedication to seeing all these ideas through.
However, it’s incredible to peel back the layers, witnessing the depths of Maxis’ otherworldly multiverse. Whether it’s the nuances of every form of supernatural activity or the increasing number of Bella Goth timelines, there’s so much going on. I’ve barely got the page space to scratch the surface of the abyss that is The Sims lore. My brain hurts just trying to parse it apart, yet it fascinates me endlessly.
This might just be one of the most impossibly vast fictional settings ever made. But there’s one question that still needs answered: Which Bella Goth is really the real Bella Goth, Maxis? I need to know.
Ahem. Anyway, remember kids – Sim responsibly.