How To Play With Plot In The Sims

Bit bored of The Sims? In this episode I break down how you can use the same framework writers use to bring their stories to life – the three-act structure! I break down how this plot structure can introduce conflict and challenges for your Sims. Playing with plot and universal themes in mind can inspire your gameplay whether you are starting a new save or reviving an old one.

Listen to this episode if:

  • You’re want the stories you play to be as compelling as the stories you read.
  • You’re bored of your Sims save file and not sure what to do next in your game.
  • You’re a writer and curious how to transfer everything you know about plot The Sims.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


[00:00:00] Gloria from Yellow Llama Co.:

Welcome to Sentimental Simmer, a podcast made for emotionally attached simmers and storytellers with wild imaginations. I’m your host, Gloria, and I run Yellow Llama, a planner shop made to help simmers play with purpose. Every week, I talk all about things, sim life planning, storytelling, and memory keeping. I’ll also brainstorm new ways to obsess over our pixel people, whether they be in the Sims or another life sim game. And now, let’s get into it.

Gloria [00:00:35]:

Yellow back to another episode of Sentimental Simmer. So as we’ve established in previous episodes, all we’re really doing in the game is telling the story. Right? Sometimes we get stuck, though. We’re not sure what direction to take our Sims in. And so I thought, why not just dig into the toolbox of creative writers? If all we’re doing is telling stories in our games, why not use plot theory to inspire our gameplay? And so that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. So plot theory or plot in general is basically the framework that outlines the structure of your story and the sequence of events. It can often convey themes as well. And so if you find yourself bored with the game and are not sure where to take the story of your Sims next, plot theory can help inspire the direction.

Gloria [00:01:16]:

For this, we’re gonna work with the classic 3 act structure. It divides story into 3 parts. So we have the setup, confrontation, and the resolution. So let’s break this down, this plot theory, this 3 act structure, to see how each part can inspire new possibilities for your gameplay. Act 1, we have the setup. We can break this down into the introduction of characters and setting, inciting incident, and establishing goals. Introduction of characters and simming, easy peasy, right, in the game? I think we’re all very comfortable in cast by now. It’s one of our favorite places in the game.

Gloria [00:01:49]:

Here, the point is to create a unique cast of characters with distinctive personalities, backgrounds, and aspirations. If you started a new save file, this is the first thing you’re gonna do naturally. You’re gonna go into cast. You’re gonna try to create a sim full of character who has a a fun look to them. I actually recommend, before even going into cast, is to think of maybe a backstory for that sim. What are their motivations? Where are they coming from? You know, I already think of in which world they live or are moving to. Perhaps, you know, they have a story of where they’re trying to, you know, have new beginnings. That’s what I’m doing with my Sims, Ida Muniz.

Gloria [00:02:25]:

But what do you do if this is mid gameplay? So if it’s mid gameplay, you could add a new character to the mix. You could come up with a backstory for them. If your sim that you’re playing with right now doesn’t have a backstory yet, you can think of 1. And that helps give them more depth as well and meaning to their decisions and gives them actual motivation. You could also just give your sim a makeover. Maybe they, you know, new look, new me. Right? Another part of introducing simming or creating that setting is designing the home of your Sims, maybe also adding some different lots to the save file to their world to set the tone. If you’re mid gameplay, this could just mean renovating a space in their home or adding a new community hot spot that wasn’t there before.

Gloria [00:03:06]:

Maybe that also has to do something with their story or with the story of another Sims that’s moving to town. Maybe it’s a competition to a smaller business. And that brings us actually to the inciting incident. So this is introducing an event that changes the status quo for your Sims or the household in general. This could be anything from a chance encounter with, you know, a mysterious sim. It could be a surprise job offer, an unexpected inheritance, or maybe a fire burning down their home. Fun fact, Will Wright, the creator of the sims, was actually inspired to create the game after he lost his own home to a fire. Way to turn something tragic into something absolutely brilliant.

Gloria [00:03:49]:

Right? Yellow, coming back to that idea of a new lot being added to a world, what if your sim has, like, this small little shop? Right? A bookstore. I’m riffing off movies again from the nineties. I think it’s called, you’ve got mail or something like that, back when email was the, like, new hip form of communication. I’m old. Basically, the person had a little shop. I think it was the guy, Tom Hanks. He had a little bookstore. Or was it no.

Gloria [00:04:16]:

Meg Ryan had a little bookstore. I think it was that way around. But then a big box bookstore moved in next door and was in direct competition and swallowed up all the customers. Maybe they have something similar in your game. Your Sims has this little old community bookstore, has been there for ages, and has real history. But, unfortunately, this big box moves in. Maybe it’s, you know, from the land grabs, a new endeavor from them, and threatens the livelihood of your Sims, and that’s an simming incident. So now they have to change things up.

Gloria [00:04:47]:

They have to react now to this new change in their world. Another happening could be your Sims bumps into the new one you created. You know, say, we’re mid gameplay. You you aren’t building a new story, but you’re trying to refresh one that you’re currently playing. And, you know, perhaps your Sims was actually looking for the perfect partner, and this is, like, a great meet cute. Now, you know, with this inciting incident of bumping into the perfect Sims, now they have a new goal in life. Oh, I found the one. Now I want to marry them.

Gloria [00:05:17]:

It could also be like, for example, I played a let’s play years ago, like, 7 years ago, where my sim tragically died from drowning while practicing scuba diving in a local pool. Yep. It was literally the first episode. And this inciting incident pushed me to play with Florita, another Sims from that world. It was Isla Paradiso. And I then made it that sim’s goal to resurrect my lost deep diver. So speaking of goals, establishing goals is also part of setup. So we have our characters.

Gloria [00:05:48]:

We have our setting. We have an inciting incident, something something that changes the status quo, changes the world of our sim as they know it. Now we can establish new goals based on that inside an incident. And also based on maybe, you know, like I said, add a new backstory to your Simmer you knew we’re already playing. And based on that backstory, maybe new motivations have come up that lead you to wanting to give them new goals. And these goals also help push forward and propel the story moving forward, because that’s what your sim is is aiming for. Right? For example, I like to think of the sims 2 when the pack came out with the witches. And if your sim met a witch, if they bumped into them, maybe your sim has a conversation with them, is convinced that they wanna become a witch now.

Gloria [00:06:34]:

And that obviously changes things, especially also their goals. So the simming incident was meeting up, bumping into this witch that bumped into their future love. Well, now their goal is to marry that sim. And so everything they do moving forward is going to contribute to that. And so that’s act 1, the setup, where we introduce the characters and setting. We have an inciting incident, and we establish goals. The next part is confrontation. So that’s act 2, where we have rising action and challenges.

Gloria [00:07:15]:

We have relationships that are being developed, and then this all leads to a midpoint as well. So let’s break this down. So with rise in action challenges, this is basically conflict. Conflict is key to keep any story going and keep anything interesting. Otherwise, you just have a a sequence of events, and that’s just boring. We want the events to have some sort of meaning, purpose, and interest. We want a tug and pull the entire time. That keeps things interesting.

Gloria [00:07:42]:

So some some fun ways to introduce conflict and confrontation in your game play, some scenarios you can play out would be, for example, career challenges. You know, it doesn’t have to be easy peasy, always just working up the career ladder. Maybe we have some workplace rivalry where, you know, you can have a story line where your sim has a rival at work. They’re both vying for the same promotions or some sort of project or a good relationship with the boss. Maybe we have, you know, a regular meet up with the team every week, and and, you know, you can create, like, a club with all of the colleagues when they meet up. But there’s tension now between your sim and the one that is in their direct competition. And you can play that out. You can have fun with it.

Gloria [00:08:23]:

Maybe you can even play the Sims that is their competition. And when you’re playing, then you actively try to sabotage your main sim. And, yeah, it can just be a whole back and forth where you’re just trying to pick up the pieces and at the same time, put the pieces in the way. Right? But this get you crazy conflict. You could also have conflicting career goals. You could set career goals for your Sims that have moral ambiguity, and that put them in a tough spot where they’re not really sure how they should decide because either it’s like choosing between 2 evils maybe. For example, imagine your sim is part of the mafia and is given the task to assassinate the town mayor or leading detective, but your sim is conflicted because they have some sort of relation to this target. I actually played this very storyline in the Sims 3.

Gloria [00:09:07]:

I used a mod called from NRAS called the career mod or something like that. And it gave you the family, so to say, in the game as a career where your sim was able to join the mafia. My sim, it was a family father. He joined the mafia, and one of their first tasks was to take out a cop who happens to be his son’s fiance. I’m not making this up. The game did this or the mod. That was brilliant. I loved it.

Gloria [00:09:30]:

Obviously, he had to do the deed, have photo proof, and even consoled his son afterwards. It was dramatic and a lot of fun. Another scenario, maybe your sim really wants to get to the top of the career ladder, but they aren’t particularly hardworking or skilled. Is there any way they could persuade their boss otherwise or get rid of any other competition? Maybe, you know, you have connections to your colleagues. Right? But if you, you know I don’t know. I don’t know what would happen if you get rid of all the literally, like, I don’t know, even all the puffer fish, if that would, like, speed things up for you. But I think in the Sims 3, the way the mechanics work for the jobs, you can actually I think you can move forward in your job even if your skills aren’t super high, like your relationship with your colleagues and your boss play a role than your skills and something Yellow. I think your mood.

Gloria [00:10:21]:

And there doesn’t have to be a balance. Like, one can be more powerful, and then you can still get that promotion. So I think that you could definitely schmooze your way to the top, I think, in the Sims 3. Different relationship dynamics can also bring conflict. You can add some romantic complications, to make it where your sim has to navigate the complexities of love. For example, love triangles are always fun. You can have some unrequited love. You know, perhaps the sim they bumped into, you know, that meet cute.

Gloria [00:10:51]:

They’re super incompatible with them, or they find them unattractive. You know, you could be playing with I think I don’t think there’s attractiveness in the game quite yet. But if you play with wonderful whims or wicked Sims, or even there’s a mod by that also introduces attraction now, that could be that the sim just hates their guts, like, is really not interested. But your sim is. They’re like, oh my god. This is like the one. I need to make it happen. Well, it’s gonna be a bit harder now because that other sim is not playing ball, which is fun because now you have to work for it.

Gloria [00:11:22]:

Or you could have forbidden romance, affairs. Maybe the sim your sim is going after is married. Maybe they’re married themselves. Maybe it’s the boss. Maybe it’s their best friend’s partner. Or why not have the challenge of a long distance relationship? Imagine if your sim is in Willow Creek, and their love is somewhere far away in Bright Chester or something like that. Let’s just imagine Bright Chester is far away. And they can only communicate via phone or they can only meet in person once a month or so.

Gloria [00:11:53]:

That could be difficult to maintain that type of relationship. Another source of relationship woe could be within the family. So maybe you have some sort of family feud. You know, you can have some sibling rivalry, you know, battle to be the heir, classic. Maybe the parents weren’t so great, and they ditched their child. And so now you maybe you’re playing with a sim that’s alone in a household. I think you can probably cheat it. A teen is living alone or something like that, And they have to fend for themselves because their parents were really shitty.

Gloria [00:12:24]:

Or or within the family, there’s some sort of disagreement about lifestyle choices, or you have the challenge of blending families. For example, if you have, like, 2 sims that are in love, but they both have Sims, they both bring kids into the new relationship. Maybe the kids aren’t liking each other too much and argue. That could create some conflict. Or I think especially fun could be to play with frenemies, like friend or foe, where you have, for example, maybe university buds that are secretly trying to outrank each other, or party girls in a dance club gunning for the top spot of the dance competition, or maybe have a couple of neighbors, again, riffing off of media I love, the desperate housewives series, where you have one neighbor that is super prim and proper, and the other is just just barely keeping it together. And they act friendly to each other, but they actually secretly envy the other one’s life. I don’t know if that was actually the case in the desperate housewives. I definitely had to think about that when I was thinking about the prim and pop proper versus the less prim and proper neighbor.

Gloria [00:13:27]:

Or if it’s not the career that’s challenging or the relationship your sim is involved in, maybe it’s their own personal self that’s standing in their way. Maybe it has to do with their aspiration. It’s maybe it’s actually quite against their traits, which would be fun, like, right? Don’t try to always choose things that go with the grain of your sim. Maybe your sim wants to do something in life that is actually, like, they they’re really bad at it, but they really want it. So they’re gonna try their hardest. And it’s even more sweet than the victory if they reach that aspiration, even though it was in conflict with their own actual capabilities. Or you have some unexpected life events, such as a pregnancy, oopsie, or sudden financial troubles. Maybe the watcher removes all of the cash all of a sudden.

Gloria [00:14:16]:

Bring something into the game that forces your Sims to rethink their life choices and their priorities. That can really push your gameplay and make it interesting again because you’re adding that conflict. And even more ideas. So here I have some scenarios. We have career versus family. Your sim receives a job offer that requires them locating to a new city. The catch, the spouse or their partner has just landed their dream job locally. So moving would mean sacrificing 1 or the other’s career aspirations.

Gloria [00:14:48]:

And so what does your sim prioritize? Is it their own career success or their partner’s happiness? Or the Llama of success. Your Sims has the opportunity to achieve their career’s ultimate success Co they can get on level 10, but they have to actually sabotage a close friend or family member to actually have a chance at their dream. And so now, of course, the question is, how bad do they want that goal? Bad enough to harm somebody that’s close to them? And what’s that actually say about your Sims as well? Or do they find a third solution, which I personally believe there’s always a third solution instead of black and white. What if you get creative? But is there a way that they can win at this, but still be fair and nobody loses out? Or what if your sim is harboring a dark secret that when discovered has significant consequences for your sim or those around them. So I didn’t spin this further. I’m gonna let you simmer on that, but I’m pretty sure, like, secrets are a gold mine for conflict and story because you can really make up anything and just roll with it. Right? So, again, we have act 2. We have confrontation, which we talked about some rising action and challenges with the conflict scenarios.

Gloria [00:16:04]:

We’ve talked about how relationships developing, good for good or bad, also involved in the conflict can play a role. And midpoint is what it all comes to a close to. And so the midpoint is the point in the story, usually at the halfway point, where there’s a significant turning point that changes the direction of the story or raises the stakes. So this could be anything, like a revelation, a betrayal, a significant failure or success, an important decision that must be made. I see a pattern in stories that it’s usually the hero in the story getting what they wanted and realizing it’s not what they wanted. Because they’ve grown throughout the story, and now they realize that they were chasing the wrong thing. So this type of midpoint plot twist could be a twist that puts the the Sims goal in a new light. They realize it’s not what they want or need after all, and this changes the stakes or ups them in some way.

Gloria [00:17:02]:

For example, think in your story that’s stuck right now, what goal is your sim chasing after right now, but for the wrong reasons? Or could you make up some wrong reasons? For example, maybe your sim is trying to get married and wants to play house to be a good heir to their parents when they really just want to travel or build a business. Or maybe your sim is busy climbing the top of the company ladder to appease their money hungry partner when they really just want a simple life as a barista or a busker. Some other revelations or like, oh my god. Wow. New revel like, new information that come into the story and change things for your Sims significantly is if they find out a believed ally is actually an enemy. So you could have one of your Sims very close friends turn on them in a way that blocks their goal in a significant way or their happiness. For example, I don’t know if this is possible, gameplay wise, or if we had a play a little bit of pretend, but you can have your the friend or thought friend steal the produce of your sim on the opening day of their food stand so that they can’t actually conduct or or manage their food stand. And, woah, maybe their friend suddenly has a competing food stand in the same spot or stole their recipe or something like that, and is stealing their shine.

Gloria [00:18:22]:

Or you could have a friends to lovers kind of story, where the sim realizes that they love their best friend and should probably call off the wedding to their girlfriend. Co, yeah, just different ways that you can change things completely in the way story is flowing. Like, when we’re talking also about using plot theory and using these little building blocks to inspire your gameplay and to refresh the gameplay and give your Sims a new direction. Well, you can redefine and reinvent what your Sims life means to them or their goals and everything at any moment in time. If it’s not working for you because it’s boring or it’s dry or you realize you’re playing the same narrative for the 10th time, And for some reason, for the 10th time, it’s just not hidden. Well, you can just always change course, and you can do this with small changes, or you can do this with huge changes. And I like I said, I think at the beginning with act 1, with the setting and the characterization, it definitely helps to add a backstory to your sim if you haven’t done so yet. Add depth to them and meaning to the decisions they’re making moving forward because they feel more like a three-dimensional person, just like a writer does with their characters too.

Gloria [00:19:30]:

Right? They don’t just come up with a name, an age, and maybe a hair color and call it a day. No. They’re gonna try to create characters that are as fully fleshed out as possible. Obviously, they’re not gonna do this for every single character in the book. You know, your secondary characters are gonna be less fledged out. But in general, you’re gonna you wanna create a sim that that you can connect with and that you understand so that it’s fun to play with them. And it makes also continuing to play the game even easier because you know how your sim would react, or maybe they change and they grow in some way. Maybe they had some sort of false belief at the beginning of the story because of, you know, the backstory, their background.

Gloria [00:20:06]:

So we spoke about act 1, where it was about the setup. We spoke about act 2, which was about confrontation and conflict. And now we’re moving to act 3, the resolution, where everything comes to a close. You can break this down into Llama and fall in action and the actual closure. Climax is basically leading your sim to that pivotal moment in the story where the main conflict reaches its peak. This could be your sim confronting that conniving friend and getting clarity or them telling their parents that they don’t wanna follow the path they set out for them as an heir or telling that greedy girlfriend or partner that, no, they don’t want to stick with their 9 to 5 and work overtime and work hard, hard, hard so that they can have lots of money. No. They’d rather travel or make coffee as a barista and live a more chill life.

Gloria [00:20:57]:

And the following action is where we have the immediate consequences of that climax. Maybe the girlfriend breaks up with the sim because she’s like, no. I did not sign up for Brovsky. I want money, money, money. That’s all I care about, and so she leaves. And then she’s like, you know what? That I’m actually fine with that because I’d rather have somebody who loves me for me, and I’d just rather have just, like, live a happy life than have a happy wife in this instant. Right? Happy wife, happy life doesn’t always apply. And then when it comes to closure, it doesn’t have to be a happily ever after, but it could just show the natural conclusion to the journey your sim has undergone.

Gloria [00:21:36]:

So you’re wrapping up any loose ends and showing how your sim has changed and what they’ve learned. So you can continue playing with a sim that is confident in their skin and knows what they want, and they’re okay that their parents aren’t a 100% behind them. They’re okay with being the spare now because, you know, they gave up the whole air responsibilities. I’m like, nah. That’s not what I want. And so moving forward, they’ve got a new outlook on life and a new goal. And, of course, your story doesn’t have to end here. This, plot theory setup, conflict, and climax is here to inspire new gameplay, to refresh things for your sim.

Gloria [00:22:10]:

We don’t have any closure here, unless, of course, you want it. Then, you know, that’s fine as well. You can go through this cycle over and over again to just rejuvenate your gameplay. Maybe rethink where your sim is and what they really want and the story you’ve been telling for them so far. And to expand on this, you can also tell your story in multiple perspectives. Like, a writer can also have different perspectives in their story. You could consider rotating the focus among different Sims to provide, you know, different perspectives on the story. So you can basically, you know, rotate between households.

Gloria [00:22:44]:

You can, like, play against the Sims by playing different Sims. Like I mentioned before, where you can play your main Sims and then the conflict Sim that, you know, is gunning for the same job or project. You can play those different households and really have fun and push things and push that conflict, but also put yourself in the shoe of that other sim that whose dreams are also valid. Maybe they’re not going at it about in the same morally or ethically sound way as your main sim. Let’s say you’re swapping and swapping between the main sim and their conniving friend. But still, you can give that conniving friend a reason that they believe is good enough for why they’re doing what they’re doing. It can just be fun to play the villain as well. You could also play in a way that connects different stories.

Gloria [00:23:32]:

For example, I talked about this in the last season when I was, you know, focusing on family gameplay, but you can create but you can connect legacies, for example, by marrying into each other’s legacies. And you can also just, in general, intersect storylines in a way that impacts each other. For example, the outcome of one Sims story could dramatically affect another’s. If your sim decides to continue that relationship with their best friend and break up with their girlfriend, well, maybe you can play that girlfriend story about lost love and being cheated on and how she feels about everything. Right? While your Sims just now found the love of their life, they ruined now the other person’s life. And so it’s like, how how do things actually look for that sim? And also, I mentioned this at the beginning, plot theory can also involve themes. It can be fun to to incorporate different themes into your story from the get go or to add something that you wanna explore through your gameplay. So different themes are love, ambition, betrayal, revenge, redemption, family friendships, good versus evil, survival and perseverance are themes that you can explore.

Gloria [00:24:44]:

Power and corruption are very fun. Coming of age, freedom, sacrifice, and dedication. So there are so many different themes that you can explore, and there are themes within themes as well. But if you’re not sure where to go with your story and you don’t wanna break it down into different acts and, you know, 3 act structure and climax and conflict and. You can just take one theme, and that one theme can already act as a story seat to inspire what to do next in your Sims life. So if we take just betrayal, that is loaded. That can be anything. Bringing back secrets.

Gloria [00:25:21]:

Right? Does your sim have a secret? Does somebody they know have a secret? In what way are they being betrayed? Are they the betrayer? Is it work related? Relationship related? Maybe they’re real estate agent. I don’t know. Did something wrong with their house? How are they being portrayed? Where is this portrayal? And it spawns a bunch of questions and ideas, maybe even for your Sims story, or you can use that theme to guide the decisions that your Sims make and the challenges that they face. So if we take power and corruption, okay, well, maybe you decide then based on power and corruption that maybe your sim is now all about power and wants to gain power, or they wanna fight corruption. And so you find a villain, probably the land grabs, that they want to fight against. Or if the theme you wanna go for the next few sessions is maybe it’s love, then you could have your sim classically go after love of their life, or it has to do with family love. And they actually wanna spend more time with their family and build a connection there because they realize, oh, you know, working the 9 to 5 and putting the focus on on all that material stuff in life isn’t actually where it’s at. And they want to focus on meeting up with their parents more often, having Sunday dinners, having events with them, game night.

Gloria [00:26:39]:

So to summarize, we have act 1, the setup where we’re introducing our characters in the setting. We have an insight in the incident that propels this new thing that’s happening in their lives, and they establish goals based off this. We have act 2, the confrontation, where we have new challenges and conflict, where relationships are being built and developed, are deepening, where we have a midpoint that changes everything for our sim. And then ultimately, we have act 3, the climax where everything comes to a close, where actions our Sims have made has the those final consequences, and then we can continue from there again. Rinse and repeat. If we wanna change things up, we can add themes. I hope this helps you move forward in your own gameplay and can help prompt new ideas and new ways to play with your Sims. I mean, if it’s good enough to propel story in movies and books, that is good enough for us too.

Gloria [00:27:34]:

Right? If you’re looking for more inspiration or just wanna share your story with others in a safe space, then you’re welcome to join my community, the Llama Club, hosted on heartbeat. You can find more information and a place to log in and register on yellowllamaco.com/community. I hope to see you there. And until then, Happy Simming.

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