Thursday, March 17, 2011
Any fans of the Sims out there? Starting April 22, you can create your own Middle Ages with Sims Medieval. Brought to you by EA games, which has something of a medieval fantasy going on, being the folks who brought us Dante's Inferno (game AND action figure!), the new game allows players to go on quests, some drawn primarily from medieval literature, some seemingly from medieval life. A look at Yahoo's series of images: http://blog.games.yahoo.com/photos/235-the-sims-medieval#OmgPhoid=11 will have medievalist enaging in fun games of "what's not authentic here?" (was that a dragon in the second picture, or a giant cloaca? and weren't the stocks invented in early America?), but no doubt there will be plenty of fun to be had. But why the criticism of Dungeons and Dragons http://blog.games.yahoo.com/blog/484-sims-set-to-go-medieval? Plenty of people spent an equally inauthentically medieval time entertaining themselves with dice and graph paper in an attempt to recapture the same impulses that Sims Medieval offers (except, I suppose, for those whose interest is primarily architectural!). But what's interesting is why the medieval games can't be open ended. This sense of the medieval as a closed narrative seems to inform Sims Medieval; rather than having a "real" medieval life, which like contemporary life involved getting by with what one has and looking for more, this game departs from Sims tradition in offering fixed narratives set in limited time frames, as if the medieval existed only as moments of narrative. Sims Medieval is like a book, with covers; it begins and ends, and things happen to drive the plot--avanture, entrelacement, etc.--that put the focus on "time out of time," rather than real time. So again, we find the impulse not in history but in fantasy; the Middle Ages can't be a time when people did regular things, only in a medieval milieu, but a time of knights, ladies, dragons (or cloacas?), swords, and costumes. Given the lack of attention to history, of course, all medieval things blend together; the hall in one image looks like Heorot, but the costumes are much more influenced by the fashions of the High Middle Ages. And of course, people didn't regularly run into dragons in medieval France. But whose counting?