cultural capital

Sim Art

Video games, you tend to think, are set in fantasy worlds, so it’s a strange fact that the best-selling PC game of all time is The Sims, a real-life simulation rife with mundane, detailed exactness; characters sleep, go to work, and bicker. There’s no end — the characters just live their lives — but the game has become a cultural phenomenon since its 2000 launch. It has now even inspired “The Sims: In the Hands of Artists,” an exhibit opening Thursday at Chelsea Art Museum. For the show, game-maker Electronic Arts collaborated with Parsons, challenging students to create Sims-inspired art using everything from basic pencil and paper to machinima, a moviemaking technology powered by the game’s engine. We got a sneak peek at four student projects.


Simland, by Cat Lauigan, BFA student in illustration

A large 3-D visual depiction of the game in diorama form.

Are you a big fan? I’ve never played the game. My little sister played it. She used to kill all her characters all the time. Are computer games usually a source of inspiration? I’m not a really big computer fan, although I love Super Mario 3. I beat it one summer when I was 10. That’s like my pride and joy.

A Fairly Monstrous Being, by Zack Zezima, BFA student in illustration
A 3-D sculpture of an imagined Sims monster-character.
What was the first video game you loved? When I had the original Nintendo, we had Duck Hunt. Would Duck Hunt ever inspire you to create art? Actually, no.


52 E. 7th Street, by Albert Dang, Christopher Dye, Hee Jung, and Kanyang Li, MFA students in design and technology

It’s voyeurism at its virtual best: Several Sims apartment window vignettes are presented along with a live Webcam of one of the student’s apartments

Dye: We wanted the scenes to be pretty mundane, as voyeuristic scenes actually are. You hope for something to go on, but it rarely does.

Li [Points to a scene of a kid on his computer]: This is what I do every day, from nine to two.


Mill of the Mind, by Becky Heritage, Mike Edwards, and Inti Einhorn, MFA students in design and technology
A Sims-world re-creation of the 1961 Milgram experiment, which measured subjects’ willingness to give what they thought were painful electric shocks to people, simply because they were ordered to.
Einhorn: Ideally, we want good people to walk away.
Heritage: The people we’ve tested it on so far, they want to keep shocking.
Amos Barshad

Sim Art