When Electronic Arts producer David Miotke showed me the new Sims 4 expansion Get Famous last week, he wanted to make sure I saw a new animation they’d created for it: the money phone.
“Every Soundcloud rapper has to talk on the money phone in their first video,” he said. He directed a rich Sim he’d made for this demo to a vault of cash. They picked up a fat stack and put it to their face, talking on it. Then, at my suggestion, that Sim made it rain. Get Famous is a surprisingly modern reflection of how fame works, and that celebrity life is intoxicating.
Arriving on 16 November, Get Famous introduces a new Fame system, a new Hollywood-inspired world, and an Acting career. But just like in our modern world, you don’t have to be an actor to get famous in The Sims. You can be a famous painter, a famous writer, a famous gardener, or even a famous gamer. Get Famous introduces a Media Production skill, allowing your Sims to make online videos and stream their lives.
“We felt like that was definitely a modern inroad into fame, something that people can resonate with,” said Miotke. This element of the expansion was inspired by his 7-year-old daughter’s taste in media. “She didn’t care about The Sims until she saw some of her favorite streamers playing The Sims,” Miotke told me at a hands-on demo last week. “Now suddenly I’m a hero in her eyes.”
As your Sims gain notoriety for what they do, they’ll gain points that allow them to buy special skills. As your Sim gets more famous, though, they’ll also develop quirks. A Sim who spends a lot of time on their phone might become a Phone Fanatic who can’t stop using social media. A Sim who checks themselves out in the mirror a lot might gain the quirk Vain Street.
Players can’t choose these quirks themselves, Miotke said. “There are hidden triggers in the game, and if you’re at a certain celebrity level and you hit that trigger multiple times in a specified amount of time, you’ll push that quirk on you,” he said. If you don’t like your perks and quirks you can go on a Celebrity Cleanse to reset everything, but taking away a bit of control from the player makes fame a bit more unpredictable. Although The Sims is all about player control, I like the idea of the game not just allowing me to make narrative choices, but the behaviour of my Sims being reflected by those choices.
In many ways, this feels like a better version of how Vampires worked in the aptly-named game pack called The Sims 4 Vampires. Being a Vampire also came with downsides, but those downsides were directly selected by the player, and I always ended up just choosing the same ones over and over. Similarly, the reputation system in Get Famous is based on how other Sims perceive the Sim you’re playing, rather than the actions you take as a player. It’s better than just picking whether or not you want to be a “good” or a “bad” Vampire.
Like me, Miotke doesn’t usually play mean Sims. “I always go in with the intention of being super mean and evil and I can’t do it,” he said. “I cannot be mean. I’m not going to put on a mask and do something mean. I need to be nice. We need niceness in this world!”
With the reputation system, you’re free to be as nice or as mean as you want, but if you do negative interactions where other Sims can see it, like at a restaurant or on a stream, your reputation will change. An usually really nice Sim that gets in an argument at a bar can have a bad reputation, while a Sim that’s cheating on their spouse in the privacy of their own home can still have a positive one.
Once I got to spend some more time with Get Famous on my own, I found that two of the Sims I made ended up famous by streaming and uploading videos much faster than the actor. In order to maintain and gain fame, you have to keep yourself in the public eye by streaming, uploading videos, updating your Simstagram story, and, if you’re an actor, constantly taking on new jobs.
The acting job was the one I was most unsure about, as I hadn’t especially enjoyed the similar “live careers” from the Get To Work expansion. While joining your Sim at their day job was fun at first, the activities took too long and were too monotonous. There’s only so many times you can perform experiments as a scientist before you want to just get another gig that doesn’t make you click the same machine over and over.
The acting career solves this problem by not actively requiring the player to spend as much time at the job. Your Sim signs up for an agency, goes to an audition, and then if they pass, they get the job. In between getting the audition and going to it, there’s about a day of waiting so you can prepare. All these auditions require a particular skill to be at a particular level. For a commercial for a product called “VoidBops,” I needed to up my Fitness Skill. For a spot on a daytime soap called The Urbz, I needed higher charisma. If you pass, you have still more work to do before the actual shoot: To prepare for The Urbz, I had to work on my charisma even more, then “research the Flirty emotion” by making my Sim feel flirtatious and then actually flirting with people. It’s not like you’re not working at the job, but you get more freedom to do it at your own pace.
While being on set does suffer from some monotony—the rhythms of each shoot are basically the same—the variety of acting jobs spices things up a bit. I was a pirate in an advert for soap, then a doctor in an advert for medication. Going into hair and makeup to put on costumes was always exciting for me, as I never knew what my Sim was going to end up looking like. And to top it all off, each job is blissfully short, ending at a few hours at most, giving you time to return home and take care of the rest of your Sims.
What I like best about Get Famous is how much the addition of “fame” to The Sims 4 changes and improves the base game. Fame—the prospect of being famous, the thrill of being around famous people— buzzes in the background of life in The Sims 4 when you play with this pack. As a person who’s interested in those kinds of narratives, I find this tantalising. Every time a famous Sim strolled down my street, I’d make a Sim rush over and try to talk to them. Once, one of my Sims got a call that a celebrity was visiting the lounge nearby and I had that Sim go over there to try to meet them. They didn’t even get an autograph or a picture, but watching other Sims sigh and scream at their presence, while they were being flocked by paparazzi on all sides, added a sense of drama that I realised The Sims had been missing.
These kinds of cultural signifiers are such a big deal in our real world. Having them in The Sims 4 adds a feeling of interconnectedness to the community that I hadn’t realised I was missing. Of course there should be famous people in The Sims 4. And now I can guide the career of one of them.