How an apocalyptic firestorm that left 25 dead and more than 150 injured led to the creation of The Sims
It’s funny how the inspiration sometimes arises from the crudest situations. One might think that in front of the blank page you must be in peace and harmony to be able to face it, but it is often unexpected situations or desperate measures that cause that push.
To show a button, how a game as colorful, cheerful and influential as The Sims emerged from a catastrophe that claimed 25 lives, left more than 150 injured and razed the homes of more than 3,000 families. This is how a firestorm caused the creation of The Sims.
The Oakland Firestorm
It’s October 19, 1991 and we’re in Berkeley Hills, Oakland. The area that our ancestors called the Sierra de la Contra Costa changed its name with the arrival of the legendary University of California and soon became the typical upper-middle-class residential area of the American West Coast.
In the area live near 15,000 people, but the number of inhabitants is about to drop drastically. Guilty? A small fire of unknown origin in one of the residential gardens that the firefighters do not take long to put out.
At 11 the next morning, a handful of hot embers have restarted the fire and a 100-kilometer-per-hour gale has caused rapid expansion. In a matter of half an hour the fire has expanded and, after a day fighting against it, the firefighters consider the fire to be out of control.
To the wind that provokes the resurgence of the fire is added that of the fire storma phenomenon caused by heat capable of creating its own winds, generating vortices of fire and even generating tornadoes capable of expanding the conflagration beyond what is naturally usual.
By late afternoon, the wind died down completely, giving firefighters a chance to bring the fire under control until it came to a complete standstill three days later. The fire has left behind more than 600 hectares burned, 25 deaths, more than 150 injured and the destruction of more than 3,000 houses. Among them, the creator of SimCity, Will Wright.
Architecture, fire and quality of life
With just a handful of family photos as his only possession after the fire, Will Wright faces the difficult challenge of rebuilding his life from scratch. He does it, yes, from the comfort that his position and success as a video game designer offer him, but marked by the philosophical challenge that implies what to do in that situation.
How will be your house? What furniture will you buy? What will be in the drawers? How would you rebuild your home and your life from scratch if you had the chance? How to do it right?
The answer is found by the hand of the architect Christopher Alexander and the book The Language of Patterns, which is based on the premise that the user of a space knows more about what their house needs than the architect who will desEsports Extrasit.
Marked by what happened with the fire – in fact rebuilding the area would be one of the challenges included in sim city 2000-, Will Wright considers that this challenge he is going through would be a good idea for a video game. Home Tactics It would invite the player to create their own houses with Alexander’s philosophy as a base, forcing them to cover the needs of the avatars that are going to live in them.
To the idea of combining architecture, carpentry, decoration and security, with special emphasis on the difficulty of putting out a fire, the need to improve the quality of life of these avatars after their move to the new house is soon added, which transforms Home Tactics from an architecture game to something more similar to a dollhouse.
As development progresses, and in the face of a situation where Maxis and EA seem to be dissatisfied with the creation of the game, the doll house by Will Wright ends up becoming The Sims and with it, the most successful PC game in the industry.
How Wright fought against all odds to turn his nightmare into a game despite constant denial from investors is, but just as interesting, a story for another day.