Playing Sims 4 to Learn About Human Behavior, Systems, and Design

The Sims 4 came out about year ago and I think it’s a terrific game for learning.

The Sims 4 came out about year ago and I think it’s a terrific game for learning. I spent about 20 hours playing it and watching others play it on YouTube. You design and control a family in the Sim world and help them get jobs, find entertainment, make friends, and fall in love. The Sims series has always been a simulation of daily life itself, everything from having to pee to shopping for clothes. Learning in this game happens because of 3 reasons:


1) The game makes us attend to and reflect on the many needs and desires of human beings (social needs, economic needs, romantic needs, health needs, etc).


2) The game makes us engage with and reflect upon how different social and economic systems work, for example, you can run a retail store and deal with everything from employee management to marketing campaigns to restocking items.


3) The endless customization, modding, and design possibilities in the game world (which allows you, for example, to build and design your own house in a very detailed way; to dress your character with clothes you buy, or design your own clothes and upload them into the game world; to mod the game with your own interesting systems (for example, someone created a mod that added schools)). There’s a Sims player that made a fascinating 20-part documentary on YouTube of his sim going from starving artist to running her own art gallery (link below). He has 300,000 followers and 42 millions of views!


When the game came out about year ago, critics liked the game but gave it mixed reviews because it didn't have a lot of content (in a transparent attempt by Electronic Arts to make consumers pay more money for expansion packs). Prices on the game and its expansions have come down a bit and I think this game can really turn many students’ crank (particularly those with a design/construction bent). You can also imagine combining this with SimCity, which takes a more macro-view of systems and behaviors.


Any questions? Contact me at, a news/analysis site I run on games and learning.

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