In most simlit conversations there’s always questions. Do you write first? Or screenshots first? Do you use poses? I’ve heard a few different words thrown around but the two I like best are Sim-Driven and Story-Driven. There are of course variations on these and I’m sure everyone’s definition is slightly different. But to me the basic definition is:
- Sim-Driven: Gameplay directs the story
- Story-Driven: Story directs gameplay
Since there isn’t as sharp a line between those two as the definition might imply. Let’s dig in a bit, with examples! My Ghost of a Chance story is a clear example of Story-Driven. So much so that. despite it having a proper challenge attached to it, I have two saves. One in which I play the challenge, the other where I screenshot my story. At the far side of story-driven are those where there is no game-play at all. The Sims are used as actors and scenes are built and screenshot, but you might not actually ever “play” the game.
In the case of Ghost, I might pull in events that happen in the challenge save, but for the most part, I’m writing the story I want to tell. In the challenge, Julia met Grim as required as a child in the park playing hookey from school – I even have the screenshot. In the story, she summons Grim with a ritual found in a book in High School. I know how this story will end already and even if my challenge fails, I’m going to tell the story the way I have planned. In this way, I can dig into non-sim-related topics. While my ghost characters are still sims, they’re also a bit more. They have issues and problems that sims don’t have because sims aren’t coded to do that.
Derelict is another such story. As I told Amelia’s story, I pulled in events from the gameplay (I didn’t have a separate screenshot save except for flashback scenes), but I interpreted them through the lens of the story I was telling of a child abandoned on a spaceship. When as a sim, she maxed the wellness meditation skill and started floating – I decided to use the screenshot and decided the gravity on her ship had failed.
Sim-Driven is the opposite of story-driven. Caption Stories are often a good example of the far side of sim-driven. You play the game, take screenshots and annotated them with the events that happened in game. Biblioteque ISBI, my Toddler Challenge, and Drifter House 005 are all caption stories. It’s a great way to showcase all the wild and crazy things sims do this way and a surprising twist in game can really change the direction of the story. You might have an idea of how the story will end, but it’s probably vague and every twist and turn on the way are revealed as you play. If Social Services had taken all of the toddlers away from Guppy in my 7 Toddler Challenge, that’s what you would have seen.
Not all Sim-driven are direct gameplay reports. You can still create a story from the events in game. A lot of my first legacy – the Pigglewiggles – was like that. Part of it are in a “story” format but they reflect the game. In gen six, I really did have my heir sleep with his sister’s wife to create the next generation (and the sims really didn’t get jealous). In my Drifter House 004 (as well as quite a few Pigglewiggle generations) I used first person to tell the story. This was all still Sim-Driven though for as events unfolded in the game, they unfolded in the story.
I’m going to guess a lot of simlit is neither purely one or the other. Instead, the stories lean one way or the other or even both ways depending on the chapter. Recently, I’ve been enjoying “weaving” the gameplay with the story. Kind of interpreting what happens into the game as a story.
My Huffmans are a prime example of that. I play the game and know the events, but I can twist the events to make sense. When my second set of twins were born in generation two – the game put Pippin’s crib in a different room. I interpreted this as him being in the infant ICU. When MC Command gets one of my unplayed sims pregnant but not married, I’m free to interpret how that event happened. Often I move events around so one thing happens before another event to make it make a better story.
Sometimes, as what will happen in my upcoming Huffman interlude, I am interpreting events and have to go back and screenshot some of the scenes to place the events in a location, but they did happen. Maybe in game the two fell in love in the backyard after being invited over and not in the conservatory or over coffee – but the end result is the same.
In addition to this method, in my new Switch game, I’m trying and entirely new technique. I write the story AS I play the game (I have two monitors). This means a lot of time spent paused, but it’s kind of fun. Post 1 of Switch is basically 6 hours of in-game play. I found I needed a few more screenshots after I’d written pieces (mainly around the large dialog moments) and had to go back and get them. But when I wrote he went downstairs, I took him downstairs, and when he started chatting with some sims, I went with it. It’s kind of like Phoenix and I are writing the story together and the story is experienced by him as we play the game.
I admit, as much as I enjoying being able to tell and imagine a story a certain way – or the ease of captioning screenshots (although that is more difficult than you might think), I like blurring the line best. I like thinking of my sims not as actors but as co-creators. Together we are telling this story. Sometimes, they may have the best idea for what happens next and sometimes just by switching the timing of the events around I can say something new and tell a better story. It’s kind of like having a writing partner to bounce ideas off of. I can see my simself saying “You wanted to have a Mutant Racoon Party? Well tough, I’m going to set myself on fire instead.” I may direct them and nudge them, but they have an equal say in where the story is going.